The Great Leap Forward was an economic and social program of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
The policies of the Great Leap Forward were carried out from 1958 and ended in 1962, they contributed to unleashing the Great Chinese Famine. One of the worst episodes of hunger, poverty and barbarity in the history of mankind. Due to the great opacity with which the Chinese regime handles me, it is not possible to have an exact number of people who died during that period. Estimates range from 10 to 45 million people.
Background: First Five-Year Plan
The first five-year plan, between 1953 and 1957, was developed in China to promote the centralized development model of the Soviet Union (USSR). This plan is carried out during the Cold War, many countries did not recognize the new Chinese government for its ideology. This period generated a great rapprochement between the two communist parties. They had strengthened their relations since the beginning of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) with the Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship, Alliance and Mutual Assistance.
The newly formed RPC, promoted the participation of the State in the production process. He nationalized private industries, with special effort in the exploitation of rural labor forces. Establishing collective property in this period, replacing private property. Infrastructure plans were also carried out between the two nations.
Later, in the late 1950s, Sino-Soviet relations began to decline. This occurs because of differences in the course of world communism among the leaders. Finally, the Chinese leader decides to carry out a more ambitious plan to overcome his Soviet counterpart.
The Great Leap Forward: Second Five-Year Plan
With the breakdown of relations with the USSR, the PCC approves the new five-year plan promoted by its leader, Mao Zedong. He declared that his main objective was to try to achieve progress in working methods to adapt to the needs of changing political conditions.
The guidelines and objectives of the plan are developed in the Sixty Articles on Work Methods (1958). Where it was established that the three important methods were: general planning, periodic inspection and annual reviews and comparisons.
With the new plan in place, strong controls were put in place on farmers. These were forced to work tirelessly under the surveillance of the Red Army. Later, it would be known that those who disobeyed the rules, by will or physical conditions, were subjected to cruel acts of torture.
However, the PCC’s ambition led it to set very ambitious goals without bases in the Chinese economy at the time. The production of artisanal iron and steel was promoted. What caused many peasants to leave agricultural production to join the campaign. The creation of dams for cultivation and pest control was also encouraged.
The deadlines for these projects were very short, which caused inefficient work to be done to meet the PCC deadlines. The peasants left their lands at important harvest times. The inefficient irrigation infrastructure caused flooding to the plantations. The pest control did not consider the balance of the ecosystem and new ones appeared, due to the absence of predators.
Consequences of the measures
Ultimately, the economic program of the Great Leap Forward was a failure. During this period of bad economic policies, the Great Famine occurs. Some historians attribute, as one of the causes of it, the neglect of agricultural activity. This, due to the need of the PCC to increase the production of iron and steel. Likewise, the production of these minerals was deficient due to their poor quality. These were treated in neglected artisan environments, rendering a significant portion of the production useless, up to 20%.
Some estimates imply a reduction of 24.3% in grain production, 51.2% in cotton production, 57.1% in vegetable oil production and 28.8% in farm animals. This in the period between 1957 and 1961. In addition, misused labor must be counted. The increase in inflation due to the money supply and the shortage of essential goods.