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The Great sparrow campaign ( ) also known as the Kill a sparrow campaign ( ), and officially, the Four Pests campaign was one of the first actions taken in the Great Leap Forward from 1958 to 1962. The four pests to be eliminated were rats, flies, mosquitoes, and sparrows.


The campaign was initiated by Mao Zedong, the first President of the People's Republic of China. Sparrows were included on the list because they ate grain seeds, causing disruption to agriculture. It was decided that all the peasants in Chinamarker should bang pots and pans and run around to make the sparrows fly away in fear. Sparrow nests were torn down, eggs were broken, and nestlings were killed.

Initially, the campaign did improve the harvest. By April 1960 the National Academy of Sciencemarker found that sparrows ate insects more than seeds. Mao declared "forget it" ( ), and ordered the end of the campaign against sparrows. By this time, however, it was too late. With no sparrows to eat them, locust populations ballooned, swarming the country and compounding the problems already caused by the Great Leap Forward and adverse weather conditions, leading to the Great Chinese Famine in which around 30 million people died of starvation.

Revived campaign

In June 19, 1998, a poster was spotted at Southwest Agricultural University in Chongqingmarker, "Get rid of the Four Pests". Ninety-five percent of households were ordered to get rid of four pests. This time, cockroaches were substituted for sparrows. A similar campaign was spotted in the spring of 1998 in Beijing. This time, people did not respond to either of these campaign style approaches.

Cultural influence

In the TVB drama series Rosy Business a peasant came up with the idea of killing the sparrows to improve agriculture output. It was meant to be a prank used to trick the peasant owners into starving to poverty.

In 2006, the Los Angeles post-rock band Red Sparowes released the album ' Every Red Heart Shines Toward the Red Sun' based on the events.


  1. Shapiro, Judith Rae. Crosby, Worster, Alfred W. [2001] (2001). Mao's War Against Nature: Politics and the Environment in Revolutionary China. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521786800.


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