The Great Leap Forward was Mao’s new economic plan, which took place in China in 1958. The idea of the Great Leap Forward was the rapid growth of agricultural and industrial production. It focused on improving the productivity of all Chinese workers by investing in human development and labour-intensive technology. Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials believed it would bring about economic and technical development in great leaps rather than at a gradual pace. By using China’s advantage of manpower, Mao expected China to equal or exceed the industrial output of Great Britain and the United States. Virtually every Chinese citizen took part in the Great Leap Forward, from the lowliest peasant to the highest-ranking CCP members.
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In theory, Mao’s economic plan seemed like it would be a great success. It did have moderate success, but it did more damage than good. The Great Leap Forward was a failure on Mao’s part of becoming an economist because it led to famine, the production of poor-quality goods, deep debt for China, exhaustion and demoralization of the peasantry, severe management problems by party cadres of all levels, and it had a negative impact on China’s environment. The Great Leap Forward took a great toll on human life, despite its minor successes.
People across the nation were required to make steel. Planners believed the single commodity would allow industries to develop and manufacture heavy machinery. On Mao’s orders, people in the communes as well as in city neighbourhoods set up 600,000 backyard furnaces to melt down scrap metal for iron and steel production. The goal was to double the output of steel within a year. Everyone was urged to help make steel, even young children. Families tossed their cooking utensils, pots, iron bedsprings, metal doorknobs and hinges, railings, farm tools, and almost any cast-iron items they owned or found. Evidence of foolhardy efforts and lack of technical knowledge included the backyard furnaces. They produced steel of inferior quality. It was brittle and useless for many building projects and contributed to the collapse of some structures.