Country Listing

China Table of Contents



By the mid-1970s China's economy had recovered from the failures of the Great Leap Forward. In 1979 per capita grain output first surpassed previous peak levels achieved in 1957. In addition, small enterprises in the mid-1960s began to produce substantial quantities of chemical fertilizer. Government researchers developed fertilizer-responsive seeds. Focusing these inputs on the high- and stable-yield areas meant that parts of China that were already advanced tended to be favored over backward or less-developed regions, thus widening a gap that already had potentially serious implications (see Differentiation , ch. 3).

At the same time, the government urged poorer areas to rely mainly on their own efforts. This was symbolized, especially during the Cultural Revolution, by the campaign to "learn from Dazhai." Dazhai was a village in Shaanxi Province that overcame poverty and poor production conditions to become relatively wealthy. The authorities claimed that this was accomplished through self-reliance and struggle. Dazhai became a model of political organization and its leaders national emulation models as well.

These policies--"agriculture first," emphasis on the supply of modern inputs, and the Dazhai and other models--formed the framework for agricultural development from the early 1960s until the post-Mao era. The Cultural Revolution caused some disruption in the agricultural sector, such as political struggle sessions and changes in local leadership, but not nearly as much as in the industrial sector (see Trends in Industrial Production , ch. 7).

Data as of July 1987