The Great Leap Forward was an idiotic plan advocated by Mao Zedong to leapfrog the Chinese economy (actually, just the heavy industry sector) into global standards. It actually began right after the Korean War. Mao's reasoning was that since heavy industry was responsible for the development of superpowers such as Great Britain and Germany in the pre-World War I days, China should focus on it. Specifically, steel production. Stalin and his stupid lectures.

The single-minded focus on steel was disastrous. People had their cooking implements melted to make steel. Agriculture dropped to absurdly low levels. People who now looked at the communal dining halls for food came up empty. The thing about the five year plans used in socialist countries is that it has a quota to fill. People who failed to fulfill the quota were punished. So, people dropped their farming tools to make steel, fearing that the quota would not be met. In reality, the quota was impossible to meet anyways. People were beaten, sometimes to death, for not making enough steel. Now the terrified peasants worked even harder to make steel, while their crops were left out to rot in the fields.

The famine that hit claimed over 30 million lives. Mao Zedong and his cronies had plenty to eat, having stored food in the Forbidden Palace in Beijing. The hardest hit areas were in Central China. Not that it mattered to Mao, numbers meant nothing to him. He failed math in grade school.

The Great Leap Forward, which was got its name when Mao Zedong referred to his policies as "the great leap forward" that would take The People's Republic of China from socialism to true communism, also included several other disastrous policies in addition to the steel production mentioned above.

One was a policy urging citizens to kill birds believed to be spreading disease. Citizens and even towns as a whole were rewarded depending on how many of the designated birds they managed to kill. However, the birds marked for death by the government were the predators of many of the insects that plagued crops all over China. Whether or not the widespread killing of the birds actually prevented the spread of the diseases they were believed to have carried is not known, but what is known is that the death of birds exacerbated the famine that was brought on by the other polices of Mao Zedong.

Another failed policy was the massive farming project. The government encouraged farming communes to produce massive amounts of grain and rice by turing it into a sort of competition. However, the goals set forth by the government were so astronomical that the headmen of many of the villages lied about the amount of grain they had produced out of a desire for their village to be rewarded by the government. The government officers took the collective word of the lying headmen rather than investigating to see whether or not they had really produced as much grain and rice as they had claimed. This led to the above-mentioned steel policy that caused farmer's to abandon their fields for steel work since the government believed they had enough of a surplus of food to undertake such a project.

Suprisingly, Chairman Mao was not only able to come out on top of this situation, but, as some might argue, became even more popular by having the Chinese Red Army distribute food held on reserve throughout the countryside, thus endearing him once more to the Chinese peasantry. He did accept partial responsibility, but only at the urgings of president Liu Shaoqi.

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