China’s Social Foundations


Mao Tse-tung is remembered as one of the most influential leaders and revolutionists in China. Indeed, he was an extra-ordinary figure in the global history especially in era of the Marxist and communist ideologies. Born in the year 1893, Mao Tse-tung served as People’s Republic of China chairman between the years 1949 to 1959. He also led the Chinese Communist Party between the years 1935 to his point of demise. During this period, Mao engaged in power struggles with his rivals and anyone who deviated from his line of authority was regarded as a traitor. As a result, potential party’s and their leaders were greatly disgraced. It was meant to centralize power around him and establish the country to a point of recovery. However, the controversies that were involved with his leadership invited a lot of criticism from his rivals. In this analysis, the focus will be establishing Mao Tse-tung theory on the economy and current state of the Chinese economy based on the recently five year plan. Also, the analysis will examine the Great leap forwards plan and the current situation with various contrasts on the opinions of Mao Tse-tung.

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Mao’s Theory on Economy

Mao’s theory on the economy was that China would become more productive if wealth was redistributed from the affluent and elite to the rural poor. In his, view, if the elite and rich landlords would be allowed to own much of the surplus wealth, the poor peasants would pose a great burden to the economic growth. He, therefore, advocated for the replacement of all the pre-revolutionary institutions with a complete new revolutionary bodies that allowed property ownerships by the poor. “Our task requires us to handle the relations among the people well, particularly those between the working class and the peasantry…” Also, he called for rapid eradication of the social structures and feudal landlords that supported the old revolutionary institutions. As an alternative, he proposed the formation of new cultural, political, and economic order including a people’s army, peasant associations, and people’s courts to enhance the rights of the poor peasants who were often neglected. Ideally, he was motivated by an ultimate mission to transform the county to a communist ideology in which all the working class would control their rightly acquired surpluses and the state would lessen in importance.

Under the new economic process, the government will enable the rural neighbourhoods to access markets for their output. Mao engaged in swift land reforms to enhance productivity and reduce hunger and malnutrition in China. Eliminating the feudal lords ensured that enormous amounts of the productive resources were spend in the right way, including social investments that would transform the economy. Allowing the poor peasants to own resources helped to stimulate demand and enhance their incomes. Consequently, it ensured the economic and technological transformation of the initially fragile economy. The aim of Mao Tse-tung was to ensure centralization of authority while promoting the welfare of the poor peasants, which were purely Marxist and communist agendas. In addition, his economic theory was based on enhancing the role of women to the path of economic recovery. It was facilitated by allowing more women to play a role in the political and economic decision making of the nation.

First Five Year Plan and Recent Five Year Plan

First Five Year Plan

The China’s first five year plan was implemented to boast the country’s industrial growth and transform the country to become a global superpower “The First Five-Year Plan for the Development of the National Economy is a major step towards the realization of the Party's general line…” The five year plan was initiated by Mao when he got into power in 1949. At the time, China was economically and technologically lagging behind and Mao wanted an era of change. In an attempt to make the first five year plan a reality, Mao signed several treaties with the Soviet Union. The treaties were meant to provide technical and financial resources to China that would set the country to a path of economic recovery. Generally, the five year plans were to enhance a heavy industrial growth on steel, iron and coal production. The five year plan was an exactly similar model used by the Soviet Union to facilitate its economic growth. The five year plan run between the year 1953 and 1957 and witnessed a tremendous transformation of the economy. For example, the production of steel expanded from 1.3 million tons to 5.2 million tons between the periods. However, the five year plan failed to offer an adequate balance between the poor rural and the rich as the elite control most of the resources of production. Also, agriculture was highly neglected as the nation focused too much on the industrial growth. Thus, drastic measures were needed to address the enormous income disparities between the rural poor and urban elite as well as the worsening agricultural production.

Recent Five Year Plan

China’s recently launched five year plan has far reaching social and economic impact on the economic landscape. The focuses on industrial upgrading, sustainable growth, and promotion of domestic consumption. The priority sectors under the current five year plan include automobile, energy, biotechnology, and IT infrastructure. Other sectors that received a great focus include consumer markets, health care sector, transport, and logistics. Indeed, the current five year plan is meant to enhance a favourable macroeconomic climate for doing business and production that would set the economy of China apart from other well developed countries.

Focusing on the current five year plan, Mao Tse-tung would argue that it supports the welfare of the affluent individuals in the society. It emphasizes on mega projects that requires huge capital outlay. Indeed, this cannot be afforded by the majority of the poor peasants. In my view, Mao would advocate more for creation of processing industries for agricultural raw materials and social security programs that enhance the welfare of the poor peasant farmers. However, this would be a misconception given the fact that the economy of China has greatly improved from the era of the mid-20th century when he was a revolutionary leader. Therefore, economic policies and focus of development as shifted to other priority sectors.

Great Leap Forward and Current Situation

Great Leap Forward

Chinese Great Leap Forward occurred in 1958. The Great Leap Forward plan was started by Mao as an attempt to modernize the Chinese economy to reach the economic levels of other countries, such as the United States by 1988. The Great Leap Forward Plan lasted between the years 1958 to 1963 and constituted China’s second five year plan. Under this plan, Mao focused on two tasks, which included enhancing a high rate of industrial growth and agricultural sustainability. Mao believed that if both sectors were allowed to grow, then the growth of other sectors would follow as well. He believed that industry would prosper effectively if the working population were well fed and had a great source of income. To achieve this objective, Mao reformed China into a series of communes that contained approximately 5,000 families. Families belonging to the same commune were required to give up everything, including their animals and tools so that such resources were owned by a commune.

The life and property of the individual was owned and controlled by a commune. Also, the essential services such as education and health care were provided by the communes. It ensured that the affairs of the elderly and the poor were well taken care of by the communes. “The solution of all these problems hinges on strengthening collective leadership and opposing decentralism. We have all along opposed decentralism….”. Every individual working under the communes was urged to work harder to exceed set targets. The Great leap forward also enabled the communes to establish “back-yard” plants for production, which included a total of 600,000 backyard furnaces. As a result, sharp increases in productivity of steel, coal, timber, chemicals, cement grain, and cotton production was witnessed.

The Great Leap Forward Plan began to experienced sharp negative consequences in 1959 despite the tremendous positive impacts it had caused to the Chinese economy. Political beliefs and decisions targeting communal leaders imposed heavy requirements, which were extremely incapable of being achieved. If the communal leaders complained, they would face serious consequences including imprisonment. The quality of production fell as too many demands were placed on the workers. Workers were increasingly getting overworked and some even lost their lives due to factory injuries whenever they got asleep while on duty. In 1959, the eminent drought that affected many communes lowered agricultural production and people starved to death due to hunger. As a result, Mao introduced rationing, which further increased starvation and deaths. It led to drastic changes in the communes to allow the ordinary Chinese people to produce and sell spare products as long as there was market.

Current Situation and Current Economy

The current situation is China is one powered by a strong export market and increasing income disparities between the rural and urban populations. The growing income disparities could be interpreted to mean that Mao’s desire for an equity nation based on communism is consistently withering away. Therefore, Mao would not approve of such an economic system in which wealth is not equally distributed among urban and rural populations. Mao would say that the economic system has failed to deliver to the core mandate set in the first five year and the Great Leap Forward Plan. The country has focused on the growth of the industrial sector as the main driver of change at the expense of other important sectors such as agriculture.

The current economy of China can be described as of the most populous in the world. In 2015, China overtook the leading global economic power, the United States to become the leader of economic powerhouse. It means that the prospects of Mao Tse-tung of attaining economic prosperity to those of advanced economies of the world, including the United States have been achieved although after a longer period than it was expected. Thus, Mao’s would be delighted to see that his agenda have been attained despite the long struggles.


To summarize, Mao Tse-tung economic theory was one based on communism practices. The economic theory focused on enhancing the welfare of the rural poor to achieve a similar economic status with the urban elite. This was to be enhanced through creating land reforms and redistribution of economic resources to the poor. Under the first five year plan, Mao wanted to set the economy of China to a path of economic recovery. This is in contrast to the current five year plan which aims at enhancing sustained economic growth in several priority sectors of the economy. On the other hand, Great leap forward plan was meant to ensure that the economy of China would reach the economic state enjoyed by other well developed nations such as the United States. Currently, the economy of China is well developed and in 2015, it overtook the economic development status previously enjoyed by the United States. This is in line with Mao’s ambitions since the beginning of the Chinese economic recovery phase.

Dec 18, 2019 in Informative
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