Collectivization and China's Agricultural Crisis in 1959-1961
The agricultural crisis in China in 1959-61, after the initial success of the collectivization movement, resulted in 30 million extra deaths. In this paper, a game theory hypothesis proposes the main cause of this catastrophe. I argue that, because of the difficulty in supervising agricultural work, the success of an agricultural collective depends on a self-enforcing contract, however, can be sustained only in a repeated game. In the fall of 1958, the right to withdraw from a collective was deprived. The nature of the collectivization was thus changed from a repeated game to a one-time game. As a result, the self-enforcing contract could not be sustained and agricultural productivity collapsed. Copyright 1990 by University of Chicago Press.
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