Racing Toward Socialism: 1956-1958
- The author describes policy measures, passed in 1955, to nationalize
industry and commerce. How did this policy affect the ownership of
business? What, for example, happened to Doctor Xia’s medicine
- The nationalization program was part of the government’s attempt
to create a centralized socialist economy. How did different people in
the story react to this new policy? Why did the mother view the grandmother’s
jewelry as part of an outdated past? Do you think Grandmother viewed
these possessions as the "fruit of ‘the exploitation of the
people’"? Why not?
- How did labeling individuals as "counterrevolutionaries" affect
- Was being labeled a "capitalist," that is an owner of private
property, considered good or bad? Why?
The Great Leap Forward and Famine: 1958-1962
- By the late 1950s, Mao sought to launch China on a path of rapid
industrialization — the
Great Leap Forward. Mao thought this would allow China to surpass the
United States and Great Britain in industrial output within 15 years
and, in one swift leap, hurl China toward the desired goal of communism
and to the forefront of industrialized nations. Imagine you are a youth
growing up during this period. Describe your activities and emotions.
- Why is the author critical of the economic policies of this period?
- Why does she characterize the nation as having "slid into doublespeak"?
Did the Chinese newspapers, radio, and the media speak out against
these exaggerations? Why not?
- Maoist policy supposedly attempted to create a more equitable society.
Based on the author’s account, were all individuals on equal ground?
Did the author’s family receive special treatment? Why?
- Were there differences in the way people in the rural areas were treated
compared with the way people in the urban areas, the cities, were treated?
Give an example.
- How did the economic policies of the late 1950s contribute to the devastating
famine that cost China thirty million deaths? Does the author believe
the famine was caused primarily by human error or by natural disaster?
When the Chinese people weigh Mao as a leader, how do you think they
judge the Great Leap Forward?
- In contrast to the traditional practice of arranged marriage, how were
marriage negotiations conducted after the Communist victory? Were young
people free to seek their own partners? Who authorized permission to
marry, and how did this differ from in the past? Were individual or political
considerations more important in choosing a mate?
- The Communist Party sought to elevate the status of women and provide
opportunities for them to engage in productive work outside of the household.
How did this affect parenting? Who was in charge of child rearing?
- Given that parents were deeply involved in working to build Socialism,
how was family life consequently affected? Did this change over time?
- Consider these readings and discuss whether the position, mobility,
and educational opportunities of women have changed over the course
of contemporary Chinese history.
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