Targets were set by the government on the manufacturing and agricultural sector. Their approach however is heavily labor intensive, with little use of technology, the cost of production increased and wastages abound because human intervention was quite prevalent in the production process. The economy's rise is somewhat slow given the use of little technology as Mao relied too much on manual labor to drive industries and the agricultural sector.
In Mao's term there were debates between members of the Communist Party. The conflicting parties include a group considered as technically sound in administrative and scientific skills and a group who has the ability to mobilize society along ideological lines. Mao is torn between which group should lead the party. The power struggle between these two groups eventually took its toll in government policies.
It was within this context that Mao's Cultural Revolution went into full swing. The Cultural Revolution was anchored on an encompassing change, a challenge to the hegemony of the communist party. MacFarquhar (2006) noted that Mao wanted to tear down what he had done so much to create. In my view, the Cultural Revolution is a reflection of the people's need to genuine participation which was curtailed for some time. Mao wanted the people to question those who are in authority, to raise concerns on the validity of policies and its implications on their lives. Mao through the Cultural Revolution wanted the people to think for themselves, to live their lives on their own terms.
The demise of Mao likewise led to some considerable changes in the political and economic system of China. From a centrally planned and closed economy, China began to reintegrate itself slowly to the prevailing capitalist system. From an economy driven by decisions of the communist party, China began accepting the rule of market forces. From meeting quotas set by the government, the manufacturing and agricultural sectors are moved by the laws of supply and demand. Monopolies were broken down and price controls were eliminated. Producers are now free to sell their produce in the open market as well as pursue profit.
The private sector became a more important player in the economy and in coordination with the state that still sets the rules in the economy; both entities have proven to be vital cogs in sustaining economic growth. Clearly, efforts have been made in abandoning previous approaches of establishing equity, by having a utopic society in which everyone is equal, to a more viable approach of fueling the drive to economic development. These reconfigurations in my view are the end products of Mao's progressive stance as seen in the Cultural Revolution which questions the actions and decisions made by leaders. The people's inputs are very important to make government more attuned to the true needs of the citizens.
I believe that the definitive legacy that Mao gave to the Chinese political economy was that during the Cultural Revolution, he instilled a mindset of citizenship among the people. As citizens they learn to question the policies of government which were unilaterally decided by the party leadership. With this mindset, Mao planted the early seeds of participative democracy and the right to self-determination. The growth of the Chinese economy in recent years can be attributed to the sustained reforms of the government of opening up the economic system to market forces, developing their citizen's entrepreneurial spirit and a political system that accepts suggestions and inquiries in policy formulation and implementation. In addition, the discipline that the Cultural Revolution and Mao's early communist regime led to a work ethic that the Chinese are known for, a work ethic based on hard work and commitment to excellence. The dominance of China in the world economy is a reflection of the synergy of Mao's Cultural Revolution and the character of the world capitalist economy.
MacFarquhar, R. (2006) Mao's Last Revolution. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Sodaro, M. (2001) Comparative Politics: A Global Introduction. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Tieves, F. (1997) "Establishment and Consolidation of the New Regime" in the Politics of China, 2nd edition, edited by Rhoderick MacFarquhar. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.