• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month
  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. 6
  7. 7
  8. 8
  9. 9
  10. 10
  11. 11
  12. 12
  13. 13

Was the Great Leap Forward a ‘Tragedy of Good Intentions’?

Extracts from this document...


Was the Great Leap Forward a 'tragedy of good intentions'? Date: 5th May 2002 Name: Nikki May Wing Chow Was the Great Leap Forward a 'tragedy of good intentions'? The Great Leap Forward is recognized as one of the main distinguishing features of the Maoist paradigm. Ultimately the Great Leap led to famine, where between the years 1958 and 1962 more than 30 million Chinese starved to death.1 The startling nature of the famine is that for about twenty years after it occurred, no one was really sure whether or not it had happened, until American demographers were able to examine China's statistics in the mid-80s.2 Although Mao was the central actor during the Great Leap, of course he was not the sole figure. Other leaders and institutions played their roles too, but the questions that cloud this phase of the Maoist paradigm are directed at determining what exactly caused the devastating failure of the Great Leap. Was the strategy itself flawed, due to bad policies? Was it the implementation of the strategy that was flawed? Or was it external factors that failed the Great Leap? At the time the Great Leap was initiated there were unusual political situations that underpin the failure. The bureaucratic tensions that flowed through the party, in addition to Mao's personal agenda are key elements in understanding the failure of the Great Leap. However, had the political context been removed from history, were the intentions and policies of the Great Leap good providing they were not pushed to the extreme? ...read more.


behalf and on the peasant's. The empirical line that allows scientists to separate reality from fantasy through their research seemed to dissolve into ridicule, when people stared claiming they had successfully accomplished the impossible. In Guangzhou, children and teachers crossed a pumpkin with a papaya, and runner beans with soybeans.16 Super-big plants emerged, as described in China Youth News, "The grains of sorghum are as big as those of corn...giving a much greater yield".17 Extraordinary animals were born, when Yorkshire sows were crossed with a Holstein Friesian cow using artificial insemination.18 These examples may not have had any long lasting effects over the outcome of the Great Leap, but reflect the mind frame of the people at the time. The consequences were much more serious however, when the people were convinced by the state and perhaps, by themselves even, that there were huge grain surpluses. Mao encouraged peasants to eat all they wanted, and Deng Xiaoping confirmed that "we can all have as much as we want".19 Of course, the quotes were fabrications in order to please Mao, and food that was supposed to last six months was consumed in six weeks. The 'logic' that underpinned the incredible agricultural and breeding accomplishments lay in the work of a Russian pseudo-scientist called Lysenko. He was praised by Pravda in 1927 as a 'barefoot scientist', and went on to make ridiculous, yet trusted discoveries.20 Mao, an ignorant in agricultural techniques, read Lysenko's work and issued statements instructing the communes to follow "Lysenko's Eight-Point Plan".21 Once again, Mao was demonstrating his willingness to copy Russia's policies and use their economic strategies as models for China. ...read more.


The cult of Mao was significant because it was made possible through a series of complicated turn of events and patterns in history. Arguably, it could be pinpointed to the Chinese culture, ever suspicious of external forces (as they are later compared to their Japanese neighbors, who in contrast, flourished through Western involvement), mostly uneducated and still gripped by the optimism of revolution. From an outsider's point of view, the Chinese seemed ignorant, ready to believe anything that Mao told them, even to the point where they might have convinced themselves of their own lies and fabrications. However, this is what made the Great Leap unique and catastrophic - "the essence was the breakneck speed generated by ideology and mass mobilization".32 Mao's role in the disaster must not be underestimated though. The crucial factor that sealed the fate of the 30 million plus who starved to death was Mao's interpretation of the events from the perspective of late 1957 and early 1958. His consistent refusal to acknowledge the famine raises questions surrounding the actual control Mao had over the policies of the Great Leap Forward. It is possible that he was simply reaction to crisis after crisis, intent on satisfying his own personal agenda to remain in total and complete power. For this, he was willing to sacrifice the lives of many. In themselves, the policies were not bad. However, when surrounded by the bureaucratic tensions where key officials were denied the "right to speak", what resulted cannot be viewed as anything else but a man-made disaster. Within a cloak of fear and oppression Mao's Great Leap emerged, but like castles built on sand it too would crumble, but with devastating consequences. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Politics section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Politics essays

  1. What impact did Mao have on the lives of the Chinese people from 1949 ...

    of cotton and grain, however, it also meant people spent more time working and less time with their families, often resulting in breakdowns and illness. As part of the Great leap forward peasants had been forced to use methods that did not suit their land.

  2. In the following areas: Political, Social and Economic, have the people of China had ...

    The people of China have been no better off since Mao's death in the sphere of politics. They still have practically no say on how the country is governed and are unable to speak freely. Things have definitely not got worse, however, as (partially due to the dramatically improved communications and worldwide reporting and pressure)

  1. When disputing over international borders of relations it is very common for history to ...

    Tibet came to be of great strategic importance to these two countries. After much trade missions and expeditions Britain came out having the advantage. So in 1914 they convened a conference at Simla to discuss the status of Tibet. At the conference the Chinese delegates argued that Tibet's subjugation by

  2. To what extent are the experiences and attitudes of Yang Digong and Li Zucui ...

    If I look back at what the communist have done I will see that independence is an element that they have achieved. China is no longer reliant on foreign devils or Western powers. They stopped trading with the West at one stage because they were in fear of their communism

  1. Economic Changes after the 1949 Communist Revolution in China

    Public health campaigns tackled widespread diseases and the high infant mortality rate. The government aimed at prevention rather than cure and gave the people a weekly quota of rat's tails to be collected. In education the government tried to bring down the number of illiterate, more schools were opened, as 80% of the population were illiterate.

  2. J. S. Mill Despre Libertate

    care ei le considera a fi folositoare pentru �ntreaga societate chiar daca acele principii nu sunt �mpartasite de marea majoritate a membrilor acelei comunitati, arat�ndu-se prin acest exemplu ca este posibil nu doar amestecul opiniei publice �n chestiunile private ci si inversul dar cu consecinte nedorite la nivelul unei �ntregi comunitati umane.

  1. Is immigration good or bad.

    This article is highly influential as it brings about these types of facts and combines it with other opinions that are against immigration. This can mislead people to dislike immigrants. This article only picks out all the bad aspects of immigration as a result it is seen to be heavily biased against immigrants.

  2. Have the Chinese people been better off in each of these areas since the ...

    been better off as far as their country's economy - in particular those in the urbanised areas, who have enjoyed considerable improvements in their standard of living. The One Child Policy introduced in 1980 brought about substantial social change for the Chinese people.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work