|Fearing any sort of repeat of the
Soviet experience with collectivization, the Chinese used
persuasion and a gradual stage process; violence was used not
nearly as often as it had been under Stalin or Lenin. Still, Mao
faced some resistance from peasants unwilling to give up their
land, so he allowed them a small plot of land each and a few
animals. Also, China faced the same problems of a government
running agriculture as Russia had, but Mao refused to slow down and
correct the problems resulting in a small rift in the Party.
Mao soon implemented the first Five-Year plan, based on that of the Soviets. It greatly increased industrial production, but left food production far behind for the growing population. Mao was distressed by this and the fact that every decision was made by a central committee, denying any voice to the people. He feared that such methods could revive capitalism.
In an attempt to leapfrog industry and agriculture straight into true communism and avoid a prolonged period of socialism, Mao relied on the great will and enthusiasm of the people in the Great Leap Forward. He grouped over 500 million Chinese peasants into 26,000 communes with approximately 25,000 occupants each. These were essentially giant farms with 100,000 animals. People worked hard all day and then did so-called "volunteer work" after hours. In an effort to make sure technology advanced as well, Mao encouraged the communes to build factories. Every spare moment was spent forging steel or building dams.
The formerly enthusiastic people were angered by the harsh working conditions and placement in often distant communes. The steel they built wasted resources and was built with such little skill it was almost useless. The Great Leap forward actually hurt the economy and lowered industrial as well as agricultural output. Mao was then replaced as president of the People's republic of China by Liu Shaoqi who broke the communes down into smaller production units and allowed the peasants small plots of land of their own. He reversed just about every policy installed during the Great Leap Forward. During the three years it took to reverse the policies, famine ensued and over twenty million people died.
Mao disagreed with Liu's policies of rewarding skilled workers with better pay and allowing private plots of land. He claimed they betrayed socialism, but Liu said they helped it work better and because of the failure of the Great Leap Forward, Liu dealt with most economic policy.