The Great Leap Forward

Topics: People's Republic of China, Deng Xiaoping, Mao Zedong Pages: 9 (3356 words) Published: June 4, 2011
The Great Leap Forward was a creative yet disastrous interruption in Chinese economic development. It is one of those "moments" in Chinese history that is the epitome of Mao Zedong's willingness to experiment, as well as his political genius in seizing control of the forms of government out of the hands of his intellectual and political adversaries within the Communist Party of China. Given that more conservative leaders, such as Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping, were not in agreement with Mao on the policies of the Great Leap Forward. The implementation of these policies resulted in disaster, generating a crisis in Chinese society as well as a massive famine that would in the end be resolved in ways unfavorable to Mao's political, economic, and cultural vision of a future China.

Mao wanted Chinese direct producers, particularly farmers, to use more advanced technologies than the relatively crude implements that were available but he argued against a continuation of the Stalinist approach because it relied on what we would today call capital-intensive investments. In the Stalinist views on "modernization" the number one aspect was the building of larger "economies of scale" industrial operations, particularly those operations that were most critical to further industrialization. The Stalinist approach of placing a heavy focus on an investment in heavy industry at the expense of light industry and agriculture required vast net resources.  The resources that were needed were obtained by draining surplus products out of the rural work force: a process that has been described as super-exploiting the rural labor force. This Stalinist approach, which could be described as "big is beautiful," was neither the first nor the last instance of placing rural lives at a lower priority than industrialization. This approach, when applied to China, gave proof to the fact that production that was most scarce in China, large-scale machinery and other forms of relatively advanced material technology, and put less emphasis on the factor of production that China had in abundance, human man power. Mao was making the argument that the Chinese government should not be focusing their efforts on industrial projects that were dependent on advanced material technology that they either did not have or had in very low stock. Mao’s preference was for a more evenly distributed developmental strategy.  In this strategy, the quality of production technology employed by the greatest number of direct producers took precedence over the pace at which large-scale, mass production technology could be used.  The Maoist ideas of technological accumulation, as practiced in the Great Leap Forward, focused on improving the productivity of all Chinese workers, whether in the rural or urban enterprises, by investing in human development and labor-intensive technology, even at the cost of slowing down the pace of investment in heavy industry. Mao did not believe that economic growth and development would be sacrificed by this shift from heavy industry to appropriate or intermediate technology. Mao was so confident in China's labor advantage that he believed that China would surpass Great Britain in economic power by the end of the Twentieth Century. Mao urged the leadership of the CPC to promote the development of appropriate technology for use by the rural direct producers, who made up the vast majority of the Chinese working population.  However, the shift in priorities embodied in the Great Leap Forward was also recognized as a strategy for cutting government obligations: the Great Leap Forward was expected to result in lower investment outlays than had been embodied in the Five-Year Economic Plans.  Mao envisioned the rural population making their own investments in appropriate technology directly out of the surplus that they would generate, without a need for any net transfer of resources to the rural areas.  Therefore, the new policy could also be described as a...
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