The Great Leap Forward (1958-1960), was an economic and social plan initiated by Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-tung), with the intent of radically increasing agricultural and industrial production in the People's Republic of China, and of bringing China to the brink of a utopian communist society.
The Great Leap Forward was a reaction to the Hundred Flowers Campaign, a more moderate development program in China in 1957. In this earlier program, Mao Zedong tried to win the support of Chinese intellectuals by calling for their constructive criticism of the policies of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). However, such an unexpected torrent of dissatisfaction fell on party leaders that in June 1957 the CCP abandoned the Hundred Flowers plan and moved in much more radical directions, imposing strict controls on freedom of expression and dismissing or imprisoning many intellectuals.
The CCP then called upon all Chinese to engage in physical labor to transform the economy, forcing over 100 million people into projects such as land reclamation and the construction of irrigation systems, which were designed to increase agricultural production. During the Leap, huge self-sufficient communes were established in the Chinese countryside, and China proclaimed that it would overtake England in the production of major products in 15 years. Chinese leaders thought that China was on the verge of establishing a Communist utopia, in which all people would work together to make China productive and totally self-sufficient.
Over the next several years, production targets for communes grew continually larger, and officials competed against each other to see who could proclaim the highest yields. The CCP leadership believed the targets to be accurate and used them, rather than actual production figures, as the basis for determining taxes, which were collected in grain rather than currency. As a result, the amount of grain available to the people of China...