China's Great Leap Forward Campaign: Impact and Consequences

Only available on StudyMode
  • Download(s) : 125
  • Published : May 22, 2013
Open Document
Text Preview
            China’s Great Leap Forward campaign of 1958-1960 was an intense and frantic mobilization of an unprecedented magnitude to continue a struggle that was considered to be part of a permanent revolution.  While retaining a socialist base, communism was to be invoked hand-in-hand with modernization, bringing relief to the long suffering of China’s peasants and ensuring a miraculously immediate millenarian land of plenty.  Instead, the judgment of history paints a far different picture.  An irreversible focusing of profound rifts in the Chinese Communist Party and a delirious fabrication of reality led to rapid disintegration of the Leap’s goals, and to what perhaps was the greatest famine in human history.  Both the immediate impact and far-reaching consequences of the Great Leap Forward (GLF) influence the current trends and priorities of today’s China, and understanding the nature of these past events is crucial in ascertaining the nature of the present.             The Hundred Flowers campaign and the following rectification movement in 1956-1957 left the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) divided and hesitant, sincerely concerned with acute contradictions within itself and among the Chinese people (Domenach 119).  At that time, talk of future industrialization and economic growth was timid at best, as stated by Liu Shaoqi’s political report at the Eighth National Congress of the CCP in September 1956: On the basis of actual conditions of our country, the Central Committee has thus defined the Party’s general line in the period of transition: to bring about, step by step, socialist industrialization and to accomplish, step by step, the socialist transformation of agriculture, handicrafts and capitalist industry and commerce over a fairly long period. (Liu 2)  No talk of “leaps” had emerged yet, and the industrial growth of about 18.7 percent during the First Five Year Plan period was accompanied by a slow crawl in agricultural production of only about 3.8 percent (Spence 574).             Chairman Mao’s extremely sensitive political antennae were very alert in 1957, as the completion of a basic socialist system both confirmed his confidence in his own leadership and opened the question of what direction China’s socialist politics would take (Womack 24).  He felt China had reached the next stage in its continuous and permanent revolution, one that could actualize traditional Marxist theory in a uniquely Chinese way.  If China lacked the economic prerequisites that Marx had defined for a communist society, Mao had begun to believe that those same economic conditions could be brought into existence in the very process of striving to realize ultimate communist goals (Meisner 210).  Thus, he became more and more frustrated with what he saw as a lagging process toward communism that was being prolonged unnecessarily.              His feeling of urgency for China’s future was greatly intensified during a crucial visit to Moscow in November 1957.  Conflict and competition between Mao and Khrushchev were becoming more and more apparent.  Khrushchev had boasted that the Soviet Union would overtake the United States in the output of major products in fifteen years, and Mao reacted by committing China to a similar competition (MacFarquhar, Cheek, and Wu 14).  Upon his return to China, he began paving the way for an immediate move from the moderate to the frenzied, focused on the setting of targets that were from the outset over-ambitious.             These targets must be seen not only as an attempt at modernization, but also as a fusion of rapid economic growth and its fuel, consisting of equally rapid processes of radical social and ideological change (Meisner 204).  The impetus was to pave a Chinese road to an eventual state of absolute communism that was ahead of the Soviet Union, in effect, to launch a Chinese “sputnik” (MacFarquhar, Cheek, and Wu 15).  Mao had persuaded...
tracking img