Great Leap Forward, 1957–60, Chinese economic plan aimed at revitalizing all sectors of the economy. Initiated by Mao Zedong, the plan emphasized decentralized, labor-intensive industrialization, typified by the construction of thousands of backyard steel furnaces in place of large steel mills. Wildly unrealistic planning, poorly planned communization of agriculture, and a poor harvest in 1959 caused mass starvation. Mao was forced to turn government administration over to Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.