In this book David Bachman examines the origins of the Great Leap Forward (GLF), a programme of economic reform that must be considered one of the great tragedies of Communist China, estimated to have caused the death of between 14 and 28 million Chinese. While standard accounts interpret the GLF as chiefly the brainchild of Mao Zedong and as a radical rejection of a set of more moderate reform proposals put forward in the period 1956 to 1957, Bachman proposes a provocative reinterpretation of the origins of the GLF that stresses the role of the bureaucracy. Using a neo-institutionalist approach to analyse economic policy-making leading up to the GLF, he argues that the GLF must be seen as the produce of an institutional process of policy-making. This book offers a reinterpretation of one of the most important episodes in the history of the People's Republic as well as a framework with which to analyse the role of institutions more generally in the political economy of the PRC.
Preface; Acknowledgments; Chronology; 1. Introduction; Part I. Historical Background and Conceptual Approach: 2. Overview: Chinese politics and economy, 1956–7; 3. Institutions and policy in China; Part II. The Institutional Origins of the Great Leap Forward: 4. The financial coalition; 5. The planning and heavy industry coalition; 6. The Party as agent of social transformation; 7. The views of the top leadership; 8. The Third Plenum of the Eighth Central Committee and the Great Leap Forward; 9. Conclusions; Appendix: the constraints on Mao; Bibliography; Index.
'Bachman's arguments, supported by superb and exhaustive research in available Chinese-language and Western source materials, are strong and seldom overstated … This is a work of innovative scholarship of high quality on issues of central concern to the study of contemporary China.' William Kirby, Washington University
'This is clearly a superb piece of scholarship. It is a major contribution to the literature on the period, and also to the literature on the political economy of the PRC. Because of the rather novel perspective applied, it is not a mere linear 'improvement' on existing works on the GLF, but an entirely new study to provide new insights.' Michael Schoenhals, Swedish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences