China 1949-76- economy


Attacks on landlordism and the redistribution of l

  • 1950 Agrarian Reform Law laid down the framework for reform, claiming that it would stop peasants being exploited by landlords. Land reform meant redistribution, not low rents of ow interest loans
  • army silenced those who could have been hostile and helped Party officials organise work teams
  • work teams had to calcuate how much land people owned so that they could be taxed accordingly and then decide how each villager should be labelled- 'landlord', 'rich peasant', 'middle peasant', 'poor peasant' or 'labourer'
  • 'landlords' were publicly humiliated and accused of exploitation
  • By the end of 1951, 10 million landlords had lost their land and about 40% of land had changed hands
  • official figures put the number of deaths at 700,000
  • work teams whipped up anti0landlord paranoia in villages
1 of 19

Moves towards agricultural co-operation

  • Mao wanted a measured approach to collectivisation, before the peasants got used to owning more land
  • from 1951, groups of ten or so families were encouraged to form Mutual Aid Teams (MATS) in which they could pool their labour, animals and equipment, while still retatining their rights of private ownership
  • membership was voluntary, but people outside of MATs found it hard to get resources and risked persecution
  • In 1952, successful MATs were encouraged to combine and form Agricultural Producer's     Co-operatives of 40-50 families
  • families with larger holdings were still allowed to keep back some land for their personal use while renting the rest to the APC, a strong incentive for richer families to join
2 of 19

Change from voluntary to forced collectivisation

  • only 14% of rural houses were in APCs by 1955
  • many APCs were set up too quickly and ended up in debt by 1953
  • once this had stablised in 1954, peasants started buying and selling their land and food, as if under capitalism- rejection of revolutionary ideas
  • poor harvest in 1954 grain had to be requisitioned 
  • full-scale drive for collectivisation launched in 1955
  • official reason for this was in response of demand from the peasantry, but really Mao feared unreliable supplies to the cities
  • new APCs classed as 'higher' (HPCs) and had 200-300 households
  • peasant families no longer owned the land or equipment
  • the fact that it had been carried out more quickly than expected was a tribute to his authority, but it marked a change in reltionship with the peasantry, who became servants to the Party rather than loyal allies
  • Mao's new over-confidence led to mistakes in the Great Leap Forward
  • the growth of food production was 3.8% per annum during FFYP, but this was still insufficient
3 of 19

Reasons for launching the communes

  • communes would allow even further pooling of equipment and labour
  • told by cadres in Hanan that APCs were asking to merge
  • Mao was determined to prevent the revolution from losing impetus- he feared that the revolution could become becalmed by bureaucrats
4 of 19

How the Communes were organised

  • Great Leap Forward announced at the Eight Party Congress of May 1958 to develop industry and agriculture
  • he faced opposition from conservatives in the CCP but it was endorsed by the Congress
  • he wanted to overtake Britain as an economic power in just seven and a half years
  • grain and steel were given the same priority in production
  • Mao wanted to decentralise economic planning so that local officials could push forward changes with no restrictions
  • First People's Commune (Sputnik) established in Henan in April 1958, merging 27 collectives and 9000 households
  • over the next two years, 750,000 collectives were merged into 26,000 communes containing 120 million households
  • once a commune was set up it was impossible to move anywhere without and internal passport
5 of 19

Communal Living

  • extra sense of communal identity, espeically where peasnts ate together in communal canteens and slept in communal dormitories
  • directed by management teams, who divided peasants into production teams
  • local services such as education and public health were provided
  • childcare was provided to free up women for work
  • talk of moving away from a monetary economy
  • plan was to extend the commune system to the cities
6 of 19

Abolition of private farming

  • villagers had to choice about being absorbed into a commune and they had to surrender all of their private property with no compensation
  • the lack of rewards reduced motivation to work hard
  • however, they were compelled to work hard by team leaders who were trying to out-do neighbouring communes
  • everyone between the ages of 15 and 50 had to train with weapons
7 of 19


  • Trofim Lysenko was a Ukrainian agricultural scientist
  • Mao drafted an eight-point plan based on his ideas
  • some points were potentially dangerous, especially if all used together
  • peasnts had to kill birds to stop them from eating seeds, but this caused insect populations to multiply and destroy the plants
  • homes were destroyed due to animal dung being used in the construction of the walls and thousands of peasants were forced to seek shelter where they could
8 of 19

Great Famine 1958-62

  • Mao stepped down as chairman of the PRC, a possible tactical retreat if the Great Leap Forward ran into difficulties
  • widely accepted as the worst famine of the 20th century, with 30-50 million deaths
  • Tibet had 25% of its population of 4 million die
  • people ate tree bark and plants, husbands sold wives and parents sold children in return for food, prostitution and banditry reappeared
  • Mao had been too ambitious in trying to implement too many large campaigns at once
  • He unquestioningly accepted Lysenkoism
  • He was dismissive of the few experts that still remained
  • lack of rewards had negaive impact of commune productivity
  • Mao believed that the means justified the end
9 of 19

The restoration of private farming

  • campaign was launched to overthrow the management of communes and root out corrupt elements
  • emergency directive in November 1960 which allowed villagers to keep private plots of land and engage in side occupations
  • In 1962, Mao called on President Liu Shaoqi and General Secretary Deng Xiaoping to take responsibility for restoring food production levels and ending the chaos in the countryside
  • many communes broke into smaller collectives of about 30 households, whereas some just fully reverted to private farming
  • 25 million city dwellers moved to the countryside
  • High levels of imports until the 1970s
10 of 19

1STFYP- why it was not immediately introduced

  • Communists had to stamp out remaining Nationalist support
  • annual inflation rate had to be reduced from the staggering 1000%
  • land redistribution needed to organised ASAP
  • high level of military spending and the disruption caused by involvement in the Korean War from October 1950
11 of 19

1STFYP- The USSR's financial and technical support

  • By 1951, inflation had been cut to 15%
  • Soviet Russia was, at this stage, still an inspiration to Chinese Communists
  • the centrally planned Soviet system had enabled Stalin to defeat Nazi germany, so it was regarded as the best, albeit only, option for China to copy
  • part of the Sino-Soviet Treaty 1950 was that Societ advisors would come and and teach China how to run a Communist state
12 of 19

1STFYP- targets

  • make the PRC self-sufficient in food and manufactured goods as possible
  • targets were set from economic panners rather than actaul demand
  • resources were channelled towards heavy industry and away from consumer goods
  • collective farms were forced to sell at low prices to the government
13 of 19

1STFYP- successes and failures

  • official statistics say that most sectors achieved their targets, but the figures are unlikely to be completely reliable
  • urban standards of living improved in term of wages and job security
  • there was competition between private and state-owned enterprises which wasn't resolved until the end of private ownership in 1956
  • peasants in the communes were going short of food because it was being exported to Russia
14 of 19

GLF- Mao's reasons for launching it

  • economic- industrialisation depended on agriculture becoming more efficient to feed to workforce. This would free up peasants, who would migrate to the cities to become urban workers
  • personal- mao's confidence was high after collectivisation was achieved quicker than expected and local cadres demonstrated revolutionary fervour
  • political- Mao wanted to demonstrate his credentials as the next leader of the communist world
  • ideological- the pan's relaince on mass peasant mobilisation fitted with Mao's thinking
15 of 19

How the GLF worked

  • decentralisation of economic activity to give more power to local Party officials
  • Mao wanted to produce as much steel as possible- he wanted to quadruple it within four years to reach 20 million tonnes per annum
  • families were urged to build their own backyard furnaces and melt down their metal objects
  • In September 1958, 14% of China's steel came from backyard furnaces, but by October it was 49%.
  • unsustainable on food production and schools were closed and peasnat shock brigades were deployed to get in the harvest
  • the home-made steel was useless
  • campaign was cut back, but not abandoned for fear of losing face
  • it led to the destruction of vast swathes of woodland to supply fuel for the furnaces
16 of 19

State owned enterprises and construction projects

  • move towards state ownership of busniesses was key in the GLF
  • prices, outputs and targets were set by the state, and there was no longer bargaining for better conditions between employers and workers
  • Mao argued that sheer numbers could be used to achieve the desired result without advanced machinery
  • work brigaeds were sent from communes to construct dams and resovoirs with only rudimentary equipment
  • the cost in terms of lives lost and labour taken from farming due to these projects was colossal
17 of 19

GLF- successes and failures

  • plan failed alarmingly in terms of manufactured goods
  • by 1962, China was only producing 50% of heavy industrial goods and 75% of light industrial goods than in 1958
  • lack of clear planning lay at the heart of the plan's failures
  • inadquate quality caused major problems with export orders
  • at the Lushan Conference it became clear that the GLF would continue apace regardless, and that the only person who could criticise Mao was Mao himself
18 of 19

Third Five Year Plan (1962-65)

  • Liu and Deng in charge
  • decisive shift back to centralised control
  • production targets reviewed annually and made more realistic
  • experts back in favour and financial incentives restored
  • agricultural production recovered to 1957 levels
  • In 1964 Chinese scientists succeeded in exploding China's own atom bomb
  • Mao described the reforms and dangerous 'revisionism'- betraying Communist principles
  • Mao accepted responsibility and chairman of the Party, though he wouldn't admit any personal mistakes
  • Liu and deng outwardly agreed with Mao while continuing to do things their own way
19 of 19


No comments have yet been made

Similar History resources:

See all History resources »See all China in the 20th century resources »