A recent spurt in online discussions on the period between 1958 and 1961 known as the Great Leap Forward (GLF) under Mao Zedong's rule has raised the once-taboo question: how many Chinese citizens died during those years because of government policies?
A state-run daily last week said that if the government was serious in calculating the number of deaths, research should start now while those who experienced the era were still alive.
The GLF refers to an economic and social campaign between 1958 and 1961, which aimed to transform the country from a poor, agrarian economy into an industrial one.
Though it is now accepted that millions were affected by the change in government policies that focussed more on production of goods than food production, the debate is still on about the number of people who died.
Many experts now feel that poor policies led to a devastating man-made famine, which killed an unknown number of people across China.
The lack of authentic statistics is partly because contemporary narratives on that period were severely restricted within the country. Estimates vary wildly, and according to some historians, could be anywhere between the range of 10 million and 36 million.
"As per the latest edition of the History of the Communist Party of China published last year, the population nationwide in 1960 was 10 million lower than for the previous year. However, no exact data about the three years has been released," Global Times reported last week.