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Performance and mechanisms of the Maoist economy: a holistic approach, 1950-1980


  • Deng, Kent
  • Shen, Jim Huangnan
  • Guo, Jingyuan


This article probes performance and mechanisms of the Maoist economy from 1950 to 1980, a period commonly regarded as a turning point that ushered in a bumpy but new path for China’s new economic fortune, including industrialisation and modernisation. Mao and his government have often been regarded as a developer and moderniser for China. This study questions it. To that end, the Maoist economy is re-conceptualised, re-examined, and re-assessed with qualitative and quantitative evidence including empirical modelling. The key findings suggest that the Maoist economy was a closed one with industrial dependence on agriculture in an urbanrural zero-sum. In the end, despite the official propaganda agriculture declined, industrial workforce stagnated, and the population was poor. This gloomy performance justified the post-Mao reforms and opening up, a game changer that put China on a very different trajectory of growth and development.

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  • Deng, Kent & Shen, Jim Huangnan & Guo, Jingyuan, 2022. "Performance and mechanisms of the Maoist economy: a holistic approach, 1950-1980," Economic History Working Papers 116401, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehl:wpaper:116401

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    More about this item


    quesnay; zero-sum; a closed economy; economic performance; industrial dependence on agriculture; a low level equilibrium trap;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • H57 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Procurement
    • N15 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Asia including Middle East
    • N35 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Asia including Middle East
    • O21 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Development Planning and Policy - - - Planning Models; Planning Policy
    • O41 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - One, Two, and Multisector Growth Models
    • P21 - Political Economy and Comparative Economic Systems - - Socialist and Transition Economies - - - Planning, Coordination, and Reform

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