Date of Award


Document Type

Union College Only

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Political Science

First Advisor

Thomas Lobe




China, Cambodia, mass killings, genocide, crime, war


The violent mass killings during Mao Zedong’s reign of China in the 1950s and 1970s, as well as the Khmer Rouges commoditization of society from 1975-1979 are examples of mass killings conducted by the government that are not recognized as genocide by the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide. The UN legal definition excludes political groups as victims of genocide, and cultural destruction as a form of genocide. The Convention was a political compromise due to the conflicting interests of nations regarding national sovereignty and the possibility of external intervention in internal affairs. Through a case study of China and Cambodia, the thesis looks at the “ideas of the leadership,” the “means employed to reshape the population’s mentality,” and the “methods and objectives of the economic and social policies,” of the Khmer Rouge, and the Mao and the CCP to classify the actions of the government as either genocide or crimes against humanity. First, the study proves that although these two countries were controlled by communist parties the model of communism outlined by Marx is not indicative of genocide. Rather, it is the modifications made by the Cambodian and Chinese regimes that inevitably led to genocide or crimes against humanity. Second, the study proves that the actions of both the Khmer Rouge, and Mao and the CCP are examples of either genocide or crimes against humanity and should be recognized in international law. The case study creates a precedent for the global legal standard of genocide, and demonstrates why the United Nations definition of genocide needs to be modified, and how recent expansions in international criminal law have created an opportunity to bring legal justice to the victims of these crimes.