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China's Great Leap: Forward or Backward? Anatomy of a Central Planning Disaster

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  • An, Mark Yuying
  • Li, Wei
  • Yang, Dennis Tao

Abstract

The Great Leap Forward (GLF) disaster, characterized by a collapse of grain output, and the associated famine in China between 1959 and 1961, can be attributed to a systemic failure in central planning. Encouraged by unrealistic expectations for agricultural productivity gains from collectivization, the government switched to an accelerated and infeasible timetable for industrialization. Consequently, it diverted massive amounts of agricultural resources to industry and imposed excessive grain procurement burdens on peasants, leaving them with insufficient food to sustain labour productivity. Grain output fell sharply at the onset of these policies and started to recover gradually when the policies were reversed. Official data and our supplementary survey data support the theoretical prediction regarding the dynamic progression of the disaster. They also show that over 80% of the decline in grain output is attributable to the policies of excessive procurement and resource diversion.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 2824.

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Date of creation: Jun 2001
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:2824

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Related research

Keywords: Agricultural Crisis; Central Planning; China; Grain Procurement; Industrialization; Resource Diversion; Work Capacity;

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References

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  1. Lin, Justin Yifu & Yang, Dennis Tao, 1998. "On the causes of China's agricultural crisis and the great leap famine," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 9(2), pages 125-140.
  2. Strauss, John & Thomas, Duncan, 1995. "Human resources: Empirical modeling of household and family decisions," Handbook of Development Economics, in: Hollis Chenery & T.N. Srinivasan (ed.), Handbook of Development Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 34, pages 1883-2023 Elsevier.
  3. Putterman Louis & Skillman Gilbert L., 1993. "Collectivization and China's Agricultural Crisis," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(2), pages 530-539, June.
  4. Sherwin Rosen, 1997. "Potato Paradoxes," University of Chicago - George G. Stigler Center for Study of Economy and State 135, Chicago - Center for Study of Economy and State.
  5. Strauss, J. & Thomas, D., 1995. "Empirical Modeling of Household and Family Decisions," Papers 95-12, RAND - Reprint Series.
  6. Ravallion, Martin, 1996. "Famines and economics," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1693, The World Bank.
  7. MacLeod W. Bentley, 1993. "The Role of Exit Costs in the Theory of Cooperative Teams: A Theoretical Perspective," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(2), pages 521-529, June.
  8. Behrman, Jere R. & Foster, Andrew D. & Rosenzweig, Mark R., 1997. "The dynamics of agricultural production and the calorie-income relationship: Evidence from Pakistan," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 77(1), pages 187-207, March.
  9. Dasgupta, Partha, 1997. "Nutritional status, the capacity for work, and poverty traps," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 77(1), pages 5-37, March.
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Cited by:
  1. Chen, Yuyu & Zhou, Li-An, 2007. "The long-term health and economic consequences of the 1959-1961 famine in China," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(4), pages 659-681, July.

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