The reasons behind Mao Zedong’s Promotion of the Great Leap Forward Movement and its failure
Mao Zedong has long been known as a historical icon for China. His reputation in being a dictator ruler has served as a remarkable reputation for his character in history. During his years of rulership in China, he has been able to impart several accounts contributing to the history of China. One of which is the implementation of the “Great Leap Forward” policy which he intended to introduce to the early Chinese community.
It was 1958 when Mao Zedong first introduced the said ideology. His aim of making a progressive and advanced China has inspired him to pursue the said principle in its application within the Chinese community. It was an indication of a promising economic advancement for China, but there were certain reason why this ideology was not able to survive the test of time and capability of China to adapt to the changes.
In this regard, the paragraphs to follow shall discuss the details regarding the “Great Leap Forward Movement”, its essential factors and the reasons behind its failure. This paper should serve as an examination of the policy and its deep roots. Designed to observe the historical background and its impact in today’s world, this paper would show the necessary factors needed to further analyze the historical situation being discussed herein.
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What does the Great Leap Forward Principle Pertain to?
Any ruler would naturally want to have a progressive country. Progress, clearly shown in history has usually been measured through the use of economic scale. During the years of Mao Zedong’s rule, the economic strength of a country is very important for it to be renowned as a strong country headed by a strong ruler. Being involved within the years of cold war, the importance of being acknowledged as a strong country or government is given high stress during these times.
This is the main reason why Mao opted to introduce the “Great Leap Forward” ideology to the Chinese Community. In an aim to reconstruct the way that the Chinese society lives, “Mao intended to apply a communist government in the said country”1. However, “not all the things aimed by the communist ruler seemed to be acceptable in the traditional Chinese life”2. Instead of uplifting the spirits of the people to live a life towards progress, their way of living became a source of deep devastating emotional situations as well as physical hardships as well. How have all of these been possible?
First, communism could be defined in many ways. A communist type of government is usually taken as an option by countries trying to make it to the global
1Jack Dunster. (1983). China and Mao Zedong (Cambridge Topic Book).
Lerner Publishing Group.
2 Jack Dunster. (1983). China and Mao Zedong (Cambridge Topic Book).
Lerner Publishing Group.
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market of successful rulership strategies. Many people in the industrialized countries sincerely believe that the capitalist system offers the best hope of prosperity and happiness. “They are for free enterprise, with as little interference from the state as possible”3.
Millions of others are convinced that capitalism favors the few, to the detriment of the greater number. They prefer communism, an economic and political system based on the ownership of all property by the community or the state. They are willing to forgo certain freedoms provided the state guarantees them material prosperity.
As Dunter commented in his book regarding the facts behind the implementation of the ideology of the Great Leap Forward movement ,“Between these two groups mainly economic and political progress, there are millions of people for whom the way to material prosperity and happiness is through neither capitalism nor communism”4. They recognize the disadvantages of the capitalist system, but also the dangers of communism. Timothy Cheek says that: “They hope, by means of reforms, to bring about an equalitarian, democratic society based on state planning and public control of
3 Jack Dunster. (1983). China and Mao Zedong (Cambridge Topic Book).
Lerner Publishing Group.
4 Jack Dunster. (1983). China and Mao Zedong (Cambridge Topic Book). Lerner Pub Group.
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the principal means of production. These are the socialists, variously called Social Democrats, Laborites, Welfare States, and so forth”5.
Thus, in less than sixty years Communism as a political, military and economic force has come to dominate fully one third of mankind. Under Communist control these lands have made considerable strides in developing power and influence. Cheek further adds: “The full control of the government over the social affairs of a certain country allows it to make specific changes on the lives of the society”6.
This is what actually happened in Mao Zedong’s implementation of the ideology of “Great Leap Forward Movement” in China. The Principle carried through the implementation of the said Movement of Mao’s administration, created the dilemma wherein “many Chinese people were forced to work”7.
The Chinese Communist Party indeed totally turned the Chinese life over. At first, the said government tried to control the economy. The first steps were the adoption of the measures to curb the inflation, then restoration of the communications, followed by the reestablishment of the domestic order, which Mao thought, was a “necessary step for economic development”8.
5 Timothy Cheek(2002). Mao Zedong and China’s Revolutions: A Brief History with Documents (The Bedford Series in History and Culture). Palgrave Macmillan.
6 Timothy Cheek(2002). Mao Zedong and China’s Revolutions: A Brief History with Documents (The Bedford Series in History and Culture). Palgrave Macmillan.
7Yong Ho. (2000). China: An Illustrated History (Illustrated Histories). Hippocrene Books.
8Zedong Mao. (1963). The political thought of Mao Tse-tung. Pall Mall Press.
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As a result of this economic concern, even the personal lives of the Chinese people were affected so much. As Schrift mentioned in her book, “The family life and arrangement were directly remolded into a different pattern”9. Aside from this, religious activities were also strongly controlled by the government in many ways, that
missionaries from other countries were forced to leave China at once even before they could begin to preach their belief in the said country. Obviously, because of these big changes in the society, many among the Chinese communities opted to go against the idealistic goals of Mao Zedong. Instead of actually seeing the goals set by their leader, they were driven to focus more on what is actually happening to their lives as his subjects of rulership. Indeed, the supposed leadership program that used to uplift Mao’s thoughts of having a perfect community became one of the most devastating results of the Chinese life transformation.
Most likely, the transformation of an agricultural China into an industrialized nation, according to Keith “affected so much how people tend to get their works done everyday”10. To avoid revolutions against the communist government’s program, Mao’s
9Melissa Schrift. (2001). Biography of a Chairman Mao Badge: The Creation and Mass Consumption of a Personality Cult. Rutgers University Press
10Ronald C. Keith. (2004). History, contradiction, and the apotheosis of Mao Zedong.(FEATURES)(Autocracy and China’s Rebel Founding Emperors: Comparing Chairman Mao and Ming Taizu). University of Hawaii Press.
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enthusiasm to at least keep the Chinese community in tact in the middle of the Cold War happening in the west lands, the slogan “let a thousand flowers bloom” paved way for cultural revolution which in the mean time kept the minds of the Chinese population off the idealisms of economic rebirth and the forced works and labor 11.
With regards to the Great Leap Forward Movement, Joseph K. Cheng’s “Mao Zedong and China’s Revolutions, puts it in a way that when Mao launched the Great Leap Forward Movement in November 1957at a leaders’ meeting in Moscow, where
almost all guests were enthusiasts of communism, he pointed out in his speech that the is so much certain in transforming China from a poor country into becoming a mighty society which the whole world recognizes.
By the year 1958, with an aim to make China a Utopian community, Mao tried to implement the ‘mobilization of the mass’ in turning the agricultural territories of the
country to becoming industrialized areas. The way he did this was with the use of forced labor. Everyone was forced to work their ways of producing the intended quota of production, hence, if they fail to comply, they are obliged to answer to some punishments. There were long hours of work and yet lesser pay and promise of income especially for farmers during these times. Everything were controlled by Mao’s administration.
11 Melissa Schrift. (2001). Biography of a Chairman Mao Badge: The Creation and Mass Consumption of a Personality Cult. Rutgers University Press .
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In 1959, Peng Dehuai tried to change the systems and oppose the ways of laws that Mao implemented during his reign. The obvious turn around of the traditional, peaceful and simple life of the Chinese community into becoming a much complicated way of living dedicated to a hopeless progress has disturbed Dehuai’s spirit so much. This is the reason of his strength of standing up against the beliefs of Mao with regards to his concept of progress. However, because of fear and total authority that other officials recognize to belong to Mao, Peng Dehuai was removed from his authority. After several years more, the Great Leap Forward Movement “proved to being the source of economic disaster in the country”12.
Furthermore, the industrial calamities brought about famines all over the land driving at least 20 million of the Chinese population towards death. Indeed, China’s
history with Mao’s rule has continuously promised a better future behind all the negative effects of the movements to the community. The government posted so much
enthusiasm on the matter of economic development but because of some measures, the hoped-to-be ‘great China’ has not survived because of the challenges faced by the administration. How did this come to be? How did such a strong conviction from a very ‘specific’, systematic and powerful man fail?
12 Joseph Y.K. Cheng. (2003). Mao Zedong and China’s Revolution: A brief History with Documents. Journal of Contemporary Asia.
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The Failure of a Fine Future Plan
Even though the idea of economic progress was indeed good and at least perfect for Mao’s views, the public’s acceptance and the way in which he pursued the matter
caused commotion in the Chinese community13. The fact that his way of governing the country has been much close to a dictatorial form, people in China wanted to revolt against his administration14.
One more factor of the Mao’s concept of progress of failing is due to the fact that his idealistic view of the progressive results that he believed to be brought about by the Great Leap Forward Movement has been to perfect that it became near enough to becoming an impossible aim. His gals were too high that he forgot to see the capabilities of the Chinese community to get along with the progress system he opts to imply in his society.
Aside from the internal rebellions against the government, there has been such a strong effect of the USSR’s alliance with the United States. According to Daniel Frederick Vukovich’s Sinological-orientalism: The production of the West’s post-Mao China, the effect of USSR’s withdrawal of support with China has brought dreadful effects to the ‘Great Leap Forward Movement”. HE Says that USSR became a strong
13Timothy Cheek(2002). Mao Zedong and China’s Revolutions: A Brief History with Documents (The Bedford Series in History and Culture). Palgrave Macmillan.
14Susan L. Shirk. (1993). The Political Logic of Economic Reform in China (California Series on Social Choice and Political Economy. University of California Press.
The reasons behind Mao Zedong’s Promotion of the Great Leap Forward Movement and its failure page 9
alliance of the Chinese government at first. In this manner, the Chinese community
under Mao’s rule were forced to believe that a reformation would indeed help their country in developing towards a more progressive sector of the world.
However, the main reason why USSR tried to support China’s idealism of progress and military development is based upon the fact that they would want China to move against the United States for their own good. Since the years of peace came along, USSR decided to withdraw their support towards the Chinese government and this resulted to massive dilemmas in the Chinese community.
As obviously observed, politics have so much to do with what happens in a certain country. The person controlling behind it powerfully influences the people within the territory of the said government. But even though there is power, if the authority vested upon the said person is not used wisely, and is utilized for personal concerns, the government would have small chances of surviving successfully. Aside from this, even though a program imposed by a government have good intentions for the country yet the process of implementation is incorrect, then surely, the political program would not succeed.
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