Was Chairman Mao Really Necessary?
Chapter 1: Interpreting the Economics of the Cultural Revolution
1. Interpreting the economics of the Cultural Revolution* The political upheaval triggered by the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China may be seen as being rooted in the controversy between Chairman Mao and President Liu Shaoqi about the long-term economic development strategy for China. Mao’s critique of Liu centres on his ‘programme of capitalist restoration’, but in essence the Mao–Liu conﬂict involves two diﬀerent approaches to implementing the same Stalinist forceddraft industrialization strategy, rather than alternative choices between capitalism and socialism. Generally speaking, Mao’s new venture represents an attempt to revive, with some modiﬁcations, the failed Great Leap Forward strategy of 1958–1961. Liu prefers, however, to proceed with conventional Soviet-style central planning and control with enhanced price and income incentives. Liu’s approach may tally with the economic reforms in the Soviet Union and her allies in Eastern Europe; hence his being branded as ‘revisionist’ and the largest ‘capitalist roader within the Party’. In what follows I ﬁrst highlight the major diﬀerences in economic thinking between Mao and Liu. The second and third parts of the chapter examine respectively the crucial implications for the government’s policy on agriculture and industry, in terms of institutional accommodating, economic planning and management, and political control. The fourth part evaluates the potential impact of the two divergent economic strategies, Mao versus Liu, on long-term economic development in China. The discussion is concluded with a brief reference to the political and ideological implications of the Mao–Liu economic controversy. INDUSTRIALIZATION...
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