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The Great Leap Forward of the Peoples Republic of China was a
social and economic campaign, headed by the Communist Party of
China from 1958 to 1962. It was led by Chairman Mao Zedong and
The Great Leap Forward of the Peoples Republic of China was a social and economic campaign, headed by the Communist Party of China from 1958 to 1962. It was led by Chairman Mao Zedong and aimed to transform the country from an agrarian economy to a socialist society via rapid industrialization and collectivization. Major changes in the lives of rural Chinese included the incremental introduction of mandatory agricultural collectivization. Private farming was not allowed, those engaged were persecuted and labeled counter-revolutionaries. Restrictions were imposed through public struggle sessions and social pressure, although people also experienced forced labor. The priority of the campaign was rural industrialization and saw the development aborted by the mistakes of this movement.
The landlords and wealthy peasants had their land holdings forcibly distributed to poorer peasants. Crops like opium were completely destroyed and replaced by crops like rice. There was a major debate about the redistribution within the party as well, the moderates argued that change should be gradual and any collectivization of the peasantry should wait until industrialization, which would provide the agricultural machinery for mechanical farming. The radicals argued that the best way to finance industrialization was for the government to take control thereby establishing a monopoly over grain distribution and supply. This would allow the state to buy at lower prices but sell at higher prices, which would raise the capital for the process of industrialization.
Apart from progressive taxation on each household's harvest, the state introduced a system of compulsory state purchases of grain at fixed prices to build up stockpiles for famine-relief and meet the terms of its trade agreements with the Soviet Union. Together, taxation and compulsory purchases accounted for 30 percent of the harvest by 1957, leaving a very little surplus. Rationing was also introduced in the cities to curb 'wasteful consumption' and encourage savings (which were deposited in state-owned banks and thus became available for investment), and although food could be purchased from state-owned retailers the market price was higher than that for which it had been purchased. This too was done in the name of discouraging excessive consumption.
Even though the ideology was good, it resulted in the great famine, as the locals had to suffer. Initially, the economy grew. Iron production increased by 45% in 1958 and a combined 30% over the next two years but fell in 1961. Hence this was a phase experienced by China, one of the biggest economies in the world.