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Digital Archive International History Declassified

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China's Great Leap Forward, 1958-1961

In an effort to transform China's agrarian economy into an industrialized communist society, the Chinese Communist Party passed the "General Line of the Great Leap Forward" on May 1958 and began the people’s commune movement and the drive to increase steel production. Ultimately a failed political campaign, the Great Leap Forward led to the deaths of millions of people across China.

  • November 18, 1957

    Excerpt from the Unedited Translation of Mao Zedong’s Speech at the Moscow Conference of Communist and Workers’ Parties

  • April 02, 1958

    Record of Conversation between Polish Delegation and PRC Leader Mao Zedong, Wuhan

    Chairman Mao and Comrade Jaroszewicz changed their views about the plan to catch up with western countries, the excessive population growth, the agriculture production.

  • September, 1958

    'How to Run a Small Scale Brewery'

    Published by the Ministry of Light Industry, Zhu Mei's 'How to Run a Small Scale Brewery' (September 1958) introduced beer and beer making to Chinese audiences. Zhu's pamphlet also calls for the construction of hundreds of small scale breweries across China.

  • October 02, 1958

    Memorandum of Conversation of Mao Zedong with Six Delegates of the Socialist Countries, China, 2 October 1958

    To the other delegates, Mao discusses their shared goal of defeating imperialism, primarily through peaceful methods. He stresses widespread Marxist reeducation of the Chinese people and increased Chinese industrial and agricultural production as means for improvement. Mao also reminds them that socialist nations must be firmly united under the leadership of the Soviet Union to fight colonialism and imperialism, and while the communes are necessary to organize locally, the party remains the core administrative unite of communized peoples.

  • March 25, 1959

    Mao Zedong's Remarks at the March 25, 1959, Meeting in Shanghai

    Mao Zedong’s comments on agriculture and industry at a Communist Party meeting held in Shanghai.

  • March 26, 1959

    Mao Zedong's Interjections at the March 26, 1959, Meeting in Shanghai

    A key document in scholarly debates about the Great Leap Forward, this file summarizes Mao Zedong’s comments on agriculture and industry at a Communist Party meeting held in Shanghai.

  • March 26, 1959

    The Chairman's Interjections during Comrade Bo Yibo's Report on Industrial Production on March 26

    Another version of Mao Zedong's remarks at a Communist Party meeting held in Shanghai, a key talk in scholarly debates about China's Great Leap Forward.

  • June 03, 1959

    Report of Conversation with the General Secretary of the CCP CC, Deng Xiaoping

  • October 14, 1959

    Record of Conversation between Polish Delegation and PRC Leader Mao Zedong, Beijing

    Mao Zedong briefs Aleksander Zawadzki on China's socialist transformation.

  • September 29, 1960

    Journal of Soviet Ambassador to the DPRK A.M. Puzanov for 29 September 1960

    A.M. Puzanov and Chinese ambassador Qiao Xiaoguang share information on the recent harvest conditions in both countries, industrial development in China, and the 15th UN General Assembly Session.

  • January 01, 1961

    Report from Polish Military Attache in Beijing

    Military Attache Siwicki reports on the year's biggest issues such as; the economic crisis in China, Great Chinese Famine; discrepancies in ideology between USSR and China, such as questions of loyalty to Communist cause in the leadership and army; Chinese's interest in weapons of mass destruction; poor condition of Chinese army and society in general; and China's imperialist goals and overview of interactions with other countries

  • February 01, 1961

    Cable from the Chinese Embassy in Poland, 'A Summary of the Conversation between Ochab and Comrade Deng Gang'

    Edward Ochab and Deng Gang discuss the "difficult" situation in China following the Great Leap Forward.

  • March 09, 1961

    Information Memorandum, Zhou Enlai's Comments

    Zhou Enlai informed the titulars and charges d'affaires of the socialist countries about Chinese internal situation and the state of affairs created after the 9th Plenum. He appealed that socialist countries should have faith in the socialist structure and not allow the temporary difficulties to give rise to misunderstandings.

  • March 28, 1961

    Summary of the Conversation between Comrade Peng Zhen and Romanian Ambassador in China Barbu Zaharescu

    Peng Zhen and Barbu Zaharescu discuss China's "great famine."

  • April 15, 1961

    Cable from Wang Bingnan, 'The Situation of the Talk with Ochab'

    Edward Ochab insists that Poland "is friendly toward China."

  • June 02, 1961

    Vice Premier Li Xiannian Meets Czechoslovak Ambassador to China Josef Sedivy to Discuss the Issue of This Years’ Sino-Czechoslovak Trade Negotiations

    Li Xiannian describes the difficulties facing China in the wake of the "disaster" and its inability to meet trade obligations with other socialist countries.

  • July 27, 1961

    Information on the Meeting with Comrade Chen Yi

    Chen Yi, Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the PRC and a member of the CCP CC Politburo, met with the Albanian Ambassador to PRC Reis Malile about the relations between Soviet Union and other socialist countries, particularly China and Albania. They also talked about the Geneva Conference on Laos, the Soviet-US negotiation on the Laos issue, the Soviet economic assistance, and Chinese internal situations.

  • September 10, 1961

    Record of Conversation between Comrade Kim Il Sung and Comrade Deng Xiaoping

    Deng Xiaoping and Kim Il Sung discuss a range of issues, including agriculture in North Korea, Koreans in Japan, and the situation in South Korea.

  • June 27, 1962

    Memorandum of Conversation between First Vice Premier Hysni Kapo and Albanian Labor Party Politburo Member Ramiz Alia with PRC Premier Zhou Enlai

  • June, 1966

    Memorandum of Conversation, between the Delegation of the People’s Republic of China, Led by Comrade Zhou Enlai, and the Leadership of the Party and Government of the People’s Republic of Albania [Excerpts]

    Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai meets with a delegation from Albania, and discusses with them Mao Zedong's 'Ten Theses on the Work in the Village.' The Albanians reaffirm their belief in the philosophical teachings of Mao, especially about opposing the dangers of revisionism. The group agrees that there were points at which Stalin was wrong, but that it would be wrong to publicly proclaim it.