Cover image for China's road to disaster : Mao, central politicians, and provincial leaders in the unfolding of the great leap forward, 1955-1959
China's road to disaster : Mao, central politicians, and provincial leaders in the unfolding of the great leap forward, 1955-1959
Teiwes, Frederick C.
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Publication Information:
Armonk, N.Y. : M.E. Sharpe, [1999]

Physical Description:
xxvii, 319 pages, 12 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm.
General Note:
"An East gate book."
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Format :


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DS777.75 .T43 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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This text analyzes the dramatic shifts in Chinese Communist Party economic policy during the mid to late 1950s which eventually resulted in 30 to 45 million deaths through starvation as a result of the failed policies of the Great Leap Forward. Teiwes examines both the substance and the process of economic policy-making in that period, explaining how the rational policies of opposing rash advance in 1956-57 gave way to the fanciful policies of the Great Leap, and assessing responsibility for the failure to adjust adequately those policies even as signs of disaster began to reach higher level decision makers. In telling this story, Teiwes focuses on key participants in the process throughout both "rational" and "utopian" phases - Mao, other top leaders, central economic bureaucracies and local party leaders. The analysis rejects both of the existing influential explanations in the field, the long dominant power politics approach focusing on alleged clashes within the top leadership, and David Bachman's recent institutional interpretation of the origins of the Great Leap. Instead, this study presents a detailed picture of an exceptionally Mao-dominated process, where no other actor challenged his position, where the boldest step any actor took was to try and influence his preferences, and where the system in effect became paralyzed while Mao kept changing signals as disaster unfolded.

Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

Two authorities on Chinese Communist politics and economics (The Tragedy of Lin Biao, Univ. of Hawaii, 1996) present challenging new explanations for the failures of the Great Leap Forward using original Chinese sources and official papers. Jasper Becker's Hungry Ghosts: Mao's Secret Famine (LJ 1/97) graphically depicted Mao's failures and the horrifying effects of a famine that killed 30 to 45 million people. Teiwes and Sun focus on the first steps along the road to disaster, analyzing Communist party leadership and politics from the late 1950s on, including Mao's shifting and sometimes ambiguous viewpoints, the role of Soviet communism, local political appeals, utopian delusions, and the failure of high Communist officials to curb Mao's flawed plans. An appendix of Chinese primary source material, an extensive bibliography, and a chronology complement this important text. Highly recommended for academic and large public libraries.‘Margaret W. Norton, IMH High Sch., Westchester, IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

1 Opposing Rash Advance, 1956-57
2 The Origins of the Great Leap Forward, 1955-58
3 Policy Making While Leaping Forward, 1958
4 The Politics of Cooling Down, 1958-59
Conclusion: Politics and Players under Mao, 1955-59
Epilogues: The Lushan Conference, July-August 1959
The Retreat from the Great Leap, 1960-62
Appendixes: Participants in Party Conferences, January 1958-April 1959
self-criticisms by the Architects of Opposing Rash Advance, January May 1958