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China and Inner Asia
In Session: Sino-Soviet Relations in the Post-Stalin Era: 1956-1969, New Perspectives
2: The Stalinist Roots of Mao’s Great Leap Forward
Tuesday, March 23, 2021
3:00pm – 4:30pm EDT
Princeton University, United States
This paper examines Stalin’s political and economic techniques of collectivization and industrialization campaigns starting in the 1927 and compares them to the various events and campaigns in Mao’s Great Leap Forward. Various scholars have written that the GLF was a Maoist invention, that it was meant to resolve a myriad of crises gripping the CCP in 1956-57, that it was a power struggle between bureaucratic coalitions, that it was a loyalty pledge by Mao’s minions, and that it was meant to catch up and leapfrog the economies of Great Britain and the US.
I argue that Mao’s vision for the GLF stemmed from his admiration of Stalin’s methods of forced collectivization and rapid industrialization that treated human life as collateral in exchange for gaining world economic power. Even though Khrushchev facilitated the victorious fulfillment of China’s First Five Year Plan (1953-57) by providing Soviet expertise, manpower and training, Mao understood that this system of economic growth would be gradual. Once the Sino-Soviet Friendship began to deteriorate beginning in 1958, Mao was now free to pursue the GLF, which was intended to industrialize and collectivize agriculture at the same time.