How Far Were Mao’s Agricultural Policies Responsible for the Scale of the Great Famine in China?

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How far were Mao’s agricultural policies responsible for the scale of the great famine in China? The collectivisation programme Mao had established in 1956 aimed to massively increase agricultural and industrial production yet instead it is argued that it led to the worst famine in China’s history. A variety of reasons were cited for the famine most notable were the poor weather conditions, deliberate policy and Lysenkoism, though perhaps the most significant of all was indeed Mao’s policy of collectivisation. Mao’s collectivisation policy had been seen to compliment his industrialisation plans, and to revolutionise Chinese food production. He intended to provide an industrial basis for China by ordering 25,000 strictly regimented communes, thus making agriculture more efficient which would enable more farmers to labour in industry. He also believed that the abolition of private ownership would stop peasants indulging themselves by overeating so more mouths could be fed. However these ideas of Mao backfired and the disruption caused by ending private farming was a major cause to the famine because it discouraged peasants from producing food beyond their own immediate needs. The results of collectivisation were disastrous because the production simply didn’t compare with the population, in 1958 China produced 200 million tonnes of wheat and by 1960 it had fell 143.5 million. The falls in production led to 300,000,000 Chinese deaths so Mao’s agricultural policy was extremely responsible for the scale of the great famine in China. Mao made Lysenkoism an official policy and he personally drafted an eight point agricultural ‘constitution’ based on the crop growth theories of Lysenko and his Chinese experts. Mao and his researchers believed the theories behind Lysenkoism were a scientific truth, and that his claims of developed techniques would result in crop
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