Great Leap Forward

Great Leap Forward

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The Great Leap Forward of the People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

 (PRC) was an economic and social campaign of the Communist Party of China
Communist Party of China
The Communist Party of China , also known as the Chinese Communist Party , is the founding and ruling political party of the People's Republic of China...

 (CPC), reflected in planning decisions from 1958 to 1961, which aimed to use China's vast population to rapidly transform the country from an agrarian economy into a modern communist society through the process of rapid industrialization, and collectivization. Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong, also transliterated as Mao Tse-tung , and commonly referred to as Chairman Mao , was a Chinese Communist revolutionary, guerrilla warfare strategist, Marxist political philosopher, and leader of the Chinese Revolution...

 led the campaign based on the Theory of Productive Forces
Theory of Productive Forces
The Theory of Productive Forces is a widely-used concept in communism and Marxism placing primary emphasis on technical advances and strong productive forces in a nominally socialist economy before real communism, or even real socialism, can have a hope of being achieved.The most influential...

, and intensified it after being informed of the impending disaster from grain shortages.

Chief changes in the lives of rural Chinese included the introduction of a mandatory process of agricultural collectivization, which was introduced incrementally. Private farming was prohibited, and those engaged in it were labeled as counter revolutionaries and persecuted. Restrictions on rural people were enforced through public struggle session
Struggle Session
A struggle session was a form of public humiliation used by the Communist Party of China to enforce a reign of terror in the Mao Zedong era to shape public opinion and to humiliate, persecute, and/or execute political rivals, so-called class enemies...

s, and social pressure. Rural industrialization, officially a priority of the campaign, saw "its development … aborted by the mistakes of the Great Leap Forward."

The Great Leap ended in catastrophe, resulting in tens of millions of excess deaths. Estimates of the death toll range from 18 to 46 million, with estimates by demographic specialists ranging from 18 to 32.5 million. Historian Frank Dikötter
Frank Dikötter
Frank Dikötter is a Dutch historian and author of Mao's Great Famine. The book won the 2011 Samuel Johnson Prize. Dikötter is Chair Professor of Humanities at the University of Hong Kong, where he teaches courses on both Mao and the Great Chinese Famine, and Professor of the Modern History of...

 asserts that "coercion, terror, and systematic violence were the very foundation of the Great Leap Forward" and it "motivated one of the most deadly mass killings of human history."

The years of the Great Leap Forward in fact saw economic regression, with 1958 through 1961 being the only years between 1953 and 1983 in which China's economy saw negative growth. Political economist Dwight Perkins argues, "enormous amounts of investment produced only modest increases in production or none at all. … In short, the Great Leap was a very expensive disaster."

In subsequent conferences in 1960 and 1962, the negative effects of the Great Leap Forward were studied by the CPC, and Mao was criticized in the party conferences. Moderate Party members like Liu Shaoqi
Liu Shaoqi
Liu Shaoqi was a Chinese revolutionary, statesman, and theorist. He was Chairman of the People's Republic of China, China's head of state, from 27 April 1959 to 31 October 1968, during which he implemented policies of economic reconstruction in China...

 and Deng Xiaoping
Deng Xiaoping
Deng Xiaoping was a Chinese politician, statesman, and diplomat. As leader of the Communist Party of China, Deng was a reformer who led China towards a market economy...

 rose to power, and Mao was marginalized within the party, leading him to initiate the Cultural Revolution
Cultural Revolution
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, commonly known as the Cultural Revolution , was a socio-political movement that took place in the People's Republic of China from 1966 through 1976...

 in 1966.

Background



In October 1949 after the defeat of the Kuomintang
Kuomintang
The Kuomintang of China , sometimes romanized as Guomindang via the Pinyin transcription system or GMD for short, and translated as the Chinese Nationalist Party is a founding and ruling political party of the Republic of China . Its guiding ideology is the Three Principles of the People, espoused...

, the Chinese Communist Party proclaimed the establishment of the People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

. Immediately, landlords and wealthier peasants had their land holdings forcibly redistributed to poorer peasants. In the agricultural sectors, crops deemed by the Party to be "full of evil" such as opium
Opium
Opium is the dried latex obtained from the opium poppy . Opium contains up to 12% morphine, an alkaloid, which is frequently processed chemically to produce heroin for the illegal drug trade. The latex also includes codeine and non-narcotic alkaloids such as papaverine, thebaine and noscapine...

, were destroyed and replaced with crops such as rice
Rice
Rice is the seed of the monocot plants Oryza sativa or Oryza glaberrima . As a cereal grain, it is the most important staple food for a large part of the world's human population, especially in East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, and the West Indies...

. Within the Party, there was major debate about redistribution.

A moderate faction within the party and Politburo
Politburo of the Communist Party of China
The Central Politburo of the Communist Party of China or Political bureau of the CPC Central Committee , formerly as Central Bureau before 1927, is a group of 24 people who oversee the Communist Party of China...

 member Liu Shaoqi
Liu Shaoqi
Liu Shaoqi was a Chinese revolutionary, statesman, and theorist. He was Chairman of the People's Republic of China, China's head of state, from 27 April 1959 to 31 October 1968, during which he implemented policies of economic reconstruction in China...

 argued that change should be gradual and any collectivization of the peasantry should wait until industrialization, which could provide the agricultural machinery for mechanized farming. A more radical faction led by Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong, also transliterated as Mao Tse-tung , and commonly referred to as Chairman Mao , was a Chinese Communist revolutionary, guerrilla warfare strategist, Marxist political philosopher, and leader of the Chinese Revolution...

 agreed that the best way to finance industrialization was for the government to take control of agriculture, thereby establishing a monopoly over grain distribution and supply. This would allow the state to buy at a low price and sell much higher, thus raising the capital necessary for the industrialization of the country.

Agricultural collectives


It was realized that this policy would be unpopular with the peasants and therefore it was proposed that the peasants should be brought under Party control by the establishment of agricultural collective
Collective
A collective is a group of entities that share or are motivated by at least one common issue or interest, or work together on a specific project to achieve a common objective...

s which would also facilitate the sharing of tools and draft animals. This policy was gradually pushed through between 1949 and 1958, first by establishing "mutual aid teams" of 5-15 households, then in 1953 "elementary agricultural cooperatives" of 20-40 households, then from 1956 in "higher co-operatives" of 100-300 families. These reforms (sometimes now referred to as The Great Leap Forward) were generally unpopular with the peasants and usually implemented by summoning them to meetings and making them stay there for days and sometimes weeks until they "voluntarily" agreed to join the collective.

Besides these economic changes, the Party implemented major social changes in the countryside including the banishing of all religious and mystic institutions and ceremonies and replacing them with political meetings and propaganda
Propaganda
Propaganda is a form of communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position so as to benefit oneself or one's group....

 sessions. Attempts were made to enhance rural education and the status of women (allowing them to initiate divorce if they desired) and ending foot-binding, child marriage
Child marriage
Child marriage and child betrothal customs occur in various times and places, whereby children are given in matrimony - before marriageable age as defined by the commentator and often before puberty. Today such customs are fairly widespread in parts of Africa, Asia, Oceania and South America: in...

 and opium
Opium
Opium is the dried latex obtained from the opium poppy . Opium contains up to 12% morphine, an alkaloid, which is frequently processed chemically to produce heroin for the illegal drug trade. The latex also includes codeine and non-narcotic alkaloids such as papaverine, thebaine and noscapine...

 addiction. Internal passports (called the hukou system) were introduced in 1956, forbidding travel without appropriate authorization. Highest priority was given to the urban proletariat
Proletariat
The proletariat is a term used to identify a lower social class, usually the working class; a member of such a class is proletarian...

 for whom a welfare state
Welfare state
A welfare state is a "concept of government in which the state plays a key role in the protection and promotion of the economic and social well-being of its citizens. It is based on the principles of equality of opportunity, equitable distribution of wealth, and public responsibility for those...

 was created.

The first phase of collectivization was not a great success and there was widespread famine in 1956, though the Party's propaganda machine announced progressively higher harvests. Moderates within the Party, including Zhou Enlai
Zhou Enlai
Zhou Enlai was the first Premier of the People's Republic of China, serving from October 1949 until his death in January 1976...

, argued for a reversal of collectivization. The position of the moderates was strengthened by Khrushchev's
Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev led the Soviet Union during part of the Cold War. He served as First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1964, and as Chairman of the Council of Ministers, or Premier, from 1958 to 1964...

 1956 Secret speech
On the Personality Cult and its Consequences
On the Personality Cult and its Consequences was a report, critical of Joseph Stalin, made to the Twentieth Party Congress on February 25, 1956 by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. It is more commonly known as the Secret Speech or the Khrushchev Report...

 at the 20th Congress which uncovered Stalin's
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

 crimes and highlighted the failure of his agricultural policies including collectivization in the USSR.

Hundred Flowers Campaign


In 1957 Mao responded to the tensions in the Party by promoting free speech and criticism under the 100 Flowers Campaign
Hundred Flowers Campaign
The Hundred Flowers Campaign, also termed the Hundred Flowers Movement, refers mainly to a brief six weeks in the People's Republic of China in the early summer of 1957 during which the Communist Party of China encouraged a variety of views and solutions to national policy issues, launched...

. In retrospect, some have come to argue that this was a ploy to allow critics of the regime, primarily intellectuals but also low ranking members of the party critical of the agricultural policies, to identify themselves. Some claim that Mao simply swung to the side of the hard-liners once his policies gained strong opposition. Once he had done so, at least half a million were purged under the Anti-Rightist campaign
Anti-Rightist Movement
The Anti-Rightist Movement of the People's Republic of China in the 1950s and early 1960s consisted of a series of campaigns to purge alleged "rightists" within the Communist Party of China and abroad...

, which effectively silenced any opposition from within the Party or from agricultural experts to the changes which would be implemented under the Great Leap Forward.

By the completion of the first 5 Year Economic Plan in 1957, Mao had come to doubt that the path to socialism that had been taken by the Soviet Union was appropriate for China. He was critical of Khrushchev's reversal of Stalinist policies and alarmed by the uprisings that had taken place in East Germany, Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 and Hungary
Hungary
Hungary , officially the Republic of Hungary , is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The...

, and the perception that the USSR was seeking "peaceful coexistence
Peaceful coexistence
Peaceful coexistence was a theory developed and applied by the Soviet Union at various points during the Cold War in the context of its ostensibly Marxist–Leninist foreign policy and was adopted by Soviet-influenced "Communist states" that they could peacefully coexist with the capitalist bloc...

" with the Western powers. Mao had become convinced that China should follow its own path to communism
Communism
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

.

According to Jonathan Mirsky, a historian and journalist specializing in Chinese affairs, China's isolation from most of the rest of the world, along with the Korean War
Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...

, had accelerated Mao's attacks on his perceived domestic enemies. It led him to accelerate his designs to develop an economy where the regime would get maximum benefit from rural taxation.

Before the Great Leap, peasants farmed their own small pockets of land, and observed traditional practices connected to markets—festivals, banquets, and paying homage to ancestors. Starting in 1954, peasants were encouraged to form and join collectives, which would putatively increase their efficiency without robbing them of their own land or restricting their livelihoods. By 1958, however, private ownership was entirely abolished and households all over China were forced into state-operated communes. Mao insisted that the communes must produce more grain for the cities and earn foreign exchange from exports.

Organizational and operational factors



The Great Leap Forward campaign began during the period of the Second Five Year Plan which was scheduled to run from 1958–1963, though the campaign itself was discontinued by 1961. Mao unveiled the Great Leap Forward at a meeting in January 1958 in Nanjing
Nanjing
' is the capital of Jiangsu province in China and has a prominent place in Chinese history and culture, having been the capital of China on several occasions...

.

The central idea behind the Great Leap was that rapid development of China's agricultural and industrial sectors should take place in parallel. The hope was to industrialize by making use of the massive supply of cheap labour and avoid having to import heavy machinery. The government also sought to avoid both social stratification and technical bottlenecks involved in the Soviet model of development, but sought political rather than technical solutions to do so. Distrusting technical experts, Mao and the party sought to replicate the strategies used in its 1930s regrouping in Yan'an
Yan'an
Yan'an , is a prefecture-level city in the Shanbei region of Shaanxi province in China, administering several counties, including Zhidan County , which served as the Chinese communist capital before the city of Yan'an proper took that role....

 following the Long March
Long March
The Long March was a massive military retreat undertaken by the Red Army of the Communist Party of China, the forerunner of the People's Liberation Army, to evade the pursuit of the Kuomintang army. There was not one Long March, but a series of marches, as various Communist armies in the south...

: "mass mobilization, social leveling, attacks on bureaucratism, [and] disdain for material obstacles." Mao advocated that a further round of collectivization modeled on the USSR
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

's "Third Period
Third Period
The Third Period is a ideological concept adopted by the Communist International at its 6th World Congress, held in Moscow in the summer of 1928....

" was necessary in the countryside where the existing collectives would be merged into huge People's Communes
People's commune
The people's commune was the highest of three administrative levels in rural areas of the People's Republic of China during the period of 1958 to 1982-85 until they were replaced by townships. Communes, the largest collective units, were divided in turn into production brigades and production teams...

.

People's communes



An experimental commune was established at Chayashan in Henan
Henan
Henan , is a province of the People's Republic of China, located in the central part of the country. Its one-character abbreviation is "豫" , named after Yuzhou , a Han Dynasty state that included parts of Henan...

 in April 1958. Here for the first time private plots were entirely abolished and communal kitchens were introduced. At the Politburo
Politburo
Politburo , literally "Political Bureau [of the Central Committee]," is the executive committee for a number of communist political parties.-Marxist-Leninist states:...

 meetings in August 1958, it was decided that these people's communes would become the new form of economic and political organization throughout rural China. By the end of the year approximately 25,000 communes had been set up, with an average of 5,000 households each. The communes were relatively self-sufficient co-operatives where wages and money were replaced by work points.

Based on his fieldwork, Ralph A. Thaxton Jr. describes the people's communes as a form of "apartheid system
Crime of apartheid
The crime of apartheid is defined by the 2002 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court as inhumane acts of a character similar to other crimes against humanity "committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other...

" for Chinese farm households. The commune system was aimed at maximizing production for provisioning the cities and constructing offices, factories, schools, and social insurance systems for urban-dwelling workers, cadres and officials. Citizens in rural areas who criticized the system were labeled "dangerous." Escape was also difficult or impossible, and those who attempted were denied by "party-orchestrated public struggle," which further jeopardized their survival. Besides agriculture, communes also incorporated some light industry and construction projects.

Industrialization



Mao saw grain and steel production as the key pillars of economic development. He forecast that within 15 years of the start of the Great Leap, China's steel
Steel
Steel is an alloy that consists mostly of iron and has a carbon content between 0.2% and 2.1% by weight, depending on the grade. Carbon is the most common alloying material for iron, but various other alloying elements are used, such as manganese, chromium, vanadium, and tungsten...

 production would surpass that of the UK
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

. In the August 1958 Politburo meetings, it was decided that steel production would be set to double within the year, most of the increase coming through backyard steel furnaces. Major investments in larger state enterprises were made in 1958-60: 1,587, 1,361, and 1,815 medium- and large-scale state projects were started in 1958, 1959, and 1960 respectively, more in each year than in the first Five Year Plan.

Millions of Chinese became state workers as a consequence of this unprecedented industrial investment: in 1958, 21 million were added to non-agricultural state payrolls, and total state employment reached a peak of 50.44 million in 1960, more than doubling the 1957 level; the urban population swelled by 31.24 million people. These new workers placed major stress on China's food-rationing system, which led to increased and unsustainable demands on rural food production.

During this rapid expansion, coordination suffered and material shortages were frequent, resulting in "a huge rise in the wage bill, largely for construction workers, but no corresponding increase in manufactured goods." Facing a massive deficit, the government cut industrial investment from 38.9 to 7.1 billion yuan from 1960 to 1962 (an 82% decrease; the 1957 level was 14.4 billion).

Backyard furnaces


With no personal knowledge of metallurgy
Metallurgy
Metallurgy is a domain of materials science that studies the physical and chemical behavior of metallic elements, their intermetallic compounds, and their mixtures, which are called alloys. It is also the technology of metals: the way in which science is applied to their practical use...

, Mao encouraged the establishment of small backyard steel furnaces
Backyard furnace
Backyard steel furnaces were used by the people of China during the Great Leap Forward . These small steel blast furnaces were constructed in the backyards of the communes, hence their names. People used every type of fuel they could to power these furnaces, from coal to the wood of coffins...

 in every commune and in each urban neighborhood. Mao was shown an example of a backyard furnace in Hefei
Hefei
Hefei is the capital and largest city of Anhui Province in Eastern China. A prefecture-level city, it is the political, economic, and cultural centre of Anhui...

, Anhui
Anhui
Anhui is a province in the People's Republic of China. Located in eastern China across the basins of the Yangtze River and the Huai River, it borders Jiangsu to the east, Zhejiang to the southeast, Jiangxi to the south, Hubei to the southwest, Henan to the northwest, and Shandong for a tiny...

 in September 1958 by provincial first secretary Zeng Xisheng. The unit was claimed to be manufacturing high quality steel (though in fact the finished steel had probably been manufactured elsewhere).

Huge efforts on the part of peasants and other workers were made to produce steel out of scrap metal. To fuel the furnaces the local environment was denuded of trees and wood taken from the doors and furniture of peasants' houses. Pots, pans, and other metal artifacts were requisitioned to supply the "scrap" for the furnaces so that the wildly optimistic production targets could be met. Many of the male agricultural workers were diverted from the harvest to help the iron production as were the workers at many factories, schools and even hospitals. Although the output consisted of low quality lumps of pig iron
Pig iron
Pig iron is the intermediate product of smelting iron ore with a high-carbon fuel such as coke, usually with limestone as a flux. Charcoal and anthracite have also been used as fuel...

 which was of negligible economic worth, Mao had a deep distrust of intellectuals and faith in the power of the mass mobilization of the peasants.

Moreover, the experience of the intellectual classes following the Hundred Flowers Campaign
Hundred Flowers Campaign
The Hundred Flowers Campaign, also termed the Hundred Flowers Movement, refers mainly to a brief six weeks in the People's Republic of China in the early summer of 1957 during which the Communist Party of China encouraged a variety of views and solutions to national policy issues, launched...

 silenced those aware of the folly of such a plan. According to his private doctor, Li Zhisui
Li Zhisui
Li Zhisui was Mao Zedong's personal physician and confidante. After immigrating to the United States, he wrote a biography of his experiences with Mao entitled The Private Life of Chairman Mao .Weeks after he announced on a TV interview that he was going to write another memoir, Li died of a...

, Mao and his entourage visited traditional steel works in Manchuria
Manchuria
Manchuria is a historical name given to a large geographic region in northeast Asia. Depending on the definition of its extent, Manchuria usually falls entirely within the People's Republic of China, or is sometimes divided between China and Russia. The region is commonly referred to as Northeast...

 in January 1959 where he found out that high quality steel could only be produced in large scale factories using reliable fuel such as coal. However, he decided not to order a halt to the backyard steel furnaces so as not to dampen the revolutionary enthusiasm of the masses. The program was only quietly abandoned much later in that year.

Irrigation


Substantial effort was expended during the Great Leap Forward on large-scale, but often on poorly planned capital construction projects, such as irrigation
Irrigation
Irrigation may be defined as the science of artificial application of water to the land or soil. It is used to assist in the growing of agricultural crops, maintenance of landscapes, and revegetation of disturbed soils in dry areas and during periods of inadequate rainfall...

 works often built without input from trained engineers. Mao was well aware of the human cost of these water-conservancy campaigns. In early 1958, while listening to a report on irrigation in Jiangsu, he mentioned that:

"Wu Zhipu claims he can move 30 billion cubic metres; I think 30,000 people will die. Zeng Xisheng has said that he will move 20 billion cubic metres, and I think that 20,000 people will die. Weiqing only promises 600 million cubic metres, maybe nobody will die."


Though Mao "criticized the excessive use of corvée
Corvée
Corvée is unfree labour, often unpaid, that is required of people of lower social standing and imposed on them by the state or a superior . The corvée was the earliest and most widespread form of taxation, which can be traced back to the beginning of civilization...

 for large-scale water conservancy projects" in late 1958, mass mobilization on irrigation works continued unabated for the next several years, and claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of exhausted, starving villagers. The inhabitants of Qingshui and Gansu referred to these projects as the "killing fields."

Crop experiments



On the communes, a number of radical and controversial agricultural innovations were promoted at the behest of Mao. Many of these were based on the ideas of now discredited Soviet biologist Trofim Lysenko
Trofim Lysenko
Trofim Denisovich Lysenko was a Soviet agronomist of Ukrainian origin, who was director of Soviet biology under Joseph Stalin. Lysenko rejected Mendelian genetics in favor of the hybridization theories of Russian horticulturist Ivan Vladimirovich Michurin, and adopted them into a powerful...

 and his followers. The policies included close cropping, whereby seeds were sown far more densely than normal on the incorrect assumption that seeds of the same class would not compete with each other. Deep plowing (up to 2m deep) was encouraged on the mistaken belief that this would yield plants with extra large root systems. Moderately productive land was left unplanted with the belief that concentrating manure and effort on the most fertile land would lead to large per-acre productivity gains. Altogether, these untested innovations generally led to decreases in grain production rather than increases.

Meanwhile, local leaders were pressured into falsely reporting ever-higher grain production figures to their political superiors. Participants at political meetings remembered production figures being inflated up to 10 times actual production amounts as the race to please superiors and win plaudits – like the chance to meet Mao himself – intensified. The state was later able to force many production groups to sell more grain than they could spare based on these false production figures.

The initial impact of the Great Leap Forward was discussed at the Lushan Conference
Lushan Conference
The Lushan Conference , officially the 8th Plenum of the Eighth Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, began on July 2, 1959 and was an informal discussion about the Great Leap Forward...

 in July/August 1959. Although many of the more moderate leaders had reservations about the new policy, the only senior leader to speak out openly was Marshall Peng Dehuai
Peng Dehuai
Peng Dehuai was a prominent military leader of the Communist Party of China, and China's Defence Minister from 1954 to 1959. Peng was an important commander during the Second Sino-Japanese War, the Chinese civil war and was also the commander-in-chief of People's Volunteer Army in the Korean War...

. Mao used the conference to dismiss Peng from his post as Defence Minister and denounce both Peng (who came from a poor peasant family) and his supporters as "bourgeois," and launch a nationwide campaign against "rightist opportunism." Peng was replaced by Lin Biao
Lin Biao
Lin Biao was a major Chinese Communist military leader who was pivotal in the communist victory in the Chinese Civil War, especially in Northeastern China...

, who began a systematic purge of Peng's supporters from the military.

Treatment of villagers


The ban on private holdings ruined peasant life at its most basic level, according to Mirsky. Villagers were unable to secure enough food to go on living, because the traditional means of being able to rent, sell, or use their land as collateral for loans was deprived of them by the commune system. In one village, once the commune was operational the Party boss and his colleagues "swung into manic action, herding villagers into the fields to sleep and to work intolerable hours, and forcing them to walk, starving, to distant additional projects."

Edward Friedman, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin, Paul Pickowicz, a historian at the University of California, San Diego, and Mark Selden, a sociologist at Binghamton University, wrote about the dynamic of interaction between the Party and villagers:

Beyond attack, beyond question, was the systemic and structured dynamic of the socialist state that intimidated and impoverished millions of patriotic and loyal villagers.


The authors present a similar picture to Thaxton in depicting the Communist Party's destruction of the traditions of Chinese villagers. Traditionally prized local customs were deemed signs of "feudalism" to be extinguished, according to Mirsky. "Among them were funerals, weddings, local markets, and festivals. The Party thus destroyed 'much that gave meaning to Chinese lives. These private bonds were social glue. To mourn and to celebrate is to be human. To share joy, grief, and pain is humanizing.'" Failure to participate in the CPC's political campaigns—though the aims of such campaigns were often conflicting—"could result in detention, torture, death, and the suffering of entire families."

Public criticism sessions were often used to intimidate the peasants into obeying local cadres; they increased the death rate of the famine in several ways, according to Thaxton. "In the first case, blows to the body caused internal injuries that, in combination with physical emaciation and acute hunger, could induce death." In one case, after a peasant stole two cabbages from the common fields, the thief was publicly criticized for half a day. He collapsed, fell ill, and never recovered. Others were sent to labor camps.

However, J. G. Mahoney, Professor of Liberal Studies and East Asian Studies at Grand Valley State University
Grand Valley State University
Grand Valley State University is a public liberal arts university located in Allendale, Michigan, United States. The university was established in 1960, and its main campus is situated on approximately west of Grand Rapids...

, has said that "there is too much diversity and dynamism in the country for one work to capture … rural China as if it were one place."

Mahoney describes an elderly man in rural Shanxi who recalls Mao fondly, saying "Before Mao we sometimes ate leaves, after liberation we did not." However, he points out that Da Fo villagers recall the Great Leap as a period of famine and death, and among those who survived in Da Fo were precisely those who could digest leaves.

Consequences


The failure of agricultural policies, the movement of farmers from agricultural to industrial work, and possibly weather conditions lead to severe famine. Many also died from mistreatment by government officials. The economy, which had improved since the end of the civil war, was devastated. In response to the severe conditions, there was resistance among the populace. The effects on the upper levels of government in response to the disaster were complex, with Mao purging the Minister of National Defense Peng Dehuai in 1959, the temporary promotion of Lin Biao
Lin Biao
Lin Biao was a major Chinese Communist military leader who was pivotal in the communist victory in the Chinese Civil War, especially in Northeastern China...

, Liu Shaoqi
Liu Shaoqi
Liu Shaoqi was a Chinese revolutionary, statesman, and theorist. He was Chairman of the People's Republic of China, China's head of state, from 27 April 1959 to 31 October 1968, during which he implemented policies of economic reconstruction in China...

, and Deng Xiaoping
Deng Xiaoping
Deng Xiaoping was a Chinese politician, statesman, and diplomat. As leader of the Communist Party of China, Deng was a reformer who led China towards a market economy...

, and Mao losing some power and prestige following the Great Leap Forward, which lead him to launch the Cultural Revolution in 1966.

Famine


Between 108 BC and 1911 AD there were no fewer than 1,828 major famines in China, or one nearly every year in one or another province; however, the famines varied greatly in severity. Despite the harmful agricultural innovations, the weather in 1958 was very favorable and the harvest promised to be good. Unfortunately, the amount of labour diverted to steel production and construction projects meant that much of the harvest was left to rot uncollected in some areas. This problem was exacerbated by a devastating locust
Locust
Locusts are the swarming phase of short-horned grasshoppers of the family Acrididae. These are species that can breed rapidly under suitable conditions and subsequently become gregarious and migratory...

 swarm, which was caused when their natural predators were killed as part of the Great Sparrow Campaign
Great sparrow campaign
thumb|right|250px|At the direction of [[Mao Zedong|Chairman Mao]], sparrows were killed by the peasants, causing a major [[ecological]] imbalance in the environment...

. Although actual harvests were reduced, local officials, under tremendous pressure from central authorities to report record harvests in response to the new innovations, competed with each other to announce increasingly exaggerated results. These were used as a basis for determining the amount of grain to be taken by the State to supply the towns and cities, and to export. This left barely enough for the peasants, and in some areas, starvation set in. During 1958–1960 China continued to be a substantial net exporter of grain, despite the widespread famine experienced in the countryside, as Mao sought to maintain face and convince the outside world of the success of his plans. Foreign aid was refused. When the Japanese foreign minister told his Chinese counterpart Chen Yi of an offer of 100,000 tonnes of wheat to be shipped out of public view, he was rebuffed. John F Kennedy was also aware that the Chinese were exporting food to Africa and Cuba during the famine and said "we've had no indication from the Chinese Communists that they would welcome any offer of food."

In 1959 and 1960 the weather was less favorable, and the situation got considerably worse, with many of China's provinces experiencing severe famine. Droughts, floods, and general bad weather caught China completely by surprise. In July 1959, the Yellow River
Yellow River
The Yellow River or Huang He, formerly known as the Hwang Ho, is the second-longest river in China and the sixth-longest in the world at the estimated length of . Originating in the Bayan Har Mountains in Qinghai Province in western China, it flows through nine provinces of China and empties into...

 flooded in East China. According to the Disaster Center, it directly killed, either through starvation from crop failure or drowning, an estimated 2 million people.

In 1960, at least some degree of drought and other bad weather affected 55 percent of cultivated land, while an estimated 60 percent of northern agricultural land received no rain at all.

With dramatically reduced yields, even urban areas suffered much reduced rations; however, mass starvation was largely confined to the countryside, where, as a result of drastically inflated production statistics, very little grain was left for the peasants to eat. Food shortages were bad throughout the country; however, the provinces which had adopted Mao's reforms with the most vigor, such as Anhui
Anhui
Anhui is a province in the People's Republic of China. Located in eastern China across the basins of the Yangtze River and the Huai River, it borders Jiangsu to the east, Zhejiang to the southeast, Jiangxi to the south, Hubei to the southwest, Henan to the northwest, and Shandong for a tiny...

, Gansu
Gansu
' is a province located in the northwest of the People's Republic of China.It lies between the Tibetan and Huangtu plateaus, and borders Mongolia, Inner Mongolia, and Ningxia to the north, Xinjiang and Qinghai to the west, Sichuan to the south, and Shaanxi to the east...

 and Henan
Henan
Henan , is a province of the People's Republic of China, located in the central part of the country. Its one-character abbreviation is "豫" , named after Yuzhou , a Han Dynasty state that included parts of Henan...

, tended to suffer disproportionately. Sichuan
Sichuan
' , known formerly in the West by its postal map spellings of Szechwan or Szechuan is a province in Southwest China with its capital in Chengdu...

, one of China's most populous provinces, known in China as "Heaven's Granary" because of its fertility, is thought to have suffered the greatest absolute numbers of deaths from starvation due to the vigor with which provincial leader Li Jinquan undertook Mao's reforms. During the Great Leap Forward, cases of cannibalism
Cannibalism
Cannibalism is the act or practice of humans eating the flesh of other human beings. It is also called anthropophagy...

 also occurred in the parts of China that were severely affected by famine.

The agricultural policies of the Great Leap Forward and the associated famine would then continue until January 1961, where, at the Ninth Plenum of the Eighth Central Committee, the restoration of agricultural production through a reversal of the Great Leap policies was started. Grain exports were stopped, and imports from Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 and Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 helped to reduce the impact of the food shortages, at least in the coastal cities.

Famine deaths

Great Leap Forward famine death estimates
Deaths
(millions)
Author(s) Year
23 Peng 1987
27 Coale 1984
27 Rummel 1991
30 Ashton and Hill 1984
30 Banister 1987
36 Yang 2008
38 Chang and Halliday 2005
42 minimum Dikötter 2010
43 to 46 Becker 1996

The exact number of famine deaths is difficult to determine, and estimates range from 18 million to 46 million people. Because of the uncertainties involved in estimating famine deaths caused by the Great Leap Forward or any famine, it is difficult to compare the severity of different famines. However if a mid estimate of 30 million deaths is accepted, the Great leap Forward was probably the deadliest famine in the history of China and in the history of the world. This was in part due to China’s large population; in the Great Irish Famine, approximately 1 million of a population of 8 million people died, or 12.5%, in the Great Chinese Famine approximately 30 million of a population of 600 million people died, or 5%.

Death toll estimates based on demographics are usually derived from the 1953 and 1964 censuses showing total population change. This is combined with estimated birth and baseline death rates over the period to arrive at an excess death rate for the years of the Great Leap Forward, which is then translated into the total number of famine deaths. Estimates by Yang also include information from provincial and central archives and interviews with survivors, and estimates by Dikötter also include data from minutes of emergency committees, secret police reports, and public security investigations.

Estimates based on national census data and birth rates are fraught with uncertainty. National census data was not accurate and even the total population of China at the time was not known to within 50 million to 100 million people. There were numerous flaws in the 1953 census on which famine death projections are made. In addition to being inaccurate, census figures may also be inadequate, and lead to undercounting of famine deaths. Estimates of birth rate also contain a great deal of uncertainty.

The severity of the famine varied from region to region. Fuyang
Fuyang, Anhui
Fuyang is a prefecture-level city in northwestern Anhui province, People's Republic of China. It borders Bozhou to the northeast, Huainan to the southeast, Lu'an to the south, and the province of Henan on all other sides.-Climate:-Administration:...

, a region with a population of 8 million in 1958, had a death rate that rivaled Democratic Kampuchea's
Democratic Kampuchea
The Khmer Rouge period refers to the rule of Pol Pot, Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary, Son Sen, Khieu Samphan and the Khmer Rouge Communist party over Cambodia, which the Khmer Rouge renamed as Democratic Kampuchea....

 Killing Fields; more than 2.4 million people perished there over the next three years. In Gao Village in Jiangxi Province there was a famine, but no one actually died of starvation.

Prior to the Great Leap Forward, famines were not uncommon in China. Additionally, prior to 1949, the chaos following the collapse of the Qing Dynasty
Qing Dynasty
The Qing Dynasty was the last dynasty of China, ruling from 1644 to 1912 with a brief, abortive restoration in 1917. It was preceded by the Ming Dynasty and followed by the Republic of China....

, the Chinese Civil War
Chinese Civil War
The Chinese Civil War was a civil war fought between the Kuomintang , the governing party of the Republic of China, and the Communist Party of China , for the control of China which eventually led to China's division into two Chinas, Republic of China and People's Republic of...

, the Japanese invasion
Second Sino-Japanese War
The Second Sino-Japanese War was a military conflict fought primarily between the Republic of China and the Empire of Japan. From 1937 to 1941, China fought Japan with some economic help from Germany , the Soviet Union and the United States...

, and Japanese, Communist, and Nationalist democide
Democide
Democide is a term revived and redefined by the political scientist R. J. Rummel as "the murder of any person or people by a government, including genocide, politicide, and mass murder." Rummel created the term as an extended concept to include forms of government murder that are not covered by the...

 all contributed to a high death rate. Minqi Li
Minqi Li
Minqi Li is a Chinese Political Economist, world-systems analyst, and historical social scientist, currently an associate professor of Economics at the University of Utah. Li is known as an advocate of the Chinese New Left and a Marxist economist....

, a former Chinese dissident and political prisoner and now a Marxist Professor of Economics at the University of Utah
University of Utah
The University of Utah, also known as the U or the U of U, is a public, coeducational research university in Salt Lake City, Utah, United States. The university was established in 1850 as the University of Deseret by the General Assembly of the provisional State of Deseret, making it Utah's oldest...

, has produced data showing that even the peak death rates during the Great Leap Forward were in fact quite typical in pre-Communist China. Li argues that based on the average death rate over the three years of the Great Leap Forward, there were several million fewer lives lost during this period than would have been the case under normal mortality conditions before 1949.

Causes of the famine and responsibility


The policies of the Great Leap Forward were mostly, if not completely responsible for the famine. There is disagreement over how much, if at all, weather conditions contributed to the famine and how much, if at all, the famine was intentional or due to willful negligence.

Yang Jisheng
Yang Jisheng
Yang Jisheng is a Chinese journalist and author of Tombstone , a comprehensive account of the Great Chinese Famine during the Great Leap Forward. Yang joined the Communist Party in 1964 and graduated from Tsinghua University in 1966. He promptly joined Xinhua News Agency, where he worked until...

, a long-time communist party member and a reporter for the official Chinese news agency Xinhua, puts the blame squarely on Maoist policies, such as diverting agricultural workers to steel production instead of growing crops, and exporting grain at the same time. During the course of his research, Yang uncovered that some 22 million tons of grain was held in public granaries at the height of the famine, reports of the starvation went up the bureaucracy only to be ignored by top officials, and the authorities ordered that statistics be destroyed in regions where population decline became evident. Economist Steven Rosefielde
Steven Rosefielde
Steven Rosefielde is a Professor of Comparative Economic Systems at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.. He is also a member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences.-Selected works:...

 argues that Yang's account "shows that Mao's slaughter was caused in considerable part by terror-starvation; that is, voluntary manslaughter (and perhaps murder) rather than innocuous famine." Yang notes that local party officials were indifferent to the large number of people dying around them, as their primary concern was the delivery of grain, which Mao wanted to use to pay back debts to the USSR totaling 1.973 billion yuan
Chinese yuan
The yuan is the base unit of a number of modern Chinese currencies. The yuan is the primary unit of account of the Renminbi.A yuán is also known colloquially as a kuài . One yuán is divided into 10 jiǎo or colloquially máo...

. In Xinyang
Xinyang
Xinyang is a prefecture-level city in southeastern Henan province, People's Republic of China, the southernmost such administrative division in the province.-Recent history:...

, people died of starvation at the doors of grain warehouses. Mao refused to open the state granaries as he dismissed reports of food shortages and accused the peasants of hiding grain. From his research into records and talks with experts at the meteorological bureau, Yang concludes that the weather during the Great leap forward was not unusual compared to other periods and was not a factor. Yang also believes that the Sino-Soviet split was not a factor because it did not happen until 1960, when the famine was well under way.

Chang
Jung Chang
Jung Chang is a Chinese-born British writer now living in London, best known for her family autobiography Wild Swans, selling over 10 million copies worldwide but banned in the People's Republic of China....

 and Halliday
Jon Halliday
Jon Halliday is a historian of Russia and was a former Senior Visiting Research Fellow at King's College London.Halliday authored a biography of filmmaker Douglas Sirk and has written and edited seven other books. He and his wife, Jung Chang, live in Notting Hill, West London...

 argue that "Mao had actually allowed for many more deaths. Although slaughter was not his purpose with the Leap, he was more than ready for myriad deaths to result, and had hinted to his top echelon that they should not be too shocked if they happened." Democide
Democide
Democide is a term revived and redefined by the political scientist R. J. Rummel as "the murder of any person or people by a government, including genocide, politicide, and mass murder." Rummel created the term as an extended concept to include forms of government murder that are not covered by the...

 historian R.J. Rummel had originally classified the famine deaths as unintentional. In light of evidence provided in Chang and Halliday’s book, he now believes that the mass dyings associated with Great Leap Forward constitute democide (murder).

According to Frank Dikötter, Mao and the Communist Party knew that some of their policies were contributing to the starvation. Foreign minister Chen Yi
Chen Yi (communist)
Chen Yi was a Chinese communist military commander and politician. He served as the 2nd Mayor of Shanghai and the 2nd Foreign Minister of China.-Biography:Chen was born in Lezhi, near Chengdu, Sichuan, into a moderately wealthy magistrate's family....

 said of some of the early human losses in November 1958:

"Casualties have indeed appeared among workers, but it is not enough to stop us in our tracks. This is the price we have to pay, it's nothing to be afraid of. Who knows how many people have been sacrificed on the battlefields and in the prisons [for the revolutionary cause]? Now we have a few cases of illness and death: it's nothing!"


During a secret meeting in Shanghai in 1959, Mao demanded the state procurement of one-third of all grain to feed the cities and satisfy foreign clients, and noted that "If you don't go above a third, people won't rebel." He also stated at the same meeting:

"When there is not enough to eat people starve to death. It is better to let half of the people die so that the other half can eat their fill."


Benjamin Valentino writes that like in the USSR during the famine of 1932-33, peasants were confined to their starving villages by a system of household registration, and the worst effects of the famine were directed against enemies of the regime. Those labeled as "black elements" (religious leaders, rightists, rich peasants, etc.) in any previous campaign were given the lowest priority in the allocation of food, and therefore died in the greatest numbers. According to genocide
Genocide
Genocide is defined as "the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group", though what constitutes enough of a "part" to qualify as genocide has been subject to much debate by legal scholars...

 scholar Adam Jones
Adam Jones (Canadian scholar)
Adam Jones is a political scientist, writer, and photojournalist based at the University of British Columbia Okanagan in Kelowna, BC, Canada. He is executive director of the nongovernmental organization Gendercide Watch...

, "no group suffered more than the Tibetans," with perhaps one in five dying from 1959 to 1962.

Mobo Gao suggested that the Great Leap Forward’s terrible effects came not from malign intent on the part of the Chinese leadership at the time, but instead relate to the structural nature of its rule, and the vastness of China as a country. Gao says "..the terrible lesson learnt is that China is so huge and when it is uniformly ruled, follies or wrong policies will have grave implications of tremendous magnitude".

The PRC government’s official web portal places the responsibility for the “serious losses” to “country and people” of 1959-1961 (without mentioning famine) mainly on the Great Leap Forward and the anti-rightist struggle, and lists weather and cancelation of contracts by the Soviet Union as contributing factors.

Deaths by violence


Not all deaths during the Great Leap were from starvation. Benjamin Valentino notes that "communist officials sometimes tortured and killed those accused of failing to meet their grain quota." Frank Dikötter estimates that at least 2.5 million people were beaten or tortured to death and 1 to 3 million committed suicide. He provides some illustrative examples. In Xinyang
Xinyang
Xinyang is a prefecture-level city in southeastern Henan province, People's Republic of China, the southernmost such administrative division in the province.-Recent history:...

, where over a million died in 1960, 6-7 percent (around 67,000) of these were beaten to death by the militias. In Daoxian county, 10 per cent of those who died had been "buried alive, clubbed to death or otherwise killed by party members and their militia." In Shimen county, around 13,500 died in 1960, of these 12 per cent were "beaten or driven to their deaths."

Beatings with sticks was the most common method used by local cadres
Professional revolutionaries
The concept of professional revolutionaries, alternatively called cadre, is in origin a Leninist concept used to describe a body of devoted communists who spend the majority of their free time organizing their party toward a mass revolutionary party capable of leading a workers' revolution...

 (roughly half of all cadres regularly pummeled or caned people), but others devised harsher means to humiliate and torture those who failed to keep up. As mass starvation set in, ever greater violence had to be inflicted in order to coerce malnourished people to labor in the fields. Victims were buried alive, thrown bound into ponds, stripped naked and forced to labor in the middle of winter, doused in boiling water, forced to ingest excrement and urine, and subjected to mutilation (hair ripped out, noses and ears lopped off). In Guangdong
Guangdong
Guangdong is a province on the South China Sea coast of the People's Republic of China. The province was previously often written with the alternative English name Kwangtung Province...

, some cadres injected salt water into their victims with needles normally reserved for cattle.

Impact on economy


During the Great Leap, the Chinese economy initially grew. Iron production increased 45% in 1958 and a combined 30% over the next two years, but plummeted in 1961, and did not reach the previous 1958 level until 1964.

The Great Leap also led to the greatest destruction of real estate in human history, outstripping any of the bombing campaigns from World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. Approximately 30 to 40 per cent of all houses were turned to rubble. Frank Dikötter states that "homes were pulled down to make fertilizer, to build canteens, to relocate villagers, to straighten roads, to make place for a better future beckoning ahead or simply to punish their owners.”

In agrarian policy, the failures of food supply during the Great Leap were met by a gradual de-collectivization in the 1960s that foreshadowed further de-collectivization under Deng Xiaoping. Political scientist Meredith Jung-En Woo
Meredith Jung-En Woo
Meredith Jung-En Woo is the Dean of the College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Virginia. She began her post on June 1, 2008....

 argues: "Unquestionably the regime failed to respond in time to save the lives of millions of peasants, but when it did respond, it ultimately transformed the livelihoods of several hundred million peasants (modestly in the early 1960s, but permanently after Deng Xiaoping's reforms subsequent to 1978.)"

Despite the risks to their careers, some Communist Party members openly laid blame for the disaster at the feet of the Party leadership and took it as proof that China must rely more on education, acquiring technical expertise and applying bourgeois
Bourgeoisie
In sociology and political science, bourgeoisie describes a range of groups across history. In the Western world, between the late 18th century and the present day, the bourgeoisie is a social class "characterized by their ownership of capital and their related culture." A member of the...

 methods in developing the economy. Liu Shaoqi
Liu Shaoqi
Liu Shaoqi was a Chinese revolutionary, statesman, and theorist. He was Chairman of the People's Republic of China, China's head of state, from 27 April 1959 to 31 October 1968, during which he implemented policies of economic reconstruction in China...

 made a speech in 1962 at Seven Thousand Cadres Conference criticizing that "The economic disaster was 30% fault of nature, 70% human error."

Modes of resistance


According to over 20 years of research by Ralph Thaxton, professor of politics at Brandeis University, villagers turned against the CPC during and after the Great Leap, seeing it as autocratic, brutal, corrupt, and mean-spirited. The CPC's policies, which included plunder, forced labor, and starvation, according to Thaxton, led villagers "to think about their relationship with the Communist Party in ways that do not bode well for the continuity of socialist rule."

Often, villagers composed doggerel
Doggerel
Doggerel is a derogatory term for verse considered of little literary value. The word probably derived from dog, suggesting either ugliness, puppyish clumsiness, or unpalatability in the 1630s.-Variants:...

 to show their defiance to the regime, and "perhaps, to remain sane." During the Great Leap, one jingle ran: "Flatter shamelessly—eat delicacies.... Don't flatter—starve to death for sure."

Impact on the government


Many local officials were tried and publicly executed for giving out misinformation.

Mao stepped down as State Chairman of the PRC in 1959, predicting he would take most of the blame for the failure of the Great Leap Forward[source needed], though he did retain his position as Chairman of the CPC [source needed]. Liu Shaoqi (the new PRC Chairman) and reformist Deng Xiaoping
Deng Xiaoping
Deng Xiaoping was a Chinese politician, statesman, and diplomat. As leader of the Communist Party of China, Deng was a reformer who led China towards a market economy...

 (CPC General Secretary) were left in charge to change policy to bring about economic recovery. Mao's Great Leap Forward policy came under open criticism at the Lushan party conference
Lushan Conference
The Lushan Conference , officially the 8th Plenum of the Eighth Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, began on July 2, 1959 and was an informal discussion about the Great Leap Forward...

. The attack was led by Minister of National Defense Peng Dehuai
Peng Dehuai
Peng Dehuai was a prominent military leader of the Communist Party of China, and China's Defence Minister from 1954 to 1959. Peng was an important commander during the Second Sino-Japanese War, the Chinese civil war and was also the commander-in-chief of People's Volunteer Army in the Korean War...

, who, initially troubled by the potentially adverse effect of the Great Leap Forward on the modernization of the armed forces, also admonished unnamed party members for trying to "jump into communism in one step." After the Lushan showdown, Mao defensively replaced Peng with Lin Biao
Lin Biao
Lin Biao was a major Chinese Communist military leader who was pivotal in the communist victory in the Chinese Civil War, especially in Northeastern China...

.

However, in June 1962, the party held an enlarged Central Work Conference and rehabilitated the majority of the deposed comrades who had criticized Mao in the aftermath of the Great Leap Forward. The event was again discussed, with much self-criticism
Self-criticism
Self-criticism refers to the pointing out of things critical/important to one's own beliefs, thoughts, actions, behaviour or results; it can form part of private, personal reflection or a group discussion.-Philosophy:...

, with the contemporary government calling it a "serious [loss] to our country and people" and blaming the cult of personality
Cult of personality
A cult of personality arises when an individual uses mass media, propaganda, or other methods, to create an idealized and heroic public image, often through unquestioning flattery and praise. Cults of personality are usually associated with dictatorships...

 of Mao. Following the 1962 conference, Mao became a "dead ancestor", as he labeled himself: a person who was respected but never consulted, occupying the political background of the Party. He launched a vain attempt for influence in 1966 with the Cultural Revolution
Cultural Revolution
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, commonly known as the Cultural Revolution , was a socio-political movement that took place in the People's Republic of China from 1966 through 1976...

, but died ten years later, leaving the forces within the party that opposed the Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward in power.

External links