Explaining History

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Grain seizures and famine during the Great Leap Forward

During the forced programme of industrialisation in the late 1950s in China, known as the Great Leap Forward, China's peasants came under intense pressure from the violent Maoist state to produce impossible grain quotas. Villages had already undergone the process of communalisation, where the basic structures of communal and even family life were torn apart and peasants were taken from the land in huge numbers to work on poorly planned vanity projects. In villages, kitchens and cooking utensils were taken from homes and communal kitchens were established, giving the state ultimate control over food supply in rural China. This podcast draws from the excellent account of the famine, Tombstone by Yang Jisheng.

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