Mao Zedong took over the running of China from the GMD in 1949. The country was in an awful situation; it was weak, bankrupt and had little power. There were several reasons why the country was left in such a state. The Emperors who had ruled China for centuries had failed to modernise the country and China still believed in the ancient traditions of life. Foreign intervention had also hindered the development of China and caused problems. Foreign countries, such as Hong Kong, which was controlled by Britain and Mares, which was controlled by Portugal, controlled the main port areas in China.
The intervention of foreign influence meant that China was unable to make important decisions for themselves. The world wars and the civil wars also affected China. The continuous battles between the GMD and the CCP striped the land of valuable resources. At the end of the civil war the defeated GMD left China for Taiwan and took the countries gold reserves. When the CCP took over as the governing body of China, they were bankrupt and had little power or resources. Mao Zedong decided action needed to be taken and this was one of the reasons why the second five-year plan was introduced.
In 1950 Mao decided that China needed financial support, and so turned to Russia. Russia was the first communist country and was a natural place to look for help. China and Russia signed the ‘Treaty of Friendship, Alliance and Mutual Assistance’. China was provided with financial aid and technical advice. They received $300 million over 5 years and 10,000 engineers and planning experts to help develop Chinas economy. The ‘First five year plan’ was drawn up under the influence of the Russian advisers, to develop the economy. The plan gave priority to the development of heavy industry e.
g. steel, coal and machinery. But it neglected light industry such as cotton making and food processing. This meant that the growth in living standards was slow. The ‘first five year plan’ achieved great success in the development of heavy industry. The output of coal increased from 63. 5 million tonnes in 1952 to 124 tonnes in 1957. The output of steel also increased. It rose from 1,9 million tonnes to 5. 8 million tonnes. The ‘Second five year plan’ was introduced in 1958 to build upon the successes of the ‘first five year plan’.
Mao’s aim was that the ‘second five year plan’ would improve both industry and agriculture at the same time. The main target of the plan was to catch up with the Western powers. Mao intended that the Chinese economy would overtake Britain in 15 years and America in 20-30 years. Mao took over China when it was very weak and very vulnerable. Under the guidance of the Russian advisers Mao introduced the ‘first five year plan’. During this plan some improvements were made, but Mao still decided further sacrifice was needed to move China forward.
During Mao’s tour of the countryside in 1958 he said he had ‘witnessed the tremendous energy of the masses’ and decided this was the way to change China into a modern country. Mao had a vision to make China into one of the worlds leading industrial nations at the same time as improving her agriculture. To do this Mao introduced the ‘second five year plan’, which he called the ‘Great Leap Forward’. When Mao received financial aid from Russia in 1950, he described this as ‘getting meat out of the mouth of a tiger’. Mao knew it was dangerous but also knew it was the only way to develop China.
Mao also introduced the ‘Great Leap Forward’ because he realised he had to develop China as they could not rely on Russia forever, and must stand on its own. Mao wanted to conduct the ‘Great Leap Forward’ in a socialist way. Cooperatives and then communes were set up to gather the ‘tremendous energy of the masses’. – The peasants. The peasants were very important in Mao’s plan. Mao was going to use the huge amount of peasants to change China. 80-90% of the population were peasants; Mao had plenty of people to carry out tasks.
During he ‘first five year plan’ the peasants had been set up into lower and higher stage co-operatives, this was to share the workload. In the ‘second five year plan’ these co-operatives were developed into communes. The function of the communes was to act as a unit of local government with a committee made up of peasants, party members and soldiers. Each commune had an eating hall, schools and houses of happiness for the old. They were also set up as a unit of work organisation and finally a unit of the communist party. Mao encouraged the peasants to work by using propaganda.
The government made every effort to whip the people into a frenzy of enthusiasm for work. They used posters, slogans and newspaper articles to urge the Chinese people to work, also loudspeakers played revolutionary music and stirring speeches to encourage work. The peasants may have been Chinas biggest resource but they were also theirs biggest problem as there was a tremendous amount of them and it was difficult to feed them all. China had very poor relations with America and there was a risk of conflict. The USA feared that China would spread communism to Asia and then to other parts of the world.
The USA also showed its support for the GMD and in 1949 sent a US fleet to Taiwan. This was to show China that its support lay with the GMD and not them. This enraged Mao. In 1950 the USA sent troops to South Korea against the Chinese backed North Korea who were attempting to spread communism. In 1953 the relations between China and the USA were again affected. The USA blocked Chinas application to join the UN (United Nations) because they did not want to accept that the CCP was the governing body of China. China felt threatened by the USA and wanted to strengthen itself so it could stand up to countries like America.
This was one of the reasons why the second five-year plan was introduced. China also had difficult relations with Russia. To begin with the two countries had a strong Relationship and then it fell apart. China and Russia seemed to be natural allies against the Western powers, as they were both communist countries. In 1950 Russia and China signed a ‘Treaty of Friendship’. But Mao realised this was dangerous, he states ‘it was like taking meat from the mouth of a tiger’. Mao wasn’t the only one who thought this deal was risky.
Khrushchev, the leader of Russia states that ‘conflict with China is inevitable’. He also said ‘Mao is bursting with a impatient desire to rule the world’. So conflict between the two countries seemed certain. In the mid 1950s the relations between the two countries began to deteriorate, due to several reasons. First Russia promised to help China develop atomic weapons but when asked they refused. Secondly China made claims for land at the India border but Russia failed to back them. China also claimed the right to control Taiwan and Russia again failed to support them.
Finally Russia and China themselves had border disputes which weakened relations even further. China began to feel isolated by the breakdown of relations and Mao decided China must develop to survive. Then in1960 Russia withdrew aid, relations at this time were critical. Mao knew he had to act and the poor relations between China and Russia was a main reason why the second five-year plan was introduced. Only a few months after Mao introduced the ‘Great Leap Forward’ things began to go dreadfully wrong. There were problems in industry and agriculture. The government put too much pressure on people and machinery.
Often people would fall asleep at their post and machines would regularly overload due to the increased workload. The idea of the backyard steel campaign was also a failure. It produced impure steel which couldn’t be used and steel that could be used was just left to rot. The backyard steel campaign took many peasants away from farming and so less food was being produced. The campaign also used valuable resources it used a lot of wood and coal. Many railway locomotives were unable to be used because of the lack of coal available. The crops that were grown began to die due to bad planning.
The crops were place in ‘show fields’ were there was little room, little and not much water. Bad weather also hindered the production of food. In some parts of the country crop fields were flooded by the heavy rains, whilst other crop field were left without any water and the crop were left to die. During the ‘3 bitter years 1959-61’, over 20million people died as a result of lack of food. This was due to bad planning and the awful weather conditions. When the Russians withdrew their aid in 1960 the second five-year plan collapsed. Mao then lost support and the moderates kicked him out of office.
Mao was left with the post of chairman of the party but had no control in the economy or the running of the country. During the second five-year plan the following successes were made. The population was reorganised into communes, this was such a success because there was over 700 million peasants living in China. To start with the plan achieved early success in the production of food and steel. There were also 600,000 furnaces set up to aid in the production of steel. The Chinese peasants also constructed a dam and canal. These were completed in record time.
The second five-year plan also suffered a lot of failures. Poor planning caused these. The backyard steel campaign wasted resources such as coal and timber and took peasants away from food production. The output of the steel was impure and unusable. There was competition between communes, which led to each commune setting ridiculous targets. This led to the government believing it had more food and so food rations were increased. The second five-year plan ended in complete failure causing the deaths of more then 20million people from starvation and other related diseases.