The Great Leap Forward was a movement in China that started in 1958 and lasted two years till 1960. As a result of the successful economic reconstruction that had taken place in the early 1950’s. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) lead by Mao Zedong or Mao Tse-Tung considered it was a time for the Great Leap Forward. The CCP launched the Great Leap Forward campaign under the new “General line for Socialist Construction”. This was a militant approach to economic development in China. The Great Leap Forward was aimed at accomplishing the economic as well as technical development in the country at a great and faster pace and to produce greater results. There were some members of the leadership that tried to outdo each other with more unrealistic calls for a ‘greater, faster and cheaper’ production.
Mao’s decision to pursue the Great Leap Forward was based in part of his uncertainty about the Soviet policy of economic, financial and technical assistance in China. In Mao’s view, not only did that policy fall behind of his expectations and needs but also made him aware of the political and economic dependence in which China might find itself in. One of the main aims of the Great Leap Forward was to catch up to the industrialization and mechanization, which China lagged at that point in time. As quoted by Mao, he stated that ‘We will get ahead of Great Britain in fifteen (15) years.’ By relying on will power and by giving supremacy to the human subjective dimensions of history, the people would be able to bring about a quick transformation of the obstacles they had came to in the physical world.
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The Great Leap Forward was centered on a new socioeconomic (which involves both social and economic factors) and political system created in the countryside and in a few urban areas and took on two forms = a mass steel campaign and the formation of the people’s communes. On one part, all the people on the country were organized to help produce the amount of steel that was needed. Life was changed for this battle to produce more steel. Backyard small furnaces were built where everyone had a daily shift. For the collection of used iron, cooking pots were smashed and door handles, melted. Only later did the people realize that the quality of the products were so poor that it couldn’t possibly be used for anything.
By the fall of 1958, 750 000 agricultural producers people, now assigned to the production of bridges had been combined into about 23 5000 communes, each averaging 5 000 households or 22 000 people. An individual commune was placed in control of all the means of production and was to operate an accounting unit within the area. Each commune was planned as a community for agriculture, a small industry, schooling, marketing, administration and local security. Each commune also had kitchens, halls (where free food was supplied) and nurseries. The system was based on the assumption that it would release additional manpower for such major projects such as irrigation works, hydroelectric dams and the plan for the development of industry and agriculture.
In the early 1959, the CCP admitted that all the positive production reports for 1958 were exaggerated. Together with the Great Leap Forward’s economic consequences, there was also another problem, which was the shortage of food. Due to the fact that everybody was involved in the battle to mass-produce steel, labor power was lacking to bring in harvests and crops. If more amounts of foods could really be harvested as the enthusiastic reports had promised ‘communism was just around the corner’, was the general belief in autumn in 1958. There was also a shortage of raw materials for the industry, an overproduction of poor quality goods, the deterioration of industrial plants through lack of care and mismanagement and the exhaustion and demoralization of the peasants and all the other people including the party and government.
The minister of Defense, Peng Dehuai, wrote a personal letter to Mao criticizing the extreme movements and changes made. Mao had interpreted this letter as an attack and had it distributed for study and criticism by the other leaders present at that time. As a result of this, Peng was then dismissed and soon replaced by Lin Biao.
The Great Leap Forward was in a way, successful. Though the whole plan failed miserably and was a huge economic failure as there was a shortage of food, poor quality in the goods and products that the people produced, and basically it was a hard time for the people as they suffered. In a way, this was also successful as it showed the people, what went wrong with the plan, and how to possibly change it. Mao had great economic views for China, except he did neglect some points such as the agriculture, which the Chinese people depended on for food.
Despite the indications that the Great Leap Forward failed to read it’s goals and aims, the movement continued. During the celebrations of the Tenth Anniversary of the People’s Republic in October 1959, the general lines and the communes and the steel campaign were reaffirmed. This movement proved to be a disaster due to the period when China was struck with many natural disasters. More than 23 million people died during the famine. As a result of the separation of the relations with the Soviet Union, China was whirled into a total economic crisis.
In conclusion, the main aims of the Great Leap Forward were to help push China and make it more advanced than ever before. One of the main aims of the Great Leap Forward was to catch up to the industrialization and mechanization, which China lagged at that point in time. The Great Leap Forward was highly unsuccessful as many people died due to the famine and starvations caused by the neglect ion of the agriculture, which resulted in people having so, little food to eat. There were also many other aspects, which go into consideration about why it was so unsuccessful, such as, how the quality of the steel that was produced in factories and backyard furnaces were made of such poor quality that it could hardly be used for anything. Therefore, the Great Leap Forward was a movement that was somewhat ambitious in a way that there were aims that China just simply couldn’t fill out due to the lack of goods and resulted in a highly unsuccessful movement.
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