The Great Leap Forward

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Date Submitted: 02/14/2011 11:46 PM

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In October 1949 after the defeat of the Kuomintang, the Chinese Communist Party proclaimed the establishment of the People's Republic of China. Immediately, landlords and wealthier peasants had their land holdings forcibly redistributed to poorer peasants. In the agricultural sectors, crops deemed by the Party to be "full of evil" such as the opium crop, were destroyed and replaced with crops such as rice. Within the Party, there was major debate about redistribution. A moderate faction within the party and Politburo member Liu Shaoqi argued that change should be gradual and any collectivization of the peasantry should wait until industrialization, which could provide the agricultural machinery for mechanized farming. A more radical faction led by Mao Zedong agreed that the best way to finance industrialization was for the government to take control of agriculture, thereby establishing a monopoly over grain distribution and supply. This would allow the state to buy at a low price and sell much higher, thus raising the capital necessary for the industrialization of the country.

It was realized that this policy would be unpopular with the peasants and therefore it was proposed that the peasants should be brought under Party control by the establishment of agricultural collectives which would also facilitate the sharing of tools and draft animals. This policy was gradually pushed through between 1949 and 1958, first by establishing "mutual aid teams" of 5-15 households, then in 1953 "elementary agricultural cooperatives" of 20-40 households, then from 1956 in "higher co-operatives" of 100-300 families. These reforms (sometimes now referred to as The Great Leap Forward) were generally unpopular with the peasants and usually implemented by summoning them to meetings and making them stay there for days and sometimes weeks until they "voluntarily" agreed to join the collective.[citation needed]

Besides these economic changes, the Party implemented major social...

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