This essay is an attempt to recreate the events of 1955–57–the “high tide” of co-operativization – in a single province of China (Jiangsu). Whereas the other articles in this Special Issue of The China Quarterly view the same events with the benefits of hindsight, as provided by documentary materials and other evidence that have become available since the end of the Mao Era, the account given here is based on contemporary reports – above all, provincial press reports. The intention is thereby not only to give a flavour of the extraordinary atmosphere that surrounded one province's response to Mao's 31 July 1955 speech, but also to convey the tensions and policy dilemmas that emerged during the second half of the year and into 1956. Even allowing for the bias of official media reports, the evidence and analysis presented here vividly highlight the complex factors – economic and social – bearing on policy making and policy implementation during 1955–56.
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