• 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. How successful was the great leap forward in achieving Mao's aims?

    Mao was still popular among the masses of the Chinese public for them to get rid of him easily. So the party leaders simply persuaded him to hand over the post of head of state to Liu Shaoqi, leaving him with only one post that of party chairman.

  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. British History Coursework: The Irish Famine 1845-1849

    the crisis: "I do not think that there is another legislator in Europe that would coldly persist in this policy of extermination. What is to be done with these hordes? Improve them off the face of the earth, you will say, let them die.

  1. The Mexican Economy

    Opposition parties exist, but not until the 1980's did they represent a serious challenge to the PRI. Chief among them is the Partido de Acci�n Nacional (National Action Party; PAN), a conservative, pro-Catholic group drawn primarily from the middle class and the Frente Democr�tico Nacional (National Democratic Front, FDN), a coalition of leftist opposition groups.

  2. Economic Changes after the 1949 Communist Revolution in China

    The result of the five year plan was that transport was greatly improved, cities developed, and many people were educated. Social Changes In 1949, people's lives were shattered and their morality was low. The first concern of the government was health care; it was made free for all.

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

    This brutality appeared to be subsiding, however, in 1978, when posters began to appear along the main street in Beijing criticising Mao and his Communist ideals and pro-democratic support blossomed alongside free speech. This "Democracy Wall," as it was referred to, seemed to herald the end of the suppression of anti-Communist thought and a new, more liberal era for China.


    Although there is no universal or comprehensive definition as to what constitutes corrupt behavior, the most prominent definitions share a common emphasis upon the abuse of public power or position for personal advantage (ADB, 1998). Corruption is in its simplest term, the abuse of power, most often for personal gain

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