Historians often disagree on to what extent Mao is to blame for the failure of the Great Leap Forward. What is your view on how far Mao is to blame for the failure of the Great Leap Forward?
There is a prevalent historical debate regarding the extent to which Mao is to blame for the failures of the Great Leap Forward. The Great Leap Forward was an initiative put forward by Mao to transform China into a society capable of competing with other industrialised nations. Ultimately, the plan failed resulting in the death of millions. The question presupposes that Mao at the very least bares some responsibility for the failures of the Great Leap Forward. Mobo Gao argues in ‘Gao Village’ (1999) that Mao made some mistakes but is not completely to blame and the blame resides predominately with Party Cadres and USSR involvement. Gao’s views may stem from the Maoist propaganda he was subjected to when a resident of Mao’s China. However, this is opposite to Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, who contend in ‘Mao: The Unknown Story’ (2005) that Mao, through his power hungry nature, is to blame for the failures of the Great Leap Forward through the policies which he instigated and his tendency to ignore issues which had a detrimental effect on the country. Their views may have been influenced by Chang being a resident of Mao’s China. Alternatively, Frank Dikotter takes an approach in ‘Mao’s Great Famine’ (2009) which re-evaluates Mao’s role in China. He considers that Mao is not fully to blame for failures but does agree that Mao is mainly responsible as, due to his dictatorial position, it was within his power to prevent the failures of the Great Leap Forward from occurring through better researched policies. Dikotter and Chang and Halliday reach the same conclusion although their approach is different, Chang and Halliday utilise persuasive and emotive language which convey their findings in a way closer to a novel unlike Dikotter’s more researched historical work. One might argue that Mao is mainly to blame for the failures of the Great Leap Forward but that he cannot be singularly held responsible due to the involvement of the USSR and Party Cadres.
Gao argues that Mao had little blame for the failures of the Great Leap Forward suggesting that the policies were not Mao’s own, and that Party Cadres and the USSR had more responsibility for influencing Mao. Gao argues that ‘most of the ideas of the Great Leap Forward did not come from Mao himself’[footnoteRef:1] which suggests that Gao is attempting to shift the majority of blame from Mao, as it is unjust to leave culpability with someone who did not develop the ‘ideas’ which led to the failures. Gao maintains Mao had ‘misguided faith in the pseudo-scientific approach’[footnoteRef:2] of Lysenkoism, a theory, developed by Soviet Lysenko, in regards to organic evolution. It was implemented in agricultural farms in China, although failed to have substantial biological evidence and led t...