Personal Finance. Your Practice. Popular Courses. Economics Macroeconomics. What Is the Great Leap Forward? The Great Leap Forward resulted in 30—55 million deaths due to starvation, execution, and forced labor, along with massive economic and environmental destruction.
The Great Leap Forward was the largest episode of mass killing in human history, and a clear example of the failures of socialism and economic central planning. Compare Accounts. The main stance that emerges from a close examination of the GLF is an admiration for the resilience of a peasantry who are still striving for a better way of life. Works Cited. Bachman, David. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, Bardeen, William T.
Bary, Wm. Theodore de, and Richard Lufrano, comps. Sources of Chinese Tradition. NewYork: Columbia UP, Becker, Jasper. Clark, Colin. Domenach, Jean-Luc. The Origins of the Great Leap Forward. Oxford: Westview P, Leung, Laifong. Sharpe, MacFarquhar, Roderick. The failure of the Great Leap produced a division among the party leaders. One group blamed the failure of the Great Leap on bureaucratic elements who they felt had been overzealous in implementing its policies.
Another faction in the party took the failure of the Great Leap as proof that China must rely more on expertise and material incentives in developing the economy. Some concluded that it was against the latter faction that Mao Zedong launched his Cultural Revolution in early Great Leap Forward.
Info Print Cite. Chief changes in the lives of rural Chinese people included the incremental introduction of mandatory agricultural collectivization. Private farming was prohibited, and those engaged in it were persecuted and labeled counter-revolutionaries.
Restrictions on rural people were enforced through public struggle sessions and social pressure, although people also experienced forced labor. In short, the Great Leap was a very expensive disaster". Mao did not retreat from his policies and instead blamed problems on bad implementation and "rightists" for opposing him. He initiated the Socialist Education Movement in and the Cultural Revolution in in order to remove opposition and re-consolidate his power.
In addition, dozens of dams constructed in Zhumadian, Henan , during the Great Leap Forward collapsed in under the influence of Typhoon Nina and resulted in one of the greatest man-made catastrophes in history , with an estimated death toll between tens of thousands to , Immediately, landlords and wealthier farmers had their land holdings forcibly redistributed to poorer peasants.
In the agricultural sectors, crops deemed by the Party to be "full of evil", such as opium , were destroyed and replaced with crops such as rice. Within the Party, there were major debates about redistribution. A moderate faction within the party and Politburo member Liu Shaoqi argued that change should be gradual and any collectivization of the peasantry should wait until industrialization , which could provide the agricultural machinery for mechanized farming.
A more radical faction led by Mao Zedong argued that the best way to finance industrialization was for the government to take control of agriculture, thereby establishing a monopoly over grain distribution and supply. This would allow the state to buy at a low price and sell much higher, thus raising the capital necessary for the industrialization of the country. Before , peasants had farmed their own small pockets of land and observed traditional practices—festivals, banquets, and paying homage to ancestors.
Therefore, it was proposed that the peasants should be brought under Party control by the establishment of agricultural collectives which would also facilitate the sharing of tools and draft animals.
This policy was gradually pushed through between and in response to immediate policy needs, first by establishing "mutual aid teams" of 5—15 households, then in "elementary agricultural cooperatives" of 20—40 households, then from in "higher co-operatives" of — families. From onward peasants were encouraged to form and join collective-farming associations, which would supposedly increase their efficiency without robbing them of their own land or restricting their livelihoods.
By private ownership was entirely abolished and households all over China were forced into state-operated communes. Mao insisted that the communes must produce more grain for the cities and earn foreign exchange from exports. Apart from progressive taxation on each household's harvest, the state introduced a system of compulsory state purchases of grain at fixed prices to build up stockpiles for famine-relief and meet the terms of its trade agreements with the Soviet Union.
Rationing was also introduced in the cities to curb 'wasteful consumption' and encourage savings which were deposited in state-owned banks and thus became available for investment , and although food could be purchased from state-owned retailers the market price was higher than that for which it had been purchased.
This too was done in the name of discouraging excessive consumption. Besides these economic changes the Party implemented major social changes in the countryside including the banishing of all religious and mystic institutions and ceremonies, replacing them with political meetings and propaganda sessions. Attempts were made to enhance rural education and the status of women allowing them to initiate divorce if they desired and ending foot-binding , child marriage and opium addiction.
The old system of internal passports the hukou was introduced in , preventing inter-county travel without appropriate authorization. Highest priority was given to the urban proletariat for whom a welfare state was created. The first phase of collectivization resulted in modest improvements in output. Famine along the mid-Yangzi was averted in through the timely allocation of food-aid, but in the Party's response was to increase the proportion of the harvest collected by the state to insure against further disasters.
Moderates within the Party, including Zhou Enlai , argued for a reversal of collectivization on the grounds that claiming the bulk of the harvest for the state had made the people's food-security dependent upon the constant, efficient, and transparent functioning of the government.
In , Mao responded to the tensions in the Party by promoting free speech and criticism under the Hundred Flowers Campaign. In retrospect, some have come to argue that this was a ploy to allow critics of the regime, primarily intellectuals but also low ranking members of the party critical of the agricultural policies, to identify themselves. By the completion of the first 5 Year Economic Plan in , Mao had come to doubt that the path to socialism that had been taken by the Soviet Union was appropriate for China.
He was critical of Khrushchev's reversal of Stalinist policies and alarmed by the uprisings that had taken place in East Germany , Poland and Hungary , and the perception that the USSR was seeking " peaceful coexistence " with the Western powers. Mao had become convinced that China should follow its own path to communism. According to Jonathan Mirsky, a historian and journalist specializing in Chinese affairs, China's isolation from most of the rest of the world, along with the Korean War , had accelerated Mao's attacks on his perceived domestic enemies.
It led him to accelerate his designs to develop an economy where the regime would get maximum benefit from rural taxation. In November , party leaders of communist countries gathered in Moscow to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the October Revolution.
Soviet Communist Party First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev proposed not only to catch up with but exceed the United States in industrial output in the next 15 years through peaceful competition. Mao Zedong was so inspired by the slogan that China put forward its own objective: to catch up with and surpass the United Kingdom in 15 years.
The Great Leap Forward campaign began during the period of the Second Five Year Plan which was scheduled to run from to , though the campaign itself was discontinued by The central idea behind the Great Leap was that rapid development of China's agricultural and industrial sectors should take place in parallel.
The hope was to industrialize by making use of the massive supply of cheap labour and avoid having to import heavy machinery. The government also sought to avoid both social stratification and technical bottlenecks involved in the Soviet model of development, but sought political rather than technical solutions to do so. Distrusting technical experts,  Mao and the party sought to replicate the strategies used in its s regrouping in Yan'an following the Long March : "mass mobilization, social leveling, attacks on bureaucratism, [and] disdain for material obstacles.
An experimental commune was established at Chayashan in Henan in April Here for the first time private plots were entirely abolished and communal kitchens were introduced. At the Politburo meetings in August , it was decided that these people's communes would become the new form of economic and political organization throughout rural China. By the end of the year approximately 25, communes had been set up, with an average of 5, households each.
The communes were relatively self-sufficient co-operatives where wages and money were replaced by work points. Based on his fieldwork, Ralph A. Thaxton Jr. The commune system was aimed at maximizing production for provisioning the cities and constructing offices, factories, schools, and social insurance systems for urban-dwelling workers, cadres and officials.
Citizens in rural areas who criticized the system were labeled "dangerous". Escape was also difficult or impossible, and those who attempted were subjected to "party-orchestrated public struggle", which further jeopardized their survival.
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