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The Great Leap Forward Essay, Research Paper

In 1958 the Chinese communist party launched the Great Leap Forward campaign under the new “General Line for Socialist Construction.” Mao promised the People’s Republic that within fifteen years China would surpass Great Britain in the production of major products. Although evidence is sketchy, Mao’s decision to initiate the Great Leap Forward was based in part on his concern about the Soviet policy of economic, financial, and technical assistance to China. The Great Leap Forward was aimed at accomplishing the economic and technical development of the country at a much faster pace and with greater results- much like a utopian society. The plan centered on a new socioeconomic and political system created in the countryside and in a few urban areas- the people’s communes. It also set very high goals for increases in basic products such as iron and steel. These goals were unrealistic and the plan lacked sufficient planning, but initial results do show that China started making a great leap forward.

The Chinese Communist Party called upon all Chinese to take on physical labor to transform the economy, forcing more than one hundred million people into projects. To encourage industry, small steel and iron-making furnaces were set up in the countryside. Large factories could not get enough of the raw materials they needed. Many problems made clear that the high goals made could not be accomplished. The communes, which were the size of towns, combined farmland and laborers of one whole district into a unit. The individual commune was placed in control of all production and was to operate as the sole unit; it was subdivided into the production brigade, and the production team. By the fall of 1958, about 750,000 agricultural producers’ cooperatives, now designated as production brigades, had been amalgamated into about 23,500 communes, each averaging 22,000 people. About forty families constructed a production team, and about ten teams created a production brigade. Each brigade had certain jobs to do such as tree planting, operation of storage facilities, or transportation. Each commune was planned as a self-supporting community for agriculture, small-scale industry, schooling, marketing, administration, and local security, which was maintained by militia. Organized along paramilitary and laborsaving lines, the commune had communal kitchens, mess halls, and nurseries. By 1959, five hundred million people were working on twenty-six thousand communes.

By 1959, Mao announced that the Great Leap Forward was a failure. Rather than the economy leaping forward, it weakened. Among the Great Leap Forward’s economic consequences were food shortages, overproduction of poor-quality goods, deterioration of industrial plants, depletion and deterioration of peasants, intellectuals, party and government officials. Mao took responsibility for the failure, and in April 1959, stepped down from his position as chairman of the republic; Liu Shaoqi became China’s new leader. Liu set more emphasis on realistic goals and efficient planning. He put technicians in authority, not Party members. The number of communes decreased and production authority was restored to factory managers. By 1965, China was on its way readjustment and recovery from the failure of Great Leap Forward.


“Great Leap Forward.” http://encarta.msn.com/find/concise.asp?z=1&pg=2&ti=0AC56000. Encarta Online Concise.

Hoobler, Dorothy and Thomas. China. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Globe Book Company, 1987.

Poon, Leon. “The Great Leap Forward, 1958-60.” http://www-chaos.umd.edu/history/prc2.html. University of Maryland. 21 September 1999.

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