GEOG 128
Geography of International Affairs

Background on the People’s Republic of China (PRC)


Required Reading Reminder

You should complete the following readings for this week's lesson:

China During the Mao Era (1949-1978)

Mao Zedong (Chairman Mao) came to power on October 1st, 1949 with the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) established a centrally planned economy (i.e., not market-oriented) where the government controlled key economic sectors of the economy, including:

  • Steel production
  • Transportation
  • Communication
  • Media
  • Banks

Everyone worked for the State (local or regional government), and in return were guaranteed (Iron Rice Bowl):

  • Education
  • Housing
  • Health care
  • Pension program/care in old age or disability

Throughout his leadership, Mao implemented numerous ideological campaigns which severely (negatively) impacted economic growth and societal stability. These campaigns include the:

  • Hundred Flowers Bloom (1956-57) Anti-Rightist Campaign (1957-59)
    • Campaign first to welcome diverse ideas, then to persecute those who criticized the state (specifically those who criticized Chairman Mao), distrust of intellectuals
  • Great Leap Forward (~1958-1961)
    • Campaign to go from agrarian society to an industrialized, modern one
    • Collectivization introduced (private property confiscated)
    • Emphasis on steel and grain production, with ambitious production targets leading to inflated reports net exporter of grain=local famine
    • Estimates of somewhere between 18-45 million unnecessary deaths
  • Cultural Revolution (1966-1976)
    • Promote Communism through routing out Capitalist, traditional and cultural elements deemed incompatible w/ Maoist Communism
    • Violent class struggle
    • Red Guards (youth group leading persecution of ‘capitalist roaders’)
  • Down to the Countryside Movement (late 1960s - early 1970s / re-education)
    • Economic activity halted
    • Education system suspended
    • Cultural Relics destroyed and practices marginalized or lost
    • Millions persecuted, hundreds of thousands died

Learn More

For an interesting (and entertaining) overview of this period, I recommend watching the movie “To Live” available on YouTube with English subtitles.