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Maos Modernisation Of The Peoples Republic Of China

Mao believed that he needed to focus on industry and agriculture if he was going to help push for modernisation and prosperity. Therefore he announced the Great Leap Forward and later on the Cultural Revolution which was predominately initiated to keep the support for Mao to continue.

Firstly to be able to decide whether the great leap forward was a success of failure we have to look at what it was. The great leap forward was part of a five year plan that Mao had suggested to help modernise the economy, his idea was based on Stalin’s five year plan in Russia. Mao believed that China's labour advantage could be exploited in this strategy such that China would surpass America on economically by the end of the Twentieth Century. The new policy could also be seen as a form of "self-help" strategy for economic development. Historian J.A.G Roberts suggest that ”china embarked on a radical even utopian programmes to complete the building of socialism ahead of time, and carry out the gradual transition to communism” [1] .The great Leap forward consisted on focusing on the development and agriculture, Mao believed that both had to grow to allow the other to grow. Industry could only prosper if the work force was well fed, while the agricultural workers needed industry to produce the modern tools needed for modernisation. To allow for this, China was reformed into a series of communes.

Furthermore at the centre of the Great Leap Forward were the "people's communes." This was part of Mao’s attempt of collectivisation which was basically pooling of resources, tool, to create control over production resulting in a mass movement. These communes were established in 1958. The reason for the communes was to achieve the great leap from an old feudal society to a communist society, however other countries such as Russia had gone from old feudal to capitalist and then to communist, thus Mao missed this capitalist stage. Therefore this could be a contributing factor towards the failure of both the great leap forward and the Cultural Revolution, it was just too big of a step to make. The communes were considered to be collections of enterprises and living spaces.

By the end of 1958, 700 million people had been placed into 26,578 communes. Everybody involved in communes was urged not only to meet set targets but to beat them. If the communes lacked machinery, the workers used their bare hands. Major constructions were built in record time though the quality of some was of them was lacking. The Great Leap Forward also encouraged communes to set up "back-yard" production plants. The most famous were 600,000 backyard furnaces which produced steel for the communes they added a considerable amount of steel to China’s annual total of 11 million tonnes. The figures for steel, coal, chemicals, timber, cement etc all showed huge rises though the figures started at in 1958 were low. Grain and cotton production also showed major increases in production.

Although the great leap forward did offer some positives and did improve china industrially and agriculturally but that was at the price of millions of Chinese people’s lives. The great leap forward started to go wrong in 1959, for the communes had to face the task of doing things which they were incapable of achieving. This lead to incorrect reports which lead Mao to believe that the system was actually working for example the amount of food that was being produced was still not enough to feed the whole nation never mind to export to other countries. The lack of food being produced was also due the fact that backyard production method was taking worker away from the fields therefore the food needed was not being produced.

Furthermore industry was starting to develop and modernise, the quality of the machinery produced was not very good, and the machinery quickly fell to pieces when used. Many workers were injured after working long hours and falling asleep at their jobs. Steel produced by the backyard furnaces was frequently too weak to be of any use and could not be used in construction which was the original purpose. Buildings constructed by this substandard steel did not last long. Although Mao’s ideas could have been very profitable if implemented properly, if they were given to people who had the right training for example in producing steel. However the people who lived in the communes did not know what they was doing which left lots of kitchen utensils etc being melted down but with a disappointing result due to them being unable to be used for anything constructive.

The increase in food production dropped dramatically in 1959 due to bad weather, floods and the soil they were farming on was very poor. However Mao did not understand this he believed that a large work force was all that was needed to speed up the economy. The harvest for 1959 was 170 million tons of grain this was well below what China needed at the most basic level. The harvest of 1960 was 144 million tons, the harvest was declining resulting in 9 million people are thought to have starved to death in 1960 alone; many millions were left desperately ill as a result of a lack of food. The government had to introduce rationing. In addition between 1959 and 1962, it is thought that 20 million people died of starvation.

Furthermore historians have said that “The reason for failure was not faulty strategy but hasty and unplanned implementation and the adverse circumstances” [2] . For example the weather, the quickness of how fast the communes were sat up, the idea was not very thought threw, for instance the steel burners, were a failure due to the people not knowing how to do it and the steel was melting was not very good. On the other hand Alexandra Eckstein said that to use China’s underemployed labour to invest in agriculture to be used in large scale projects such as the communes was appropriate for a densely unpopulated and underdeveloped country. [3] Eckstein suggests that it Mao’s idea was a great idea especially for a country of that size. However in my opinion, the who idea of the great leap forward should of been well thought about instead of being rushed into, then their might not have been a massive increase in deaths during those years.

Finally the Great leap forward which was soon to follow as been described as ‘more the productive of a social vision than an economic plan’ may be connected with Mao’s concept of revolutionary change. [4] This suggests that this is why it failed the policy was more for the social aspect rather than the economic side.

However most of the mass movements initiated by Mao Zedong were successful in changing old ideas and reshaping Chinese society.

The Cultural Revolution had a massive impact on china from 1965 to 1968. The Cultural Revolution was Mao’s attempt to reassert his beliefs in China. It was an attempt for Mao to re-impose his authority on the party and therefore the country. He also wanted to create a permanent revolution and re- mould China so it could not go back to capitalism.

Mao believed that the progress China had made since 1949 had lead to a privileged class developing, engineers, scientists, factory managers. Mao also believed that these people were acquiring too much power at his expense. Mao was concerned that a new class of mandarins was emerging in China who had no idea about the lifestyle of the normal person in China. Mao also believed that it would help to revive the peasant farmer against the growing corrupted bureaucrat and intellectuals.

Furthermore “while Mao was able to find a certain natural base for support for the Cultural Revolution” [5] the support for Mao ended up leading to the creation of the Red Guards who then went on to encourage all the youth in China to criticise those who Mao deemed untrustworthy with regards to the direction he wanted China to take. No-one was safe from criticism: writers, economist. Anyone who was deemed to have developed a superior attitude was considered an enemy of the party and people. The Red guards used Mao Little Red Book as a toll of propaganda which they used to persuade others, and to keep themselves motivated in the words of Mao, that his way was the only way. Historians also believe that Mao deliberately set out to create a cult for himself and to purge the Chinese Communist Party of anyone who did not fully support Mao. His main selling point was a desire to create a China which had peasants, workers and educated people working together, no-one was better than anyone else and all working for the good of China, a classless society. However Mao later disbanded the Red Guard and sent them to the country side to start again.

The looming chaos was only checked when Zhou Enlai urged for a return to normality. Historians describe the Cultural Revolution as “Remains a colossal catastrophe in which human rights, democracy, the rule of law, and civilisation were presidantly trampled. Not only was the precedent persecuted to death, tens of millions of innocent people were also attacked and maltreated.” [6] Therefore showing that it completely disregarded what the people actually wanted and what the country needed.

http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/clear.gifThe direct impact of the Cultural Revolution on the economy was limited. Political disruption was extensive, industrial and agricultural output only declined temporarily and by 1970 output was already surpassing previous levels. Furthermore it an indirect impact more serious it left china’s planners severely constrained by fears of political reprisals.

Furthermore Mao failed to reach his goal, to get china of the path of what he called the “capitalist road“ [7] Most historians believed that Mao just lost touch with reality and that he was willing to throw everything that he had built in his blind pursuit of utopian dreams and personal power” 159 china of history . Therefore showing that due to his erratic behaviour towards the end, the Cultural Revolution failed because it caused hysteria of violence from the youth of China.

Mao wanted to help modernise and push it until it was at the same power economically as the rest of the western world at this time. The Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution are both controversial issues, for example the great leap forward did succeed in some areas it began to try and modernise the nation industrially. However this came at a cost of millions of lives due to starvation and the initiation of Red Guard that was created by mainly students who supported Mao, they were aggressive towards people who were classed as “counter revolutionaries”. Thus both the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution can be considered to have made a great achievement at the start of the policies; however by the end result these policies became disastrous for the Chinese people and the Chinese economy. However the Cultural Revolution did achieve what Mao set out to do he did gain support, but I do not think it was intended to cause a new cult, who people feared.

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