China Table of Contents
The Cultural Revolution was set in motion by Mao Zedong in 1966 and called to a halt in 1968, but the atmosphere of radical leftism persisted until Mao's death and the fall of the Gang of Four in 1976 (see The Cultural Revolution Decade, 1966-76 , ch. 1). During this period, there were several distinct phases of economic policy.
The Cultural Revolution, unlike the Great Leap Forward, was primarily a political upheaval and did not produce major changes in official economic policies or the basic economic model. Nonetheless, its influence was felt throughout urban society, and it profoundly affected the modern sector of the economy. Agricultural production stagnated, but in general the rural areas experienced less turmoil than the cities. Production was reduced in the modern nonagricultural sectors in several ways. The most direct cause of production halts was the political activity of students and workers in the mines and factories. A second cause was the extensive disruption of transportation resulting from the requisitioning of trains and trucks to carry Red Guards (see Glossary) around the country. Output at many factories suffered from shortages of raw materials and other supplies. A third disruptive influence was that the direction of factories was placed in the hands of revolutionary committees, consisting of representatives from the party, the workers, and the People's Liberation Army, whose members often had little knowledge of either management or the enterprise they were supposed to run. In addition, virtually all engineers, managers, scientists, technicians, and other professional personnel were "criticized," demoted, "sent down" to the countryside to "participate in labor," or even jailed, all of which resulted in their skills and knowledge being lost to the enterprise. The effect was a 14-percent decline in industrial production in 1967. A degree of order was restored by the army in late 1967 and 1968, and the industrial sector returned to a fairly high rate of growth in 1969.
Other aspects of the Cultural Revolution had more far-reaching effects on the economy. Imports of foreign equipment, required for technological advancement, were curtailed by rampant xenophobia. Probably the most serious and long-lasting effect on the economy was the dire shortage of highly educated personnel caused by the closing of the universities. China's ability to develop new technology and absorb imported technology would be limited for years by the hiatus in higher education (see Higher Education , ch. 4).
Data as of July 1987