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Table of Contents
Initiated by the Communist Party of China (CPC), the Great Leap Forward (GLF), which took place in 1958-1961, was a five-year economic plan, aimed at solving China’s agricultural and industrial problems. This initiative was led by Chairman Mao Zedong, who originally hoped to transition the country from an agrarian society into a modern and industrialized one, but it ended disastrously and catastrophically, particularly for rural areas.
See the fact file below for more information on the Great Leap Forward or alternatively, you can download our 21-page The Great Leap Forward worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
OBJECTIVES AND IMPLEMENTATION
- Before the eventual implementation of the GLF program, otherwise known as the Second Five-Year Plan, Mao intended for the Chinese people to focus on two primary tasks: agriculture and industry.
- He believed that fueling the workforce would help the industry sector to prosper so it could provide modern tools that, in turn, would help the agricultural workers.
- In order for this plan to work, Chinese citizens were forced to surrender their land to the government, thus moving them into communes, where they lived together sharing responsibilities, and where everything was collectivized.
- The communes varied in geographical size, but an estimated 5000 families lived in each commune.
- Moreover, the commune provided for all the needs of the families—schools, nurseries, health care, and even entertainment—for adults to focus on their work.
- The commune’s population was also subdivided: twelve families composed a work team and twelve work teams composed a brigade.
- Each subdivision had specific designated work.
- At the end of 1958, around 700 million people had been placed in approximately 26,000 communes, and 98% of farmers were members of cooperatives.
- In addition, Mao aimed to produce China’s own steel and machinery, instead of importing.
- As a result, Chinese people were required to set up backyard steel furnaces, where scrap metal could be made into usable steel.
- However, families had to meet a quota of steel production, so had to melt even their useful items such as pots and pans. This resulted in low-quality materials as well.
- Mao also introduced a Soviet-inspired farming method to the agriculture sector, hoping that this would increase agricultural output.
- His farming ideas included planting crops very close together so the stems could support one another and ploughing up to six feet deep to enable root growth, but such strategies had the opposite result. They destroyed acres of farmland and reduced the crop harvest.
- Large-scale irrigation projects, without enough consultation from experts, were likewise quickly executed in the countryside.
- Furthermore, agriculture implementers opted to exterminate sparrows, which were considered as pests on grain crops, but this resulted in massive locust swarms because there was a lack of natural predation due to the absence of sparrows.
- After years of implementation, GLF had disastrous effects on the environment of China.
- The backyard steel production caused massive forests to be chopped down and burned, and used as a fuel to smelters, which eventually resulted in soil erosion.
- Due to nonsensical farming methods introduced by Mao, farmlands were exhausted and lost their nutrients, leaving them vulnerable to erosion as well.
- Moreover, millions of farmers were forced to work on steelmaking in an attempt to double its production, causing a scarcity of food.
- Since farming was left behind, farmers were forced to exaggerate the results of their harvests, but this eventually backfired as party officials took most of the food to serve in the city, leaving the countryside to starve.
- In the following years, the Yellow River flooded, which killed two million people either through drowning, or starvation due to low crop yields.
- The situation was worsened by the widespread drought that took place in 1960.
- Due to premature economic policy and extreme weather conditions, an estimated 20 to 48 million people died in China, mostly from starvation.
- Famine really took its toll in the country, leaving China with no choice but to import food to feed its people, but the economy continued to suffer, which led the Soviet Union to take away its support of China.
- The initial five-year duration of the GLF was suddenly abandoned after three tragic years of implementation. This period was known as the “Three Bitter Years” in Chinese history.
- This had political setbacks for Mao, leaving him being sidelined from power until 1967 when he ignited the Cultural Revolution.
- Some experts believed that the GLF was one of the largest mass killings in human history due to the lack of economic central planning, and even viewed it as a failure of socialism.
The Great Leap Forward Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the Great Leap Forward across 21 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use The Great Leap Forward worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the Great Leap Forward (GLF), which took place in 1958-1961 and was a five-year economic plan, aimed at solving China’s agricultural and industrial problems. This initiative was led by Chairman Mao Zedong, who originally hoped to transition the country from an agrarian society into a modern and industrialized one, but it ended disastrously and catastrophically, particularly for rural areas.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- The Great Leap Forward Facts
- Locating China
- Find the Words
- Complete the Information
- Mao Zedong
- The Second Five-Year Plan
- The Communes
- Challenges Encountered
- Poster Analysis
- Impact of the Great Leap Forward
- In a Nutshell
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Use With Any Curriculum
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