People's Republic of China

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This article may have been written from the Maoist perspective. You can help by improving this article so that it reflects a Common point of view.
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The flag of China.

China is one of the world's oldest civilisations, with a history extending back several millennia. The present Chinese state, the People's Republic of China (PRC) was founded in 1949. It was the outcome of an intermittent struggle over the preceeding 22 years, between the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the government of the Western-backed Kuomintang (KMT) party. When the Kuomintang regime, which had become increasingly plagued by corruption and inefficiency, was driven out by the Communists in 1949, they moved the capital to Beijing; and changed the country's name from Republic of China to People's Republic of China, with the stated aim of eventually transforming it into a communist (egalitarian, stateless, classless) society..[1].

From until the mid-1970s, the CPC's left wing, whose most well-known exponent was Mao Zedong, had the greatest influence in determining policy. At first it pursued a mixed policy: in the countryside, a mixture of independent peasant production and agricultural collectives; in urban industry, a mixture of small private-capitalist and state ownership. The Great Leap Forward, which began in 1958, was a push to introduce less bureacratic and capitalistic methods. Successful in its first year, it bogged down due to errors in implementation, and bad weather, and the initiative was discontinued after about 1961. The Cultural Revolution, which began in the late 1960s, was an attempt to replace bourgeois cultural norms with egalitarian and mutualistic ones, and to prevent backsliding into capitalism (ie., to prevent a gradual or creeping counter-revolution). During the left-wing period, famine was ended and the population of China - which had hardly increased during the preceeding 100-year period which began with the onset of British colonial rule - entered its present trend of rapid increase. Overall, from to the mid-1970s, both agricultural and industrial production per capita grew rapidly, despite the occasional glitches which have been focused on in Western anti-communist propaganda.

In the late 1970s, the right wing within the CPC, which the Cultural Revolution had largely been aimed against, began to take control. Since Mao's death in 1976, it has had virtually complete control, and in fact imprisoned the four leading members of the left wing when it took power.[2] The rightists have continued China's rapid economic growth but have abandoned the committments to social justice and equality which, in the Maoist era were considerd equally if not more important than gross quantitative output. Income inequality in China, which was among the world's lowest in the 1960s, is now in among the world's highest. Campaigns, such as the campaign against foot binding, and serious talk of things such as worker self-managemant of enterprises, have become memories fading in the rush for profit of today's `P'RC.

Guo Shutian, a Former Director of Policy and Law in the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture, in the post-Mao era, states that during 1949-1978 the per hectare yield of land sown with food crops increased by 145.9% and total food production rose 169.6%. During this period China’s population grew by 77.7%. On these figures, China’s per capita food production grew from 204 kilograms to 328 kilograms in the period in question.[3]


After the fall of China's last imperial dynasty, the Qing, in 1912, the country was governed by the Chinese Nationalist Party, or Kuomintang (KMT), led first by Sun Yat Sen, then, from 1925, by Chiang Kai Shek. Sun was liberal, had received assistance from the Soviet Union in the 1920s, and the Communist Party of China (CPC), on Soviet advice, had entered into an alliance with Sun's KMT. Chiang, however, more right-wing and more ruthless than his predecessor, turned on the CPC, eliminating thousands of communists in an infamous surprise massacre in 1927. Following this the CPC entrenched itself in remote, mountainous strongholds in the South Eastern provinces of Jianxi and Hubei. But in 1934, beseiged by Chiang's armies, and facing probable defeat by attrition, the Comunist armies broke out of these positions and embarked on the famous 10,000-kilometer long strategic retreat known as the Long March. The two main CPC forces, beginning with the First Army under Zhou Enlai and Mao Zedong, then followed a year later by the Second Army under He Long, followed an arcing route, first Westward, then North, then East, arriving in late and late 1936, respectively, in the North-Central province of Shaanxi, where they established their fabled revolutionary guerrila base at Yen'an. In this remote area they were able to establish a liberated zone, winning the allegiance of the local peasantry with policies that were much more sensitive to popular desires and much less exploitive than those of the KMT, which was famous for its corruption, bourgeois outlook, and sycophancy toward European and North American capital. During the Japanese incursions and occupation of China (1931-45) the CPC and the KMT entered into sporadic and uneasy allegiance against the foreign foe, but after the Japanese defeat the two parties fell once again into open struggle with one another. Despite being lavishly supported by the United States, the corrupt and widely disliked KMT proved to be no match for the CPC with its ethos of austerity and its policies of fair-dealing with the peasants. In the KMT regime collapsed and its remnants fled to the island of Taiwan, where they set up a government in exile - which retained the recognition of the capitalist powers in spite of its defeat. Meanwhile, on October 1, 1949, Mao proclaimed the establishment of the People's Republic of China, controlling already by then virtually all of mainland China. Under the guidance of the CPC, the country set out on a path of social transformation, eliminating the feudal landlord-peasant relations in the countryside, and reining in capital's galloping exploitation of the urban industrial and commercial worker.[4]

The conflict between the CPC and KMT has continued in attenuated form, without active fighting, in the form of military threats and political and economic pressure, particularly over the political status of Taiwan. See the Wikipedia article cross-Strait relationsThis is a link to a Wikipedia article..

Socialist transformation under Mao

Jean Chesneaux, the French Sinologist, characterises the Chinese leadership after the Revolution as consisting of two camps or tendencies, which we might call the right, or conservative, and the left, or radical wings. The right group put high importance on quantitative economic growth, and technical efficiency, and was willing to let the social transformation, eg., toward equality, proceed relatively slowly. Among the existing intelligentsia and managerial part of the population, trained of course before the Revolution and largely bourgeois in outlook, whether they had now joined the Communiust Party of China or not, this line had the most sympathy. The left line, whose leading exponent was Mao, had almost the reverse priority: full-speed ahead with egalitarianism and the replacement of bourgeois institutions with communistic ones, encourage mass participation, and let that drive forward the economy rather than looking to bureacratic managerial efficiency and high technology - the techniques favoured by capital - to do the job. Mao was anti-bureacratic.

Economist and China specialist Satya Gabriel sees the leadership in essentially similar terms, but divides it into three groups. The left group is the same, but on the right he identifies two tendencies, one hewing to the Soviet or Stalinist line of tight central control and an emphasis on rapid industrialisation, the other more sympathetic to `bourgeois' notions of economic and political development, such as allocation by markets, and to placing `science' above ideology.[5]

Prominent among those advocating the Stalinist industrialisation model were Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping. This approach involves adopting similar technologies and social arrangements as are found in Western capitalist economies. The Maoists characterised this strategy as `pulling the cart without watching the road', while the rightists disparaged Mao's plans as `adventurism'.[6]

Mao's essay, `On the People's Democratic Dictatorship', established his vision as the intellectual foundation of the left-wing of the CPC, according to Gabriel.

Mao called for the rapid eradication of the feudal landlords and the social structure that had supported them. He proposed the establishment of a completely new political, cultural, and economic order, including the establishment of a people's army, people's courts at all levels of jurisdiction, peasant associations throughout the countryside, and workers' councils in industrial enterprises. In the aforementioned essay and elsewhere, Mao reiterated the ultimate mission of the CPC as moving the nation towards communism---a society within which the working classes would democratically control their own collective surplus and the state would diminish in importance (wither away). -- Gabriel, lecture three[7]

"When you approach a worker his face lights up; he is proud of being so important, of understanding the difficult skills of ironworking, the formidable secrets of steel, just as well as the specialized workers of Sheffield, Pittsburgh, or Magnitogorsk. This proud man bears little resemblance to the slave portrayed by the anti-Chinese propaganda that prevails in the West. ... The genius of Mao is to have persuaded hundreds of millions of people — by astoundingly effective methods — of the grandeur and nobility of their task." (Jacques Hébert and Pierre Elliot Trudeau, Two Innocents in Red China, 1961.[8])

In spite of the above differences, however, the tendencies within the CPC shared a committment to nationalism, or at least national liberation:

... a primary part of their mission was to unify the country and to end "foreign domination." It is probably safe to say that these achievements were no minor feat and one that brought the Chinese communists a certain degree of respect, even among non-communist nationalists. -- Gabriel, lecture three

Another thing that brought the CPC popularity among non-communists was its success at reducing the high levels of corruption that had become endemic in the country.

Similarly, the CPC campaign against corruption (part of the "Three Antis": anti-corruption, anti-extravagance, and anti-bureaucracy) was popular among a populace that had experienced or, at least, heard stories of KMD corruption, conspicuous consumption, and heavy-handed bureaucracy (the KMD continued these behaviors in their early years of rule over the Taiwanese population). -- Gabriel, lecture three

During the whole post-Revolutionary period there was always a tug-of-war between the rightist and leftist tendencies in the CPC, and while Mao and the leftists were dominant most of the time until after the cultural revolution was over, their power was never absolute: they always had to make concessions, and sometimes retreats. For example, after the Great Leap Forward returned less than the hoped-for results, leftists had to yield several positions in government to rightists, as a more conservative line was followed.

Nevertheless, the Maoists determined the main course of development, especially in the countryside.

... the Chinese government did, to a large extent, follow a Maoist line in its revolutionary transformation of the rules of life in the countryside. The state confiscated the landholdings of feudal lords and some rich (ancient-capitalist) farmers. ... One of the results of the land reform was to dramatically reduce hunger and malnutrition in the Chinese countryside. Simply eliminating the feudal lords and those dependent upon them freed up an enormous amount of resources that could be put to better use from the standpoint of overall social investment and future productive potential. The role of the feudal landlords as exploiters was exposed by the fact that their elimination had no detrimental impact on the countryside. The lords made no investments in the countryside, did no productive work whatsoever (nor did their hired thugs, family members, or other supporters), and consumed excessive amounts of social output to reproduce their lavish lifestyle. Elimination of the lords and their hangers-on allowed the excess/surplus output to be invested or used to finance the new social institutions and public goods that made life and work easier for rural direct producers, and it allowed for an increase in the living standards of many rural direct producers and their families. ... The rural population became better nourished, better clothed and sheltered, healthier, and more productive. China became one of the most egalitarian societies in the less industrialized world, the envy of many advocates for rural poor around the world. The rural population that had been somewhat indifferent to the communists, except in that they were preferred to the KMD and the feudal lords, was won over by the willingness of the CPC to put its actions where its rhetoric had been --- in the redistribution of wealth and power away from old elites to the rural poor. -- Gabriel, lecture three

An important part of the leftists' programme for social transformation was the uplifting of the status of women.

There was a gender element to this revolutionary change. There were many women among the cadre sent to work in the villages and one of the results of the CPC-led organizational efforts was to weaken feudal constraints on what women were able to do in the villages. Greater freedom for women had always been an important element of communist ideology in China, although it had taken a backseat to gaining the support of rural men during the revolutionary period. With the success of the revolution came a renewed interest in freeing women from feudal political, cultural and economic bonds. Towards this objective, the CPC government passed a series of laws that gave women more rights to own land and to seek divorce from abusive husbands. And the importance of female CPC cadre serving in the villages as experts should not be underestimated as an impact on the thinking of both adults and younger people in the rural communities. During the Great Leap Forward at the end of the 1950s (discussed in essay 4) the CPC leftists would extend their attack upon traditional gender roles. One of the distinctive elements of the communes[1] and of the Great Leap Forward, as a broader attempt at social transformation, was the expansion in the role of women in economic and political life. Women played important roles in the communes, often at the top levels of management, and the Great Leap Forward represented a full-scale assault on the traditional, feudalistic household by drawing more women into the community-wide efforts to build new economic arrangements. The Maoist theoretical framework that served as the foundation for the Great Leap Forward recognized all labor, whether male or female, as valuable to the national economy. This is a very different worldview from that which had traditionally prevailed in the countryside (and in the cities) which discounted the value of female labor and creativity. For a time, and especially under the influence of the left-wing of the CPC, the liberation of women was an integral objective in the overall mission of socialism. -- Gabriel, lecture three

In the following passage, Gabriel describes the CPC's urban economic policy:

In the cities, the CPC followed a pragmatic blueprint by which banks and many, though certainly not all, industrial enterprises were confiscated from their private owners (primarily members and sympathizers of the KMD who had already fled the country). Many private capitalist enterprises, particularly those engaged in "light manufacturing" were allowed to operate (with government oversight -- regulation of wages, prices, and working conditions but private appropriation and distribution of the capitalist surplus). Thus, state-owned and privately owned capitalist firms operated together within the Chinese industrial sector. The workers continued to work as wage labor employees of these firms, both the state-owned and private versions. Although workers councils were established to provide workers with a voice in certain matters, primarily social benefits provided by the firms (both state-owned and privately-owned), the control over the cash flow generated by the state-owned enterprises was in the hands of government ministries (who also appointed enterprise management) and the cash flow generated by the privately-owned enterprises remained in the hands of their privately appointed directors. Free market transactions between buyers and sellers continued to play the primary role in determining those cash flows. -- lecture 3

This is consistent with Mao's statement,

`Our present policy is to regulate capitalism, not to destroy it.'

In the first central plan was developed for all industrial, extractive, transport (particularly the railroad system), and state merchandising enterprises. `The result, as in the Soviet Union, was a boost in output, often of goods of poor quality and in quantities not in accord with need, but always cheap.' (Gabriel, lecture 3.) `The plan was largely based upon the Soviet model of economic development, with heavy emphasis on large-scale industrial enterprises and related development of mining, power, and transportation infrastructure. The plan encompassed not only the new state-owned and controlled enterprises but the remaining private industrial enterprises, as well. All industrial inputs and outputs would be under the indirect command of the central authorities. In the rural areas, the plan called for the creation of large-scale state-owned and controlled farms....' (Gabriel, lecture 3.) `As in the Soviet Union, the shift of resources into so-called heavy industry, mining, and infrastructure resulted in sharp drops in output of some consumer goods. This was considered by the government planners to be a necessary short-term sacrifice as the economic base of the economy was improved...' (Gabriel, lecture 3).

Great Leap Forward

The Great Leap Forward, which began in 1958, was a move away from the Soviet model of rapid, urban, heavy-industry based development according to a central plan, and toward decentralised, more rurally based development using intermediate (or `appropriate' [9]) technologies and incorporating a greater amount of local decision-making and initiative. According to the RCP, `The approach of the Great Leap was a liberating alternative to the process of rural dislocation and massive urban immigration that takes place in the imperialist-dominated countries.'[10] We could add that it differed from the Soviet approach in the same way. Besides its economic aspects, the Great Leap was meant to be political and cultural, moving power out of the hands of experts and into (or at least nearer to) the hands of the direct producers.[11]

Gabriel gives some other reasons for embarking on the Great Leap Forward:

Given that the rural population had been the base of support for the Party and most of the foot soldiers and officers of the People's Liberation Army were from "peasant" origins, it was probably not difficult to link Stalinism, corruption, and urban bias in an argument that the policies of the government needed to be changed from the FYEP-approach [FYEP = Five Year Economic Plan] to something different. Given that the Great Leap Forward focused upon the countryside as the catalyst for economic development, it provided not only an alternative but one that was in keeping with the belief that the government needed to "get back to its roots" in the countryside. And the argument that communism could become a present day reality, rather than a vision of a time-uncertain future, was appealing to a wide range of young people, intellectuals, and/or idealistic communists --- a range of individuals who made up something of a fan-base for Chairman Mao. -- Gabriel, lecture four

The central plan was out. Millions of uncoordinated efforts to experiment with small-scale production and "appropriate" technology was in. Rather than using underemployed rural labor to boost overall social output, as many of the leftists envisioned, the "enthusiasm" of the rural cadre led to the diversion of a great deal of labor from agriculture and other regular production activities to the new attempts to construct commune-based light industry and such efforts as the creation of small-scale, "appropriate," steel making furnaces. (No discussion of the Great Leap Forward is considered "complete" without mentioning these "backyard" steel furnaces, although there were many other creative applications of appropriate technology during the period, many of which did have a positive impact on the productivity of rural direct producers.) -- lecture 4

People's Communes were established in by order of the central government.[12] Previously, the peasants had been encouraged to form cooperatives and collective farms, some of which may have been truly communistic in the sense of being egalitarian and worker-controlled (according to Gabriel), but the People's Communes were not voluntary organisations.

Late 1950s to early 1960s famine

A famine occurred in China in the years 1959-61, during the Great Leap Forward. The size of the famine has been the subject of much debate. Contentions by the Dengist (anti-Mao) government in the 1980s that 16.5 million people died as a result of the famine, and by Western academics of about twice that amount, have been heavily criticised because of the bias and motivation of those sources, the unreliability of evidence cited, and the unusual methods of calculation. The Western claims are based on data supplied by the Dengist government which they then magnify by various arguments.[13] Whatever the real size of the tragedy was, it should be seen in the context that over the whole span of the Maoist era, 1949-76, the life expectancy and size of the Chinese population increased greatly, facts which are not disputed. So losses in 1959-61 imply that the gains in other years must have been so much the greater. For this reason, as a tool to beat Mao over the head with, the 1959-61 famine lacks much logical force. (Life expectancy increased from 35 in to 65 in the 1970s.[14])

Besides the numbers, another debate is over the reasons for the famine. The possible reasons are bad planning and bad weather. At the time, Mao admitted some responsibility, placing the blame at 30 percent bad planning and 70 percent bad weather. Twenty years later in the Dengist rhetoric, the proportion was reversed: 70 percent planning, 30 percent weather.[15] Many sources report unusually bad weather during the famine years. According to a site associated with the Revolutionary Communist Party of the United States, `starting in China suffered the worst climatic disasters in a century. By crop damage caused by floods and drought affected over half of China’s agricultural land.' (This is Communism , `China's Great Leap Forward.) A local example is given by Hang Dongping, writing for the China Study Group. He describes the storms, floods, and crop losses in Jimo county during the years 1959, 1960, and 1961. This is quoted in the `Weather evidence` section of our article Great Leap Forward. On the planning side, it is sometimes said that the communal kitchens, where food was cheap or free, encouraged overeating and waste of food. Another reason given is that the rural irrigation and industrialisation projects diverted too much labour from crop-growing. Gabriel (lecture 4) contends that heavy-handed management practices by the party cadre, the most serious being overly-greedy state requisitioning, demoralised the agricultural workforce after the first year, so that they stopped working hard.

Because of the famine, the Great Leap Forward lost prestige among the people and the Party. The influence of the rightists in the Party increased for several years; and the left, whether convinced that their ideas had been wrong, or simply forced to bend to opinion, moderated or reversed the Great Leap Forward policies. The communes were reduced in size, eventually stabilising at 15,000 to 25,000 people. The amount of grain required to be delivered to the state was also reduced.[16]

Despite the problems, the Great Leap Forward also left lasting benefits in improved infrastructure, such as irrigation works, and in expansion of the national industrial base (Hang ¼ through).

Even according to figures released by the Deng Xiaoping regime, industrial production increased by 11.2% per year from 1952-1976 (by 10% a year during the alleged catastrophe of the Cultural Revolution). In industry was 36% of gross value of national output in China. By industry was 72% and agriculture was 28%. Mao’s supposedly disastrous socialist economic policies paved the way for the rapid (but inegalitarian and unbalanced) economic development of the post-Mao era.[17]

Cultural Revolution

`I think a lot of these horror stories that we hear about from the Cultural Revolution—I think that there’s some reality to what people describe—there were excesses. But they [these horror stories] also reflect a very myopic view where a small, more privileged section of society raises its concerns and needs above the larger thing that was happening to the masses of people in the society as a whole. I mean, I’ve made this analogy. Some people complain: well, intellectuals were made to go to the countryside during the Cultural Revolution; but nobody ever asked the peasants, who made up 80 or 90 percent of the population, whether they wanted to be in the countryside. It was just assumed they would be there, producing the food and the materials for clothes and so on, while other people were in the cities, having a more privileged existence, especially if they were from these strata other than the proletariat. - Bob Avakian, leader, Rev. Communist Party (USA)

`They basically suspended the Party and disbanded and then reorganized it on the basis of the masses being involved in criticizing Party members, and even having mass criticism meetings where the Party would be reconstituted, as part of mass meetings where the masses would raise criticisms of the Party and evaluate Party members. This was an unprecedented thing in any society, obviously, but including in socialist society.' - Bob Avakian, `The Cultural Revolution in China'

In a interview, Bob Avakian enumerated some of the achievements of the Cultural Revolution:

It did bring forward new revolutionary culture. It did spread health care to the countryside. It did involve masses of people who’d never been involved in science before, in scientific experimentation and investigation, and even scientific theory together with scientists, and the same kinds of transformations in education, the same kinds of transformations in the workplace, where they broke down one-man management and they actually started having administrators and managers and technicians getting involved part of the time—not on a fully equal basis, but part of the time—in productive labor, and having some of the production workers getting involved in those other spheres and having, instead of one-man management, a revolutionary committee that drew in significant representatives of the workers as well as of management or more full-time management and technical personnel and Party cadre. - `The Cultural Revolution in China'

Under Maoist leadership, the Chinese people were able to get equal rights and democracy[citation needed]. Learning the complicated Chinese language was made much simpler through the revolutionary idea of Simplified Chinese[18]. Their effort to simplify Chinese improved literacy rate in China by a huge amount (in 1949, less than 20% of the people were literate, while currently 92% can read and write)[19]. Socialism also helped China go from a farming agricultural society to great industrial country.

Deng Xiaoping and economic reforms

Following the rise of the right wing whose dominant member was Deng Xiaoping (19 )the economy of the People's Republic of China continued to grow rapidly and China became a major manufacturer and exporter, amassing massive earnings, many of which have been invested in foreign capitalist enterprises rather than domestically or to build socialism. For example, there have been significant Chinese investments in Latin America[20]a major trading partner of China.

Conflict of interest

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Bo Guagua, grandson of Bo Yibo, Princeling at play.[21]

Following widespread adoption of capitalism and the boom private earnings from exports, the furthering of personal and familial economic interests has conflicted with the duties of Chinese cadre, even at the highest level, the Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China.[22][23] A poll conducted by China Daily in showed that 91% of responders to the poll believe that the rich owe their wealth to government connections while only 16% thought that success was due to "wisdom and hard work of family members."[24] The scandal brought to light in involving Bo XilaiThis is a link to a Wikipedia article. and his family[25] has focused national and international attention on this issue.[26] Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, citing the principle of "fighting corruption and building clean government", emphasized the determination of the government to exercise greater supervision on April 15, in an article in Qiushi ("Seeking Truth"), a magazine published by the Communist Party of China Central Committee, titled, "Let the power be exercised under the sunshine."[27]

Income inequality

On February 5, the State Council, China's cabinet, announced guidelines designed to reduce inequality in China, which, as of exceeded that in the United States. Disparities between rural and urban income were targeted as was income of workers. An additional 5% contribution by profitable state-owned enterprises was earmarked for social welfare.[28][29]


As of following the socialist modernization reforms of Deng Xiaoping emphasizing both economic development and maintenance of social principles, the Four Cardinal Principles,[30] China has a mixed economy with strong state-owned enterprises dominating all sectors of the economy, but also substantial and widespread private enterprises including substantial foreign investment and trade. The yield from a huge export industry supplying manufactured goods on a global basis to all markets forms a large sovereign wealth fund which finances substantial international investments including investments in the European Union and the United States.[31] Having spent decades building up the export economy attention was turning to increasing domestic consumption.


The People's Republic of China manages its media emphasizing collective achievements and mobilizing public support for the state but de-emphasizing reporting on divisive political issues. This has a negative side-effect of reducing the amount of information and feedback available to both the public and decision makers, possibly making it more difficult to control corruption. Training in these techniques are sometimes offered to journalists of countries which receive Chinese aid such as Ethiopia. This practice has been criticized by journalists such as Mohamed Keita of the Committee to Protect Journalists, who advocate critical independent coverage of African states.[32] There are ambitious plans to widen the distribution and coverage of media directed to international audiences.[33]


  1. Country profiles;
    UCLA Center for East Asian Studies
  2. The so-called `gang of four', Jiang Qing, Zhang Chunqiao, Yao Wenyuan, and Wang Hongwen, were in fact just four leading politicians of the defeated opposition; they were no mare a gang than, say, Washington, Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Susan B. Anthony, with the difference that they happened to be on the losing side.
  3. see Guo Shutian ‘China’s Food Supply and Demand Situation and International Trade’ in Can China Feed Itself? Chinese Scholars on China’s Food Issue. Beijing Foreign Languages Press.
  4. Gay, Kathlyn. [2008]. 21st Century Books. Mao Zedong's China. ISBN 0822572850. pg 7;
    Hutchings, Graham. [2001]. Modern China: A Guide to a Century of Change. Harvard University Press. ISBN 0674006585.
    Mao Zedong, `On the People's Democratic Dictatorship', especially first half of the article.
  5. Gabriel, lecture three.
  6. Gabriel, lecture 4
  7. He is citing `On the People's Democratic Dictatorship'
  8. The book is a description of a 39 day visit to China by the authours and three other Canadians. English translation, 1968.
  9. Gabriel compares Mao's Great Leap Forward strategy with that expounded by the Western economist EF Schumaker in Small is Beautiful. Both emphasized decentralisation, local self reliance, and the use of small-scale, intermediate-complexity technologies. Both potentially avoid the environmentally problematical growth of huge urban centres, and the intensive transportation of resources necessary to sustain them.
  10. thisiscommunism `China's Great Leap Forward'. (See Further reading for full citation.)
  11. thisiscommunism, `China's Great Leap Forward';
    Also, Ball in Monthly Review:

    `Although problems and reversals occurred in the Great Leap Forward, it is fair to say that it had a very important role in the ongoing development of agriculture. Measures such as water conservancy and irrigation allowed for sustained increases in agricultural production, once the period of bad harvests was over. They also helped the countryside to deal with the problem of drought. Flood defenses were also developed. Terracing helped gradually increase the amount of cultivated area.9

    `Industrial development was carried out under the slogan of “walking on two legs.” This meant the development of small and medium scale rural industry alongside the development of heavy industry. As well as the steel furnaces, many other workshops and factories were opened in the countryside. The idea was that rural industry would meet the needs of the local population. Rural workshops supported efforts by the communes to modernize agricultural work methods. Rural workshops were very effective in providing the communes with fertilizer, tools, other agricultural equipment and cement (needed for water conservation schemes).10

    `Compared to the rigid, centralized economic system that tended to prevail in the Soviet Union, the Great Leap Forward was a supreme act of lateral thinking. Normally, cement and fertilizer, for example, would be produced in large factories in urban areas away from the rural areas that needed them. In a poor country there would be the problem of obtaining the capital and machinery necessary to produce industrial products such as these, using the most modern technique. An infrastructure linking the cities to the towns would then be needed to transport such products once they were made. This in itself would involve vast expense. As a result of problems like these, development in many poorer countries is either very slow or does not occur at all.

    `Rural industry established during the Great Leap Forward used labour-intensive rather than capital-intensive methods. As they were serving local needs, they were not dependent on the development of an expensive nation-wide infrastructure of road and rail to transport the finished goods.'

  12. Gabriel, lecture 4
  13. See The Jonathan Ball article in Monthly Review, and the thisiscommunism article, both listed in Further reading, for some of the criticism of the high casualty estimates of the famine.
  14. Ball: `even someone like the demographer Judith Banister, one of the most prominent advocates of the “massive death toll” hypothesis has to admit the successes of the Mao era. She writes how in 1973-5 life expectancy in China was higher than in Africa, the Middle East, South Asia and many countries in Latin America 1. In she co-wrote an article where she described the People’s Republic of China as a ‘super-achiever’ in terms of mortality reduction, with life expectancy increasing by approximately 1.5 years per calendar year since the start of communist rule in 1949[2]. Life expectancy increased from 35 in to 65 in the 1970s when Mao’s rule came to an end.[3]' His citations are: [2] J. Banister and S. Preston ‘Mortality in China’ in Population and Development Review Volume 7, No. 1, 1981. [3] M. Meissner, The Deng Xiaoping Era. An Inquiry into the Fate of Chinese Socialism, 1978-1994, Hill and Way 1996.
  15. `After the Great Leap Forward the official Chinese government line on the famine was that it was 70% due to natural disasters and 30% due to human error. This verdict was reversed by the Deng Xiaoping regime. In the 1980s they claimed the problems were caused 30% by natural disasters and 70% by human error.' -- Jonathan Ball.
  16. This is Communism. org, `China's Great Leap Forward', tells of the commune size and lowered requisition.
  17. M. Meissner, The Deng Xiaoping Era. An Enquiry into the Fate of Chinese Socialism, 1978-1994, Hill and Wray 1996.
  18. Xinhuanet
  19. Asian info
  20. "New Banks in Town: Chinese finance in Latin America" report by Kevin P. Gallagher, Amos Irwin, and Katherine Koleski, Global Development And Environment Institute, Tufts University February
  21. "Son’s Parties and Privilege Aggravate Fall of Elite Chinese Family" article by Andrew Jacobs and Dan Levin in The New York Times April 16,
  22. "WikiLeaks: China's Politburo a cabal of business empires" article by Peter Foster in The Telegraph December 6,
  23. "Party May Be Long-Term Loser in Chinese Scandal" news analysis by Michael Wines and Sharon LaFraniere in The New York Times April 13,
  24. "91% think new rich use govt connections" article by Xie Yu (China Daily) in China Daily February 9,
  25. "As China Official Rose, His Family’s Wealth Grew" article by David Barboza in The New York Times April 23,
  26. "Rule of law, purity of Party highlighted in handling Bo's case" Xinhua, April 16,
  27. "Premier Wen vows greater anti-corruption resolve" Xinhua, April 16,
  28. "China Issues Proposal to Narrow Income Gap" article by Chris Buckley in The New York Times February 5,
  29. "China tackles widening income gap" Xinhua, February 6,
  30. Biography of Deng Xiaoping The People's Daily
  31. "China’s Economic Empire" extended but fact-filled opinion piece by Heriberto Araújo and Juan Pablo Cardenal in The New York Times June 1,
  32. "Africa’s Free Press Problem" opinion by Mohamed Keita in The New York Times April 15,
  33. 关于加快我国新闻出版业走出去的若干意见(摘登} chinaxwcb January 10,

External links and further reading

  • Avakian, Bob,, `The Cultural Revolution in China', Revolution 260,
  • Avakian, Bob, “We ARE Setting the Record Straight... on China’s Great Leap Forward (1958-1960),” at Set the Record Straight
  • China Study Group. Great Leap Forward articles index chinastudygroup
  • China Vitae, a website that tracks Chinese leaders
  • Gabriel, Satya, China Essay Series Based on a series of lectures.
  • Hang Dongping. `The Great Leap Famine, the Cultural Revolution and Post-Mao Rural Reform: The Lessons of Rural Development in Contemporary China', China Stugy Group


  • Mao Zedong, 1949. `On the People's Democratic Dictatorship'. marx2mao
  • MasCapital, `A collection of books on Mao and Maoism' Two zipped folders, about 180 MB each. Lots of reading. communism subreddit at reddit
  • This is Communism `China's Great Leap Forward'(Site associated with the Revolutionary Communist Party and Bob Avakian.) thisiscommunism

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