Tuesday, May 31, 2016
It is difficult to describe how poor China was at the end of World War II, the period when Western nations began the three decades of growth that put our economies ahead of most of the world. Shortly after the war ended, Mao Zedong's army finally chased the nationalist government out of mainland China to shelter in Taiwan. Eager to catch up and a great believer in the planned alternative to market economies (it seemed like a good idea at the time), the Chinese Communist Party turned its attention to rebuilding a country that had suffered two decades of civil war, interrupted by a horrific Japanese invasion.
Mao was a better military commander than a peacetime leader. Having taken over a desperately poor country and eager to make progress, he made two fateful decisions at the outset of his rule. The first, widely known, was the Great Leap Forward. This was a set of national policies implemented in the 1950s that included collectivization of agriculture, a disaster everywhere it has been tried, but nowhere as much as China. The resulting famine killed between 20 and 40 million people in three years, the deadliest in human history.
-Clay Shirky, Little Rice: Smartphones, Xiaomi, and The Chinese Dream