One of the most significant but underemphasized episodes in modern Chinese history.
Result: massive waste of in resources and human lives (18-45 million people died of hunger)
Different explanations offered:
Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping: Too idealistic; need pragmatic steps
Mao Zedong: Changing material conditions (the "base") requires a transformation of culture (the "superstructure")
Sino-Soviet split (c. 1959)
Natural disaster (“three years of natural disaster,” “sannian ziran zaihai 三年自然灾害”)
Subject of a powerful work of decades-long work of investigative journalism/history by former Xinhua journalist Yang Jisheng, entitled Tombstone (Mubei 墓碑). Vivid account not available for purchase in China.
How do the goals of the Great Leap Forward relate to those of land reform campaign in 1948-51 and the broader goals of “constructing socialism”?
What do you think were the key problems that led to so many deaths? Were the goals flawed? Was the implementation flawed?
Amartya Sen (in Development as Freedom, 1999) argues all famines are human-made: “[N]o substantial famine has ever occurred in a democratic country—no matter how poor.” What do you think he means by this? How does it apply to the Great Leap?
If you were to make a documentary film about the Great Leap, how would you go about it?
What challenges might you foresee—political, technical, and in conveying such a massive story?