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China is a very old civilization that is at least 4000 years old. The modern country, the People's Republic of China was founded in 1 October 1949 by the communist leader Mao Zedong. It is the most populated country in the world with 1.3 billion people.
Under Maoist leadership, the Chinese people were able to get equal rights and democracy. Learning the complicated Chinese language was made much simpler through the revolutionary idea of Simplified Chinese. Their effort to simply Chinese improved literacy rate in China by a huge amount (in 1949, less than 20% of the people were litterate, while currently 92% can read and write). Socialism also helped China go from a farming agricultural society to great industrial country.
Guo Shutian, a Former Director of Policy and Law in the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture, in the post-Mao era, states that during 1949-1978 the per hectare yield of land sown with food crops increased by 145.9% and total food production rose 169.6%. During this period China’s population grew by 77.7%. On these figures, China’s per capita food production grew from 204 kilograms to 328 kilograms in the period in question.
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Socialist transformation under Mao
Great Leap Forward
The Great Leap Forward took place in 1958. The Great Leap Forward was Mao’s attempt to modernise China’s economy so that by 1988, China would have an economy that rivalled the United States.
These policies led to a famine in the years 1959-61 (although some believe the famine began in 1958). A variety of reasons are cited for the famine. For example, excessive grain procurement by the state or food being wasted due to free distribution in communal kitchens. It has also been claimed that peasants neglected agriculture to work on the irrigation schemes or in the famous “backyard steel furnaces” (small-scale steel furnaces built in rural areas).
Mao admitted that problems had occurred in this period. However, he blamed the majority of these difficulties on bad weather and natural disasters. He admitted that there had been policy errors too, which he took responsibility for.
Even according to figures released by the Deng Xiaoping regime, industrial production increased by 11.2% per year from 1952-1976 (by 10% a year during the alleged catastrophe of the Cultural Revolution). In 1952 industry was 36% of gross value of national output in China. By 1975 industry was 72% and agriculture was 28%. Mao’s supposedly disastrous socialist economic policies paved the way for the rapid (but inegalitarian and unbalanced) economic development of the post-Mao era. However, growth of Maoist China's economy was also not egalitarian. On one hand there was the ultra-rich elite and on the other hand 90 percent of the people were poor/
It is arguable that the cause for the deaths of many people during this period were truly the policies themselves, and that industrial and economic growth do not justify this.
Deng Xiaoping and economic reforms
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- see Guo Shutian ‘China’s Food Supply and Demand Situation and International Trade’ in Can China Feed Itself? Chinese Scholars on China’s Food Issue. Beijing Foreign Languages Press 2004.
- M. Meissner, The Deng Xiaoping Era. An Enquiry into the Fate of Chinese Socialism, 1978-1994, Hill and Wray 1996.