The great leap foward

A summary of the great leap foward - causes, events and consequences.

Reasons for the Great Leap Foward

  • Mao's self confidence after success in Hundred flowers and collectivisation
  • Chinese nationalism - stop reliance on Russia
  • Mao's desire to control peasants - not enough food in cities due to peasants greedieness andlack of obedience.
  • Stagnated agricultural production, 1957 = 1% but 2% population increase.
  • May 1958 official launch of great leap
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How collectives turn into communes

  • 1st in Henan in 1958 April
  • 1 Commune = 750,000 brigades. Briagade = 200 homes. All under government control.
  • By December 1958 20,000 communes in China

Lifestyle in a Commune:

  • Private plots and cattle abolished
  • Private cooking and eating abolished
  • Children cared for in communal kindergarten.
  • Much more communal
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Daily life in a commune

Everything communal (baths, dining room, kindergarten, schools)

  • Peasants had military approach to work
  • A lot of control from party managers.
  • Fear used to control (threat of violence)

The Militia......

  • Inculded those 15 - 50
  • Trained how to use weapons
  • Fighting style approach to work
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Role of communes in PRC

  • Generate surpluss grain for gov. and workers
  • Make industrial goods
  • Mass mobilisation of labour
  • Better efficiency
  • Ideological victory
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  • Chinese scientists enthralled by him

1958, Mao introduces lysenkoism, a "constitution" based on Lysenko's ideas:

  • Pest control (awful consqueences on grain. No birds left to eat insects an rats led to rats eating crops.Caused hunger in 1959. **4 no campaign (1957)
  • Farmers had ridiculously high targets
  • Mao steps down as chairman, replaced by Liu Sh. at Central committee meeting in Wuhan - also when commune success was announced in December

Lysenkoism was never stopped....

  • Local party members were too scared to tell Mao it wasn't working
  • Lysenoism continued to flourish, causing famine.
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Consequences of great leap foward with regards to

  • Droughts and flood caused famine
  • 1959 awful harvest due to lysenkoism
  • Soil damaged due to farming methods - lack of food
  • People sold themeselves for food
  • 30 million deaths
  • Peasants imprisoned for trying to return to old farming methods


  • Denouncing of Peng Dehuai
  • Mao blamed the failure on incompetence of his officials


  • Grain harvest fell by 143 million tonnes, yet China still giving grain to USSR (DEBTS)
  • Natural disasters
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Industry and the Great Leap


  • China industrial leader in 15 y ears
  • "Backyard furncaes" - those in communes to smelt iron and steel
  • People used metal furniture
  • Metal produced NOT useful
  • People had virtually no furniture left
  • Mao only concerned with spectacle of it, and not economic value

Partial sucess......

  • Big bridges and canals built
  • Tianamen sq (1959)
  • Proof to Mao his idea was GREAT
  • China begins to develop nuclear weapons


  • Mass mobilisation wasn't mass production
  • Enthusiasm of people was not enough.
  • Lack of planning due to lack of clever people
  • Mao blamed it on bourgeois people in government trying to sabotage his efforts.
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China's famine

  • 70% man made and 30% nature (1959, famine really kicks of)
  • In towns food lower than in Autchwitz
  • Grain procurement continued
  • Sichuan 10 - 20 % of pop died - officials
  • Cannibalism
  • Children hung to death for stealing
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Peng Dehuai & Lushan conference

  • Spring 1958 people starting to doubt Great Leap
  • Peng sent letter to Mao criticising great leap. Mao circulated letter behind Peng's back (July)
  • 18th July 1959 - Krushchev gives speech criticizing Great Leap, Mao believes Peng briefed K.

30th July......

  • Peng sacked as minister of defence as was Zhu De
  • Denounced in from of many colleagues.
  • Led to persecution of many "right opportunists"
  • Mao had learnt nothing, by 1960 he was talking about extending the communes to the city.

By June 1960 Great Leap ends.

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Fantastic, great help thank you!

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