41. The Great Leap and Quemoy Again

By 1955 the main bottleneck in China's drive to become a great industrial power was the failure of the nation's farmers to produce a sufficient surplus in grains and other products. The state needed excess farm products to feed additional industrial workers and to provide exports to buy foreign machinery and other equipment, mostly from the Soviet Union.

There were two major factors which explained the production failure. The first was that the Chinese for generations had been pressing against the agricultural productive limit of the land, a stress increasing as China's population grew. The Communists had done little to improve farm productivity. Following the Soviet model, they had concentrated resources upon heavy industry. The second reason was that Beijing required the farmers to deliver a large proportion of their products to the state at low prices. The farmers, seeing they were gaining little, lost incentive to grow larger crops.

The Communist leaders faced the problem that all leaders of developing nations encounter. To create industry rapidly they must either draw the necessary resources and capital from their own people or acquire them by loans or grants from developed countries. For China, cast into a pariah status by the efforts of the United States, there was no hope of getting aid from the West. Indeed, the trade embargo the U.S. had induced most of its friends to support was more severe than the embargo on strategic materials imposed against the Soviet Union.

The Soviet Union thus became the only source of significant aid to China. But Russia could give only limited and short-term help. The Soviet Union had not recovered from the German invasion in World War II and faced severe challenges in meeting the economic needs of its also-damaged eastern European satellites.1

The result was that China, though depending upon Soviet technology and advice, had to pay for most of the machinery and equipment it imported from the East bloc. Likewise, it had to rely upon its own resources for new factory buildings, roads and the other infrastructure necessary to support an industrial state. Labor, either to find the materials, make the bricks, man the new machines or perform the other work, was the principal ingredient China had to supply. Thus China's farmers were the only source to make rapid industrialization possible. Their task was to increase production to provide the exports to balance industrial imports, feed the vast new army of industrial workers and produce cotton and other fiber products needed to manufacture industrial goods.

At the beginning of China's first five-year-plan (1953-57) the system worked well. National income grew at an average annual rate of nearly 9 per cent, though the expansion of industry (nearly 19 per cent) far outstripped growth in agriculture (less than 4 per cent). Industrialization copied almost exactly the model of Joseph Stalin's forced industrialization of the Soviet Union 1928 to 1937, concentrating on industries producing capital goods as the major source of wealth.2

By the spring of 1955, however, it was apparent to the top Chinese leaders that a genuine supply crisis had materialized in the countryside due primarily to too heavy forced purchases of cereals in 1954 and during the winter of 1955.3

The greatest shortages of grains appeared in areas where cadres had organized new agricultural producers cooperatives (APCs) out of the old mutual-aid teams which had been operating for several years. The leadership had developed considerable enthusiasm for producers cooperatives in 1954 and had pushed peasants in several regions to form them in the winter of 1954-55. These APCs were mostly so-called elementary forms in which members pooled land and equipment but retained ownership of their land and tools and received rent for them as well as payment for their labor.4 Local cadres, trying to impress their superiors, had pressured many APCs to deliver excessive amounts of grain to the state, resulting in actual shortages in some locations.5

Because of the problems with the APCs, the State Council, the highest governmental organ, in April, 1955, called for only modest emphasis on new cooperatives in some regions and actual dissolution of them in locations where they had been formed without adequate preparation. Deng Zihui, director of the Rural-Work Department, commenced carrying out this retrenchment program.6

The more traditional economist-minded officials of the State Council believed that personal incentives were what motivated peasants to produce. They sought some system, especially higher prices, to show the individual how he would gain by producing more. Mao Zedong believed, on the contrary, that massive mobilization of peasant manpower and organization of the peasantry into large groups would produce economies of scale which would permit a breakthrough in production.7 The clash between these two views was to throw China into its greatest economic crisis of the twentieth century and profoundly affect the prestige and status of Mao and the Chinese Communist party (CCP).

The State Council go-slow policy, also endorsed by the CCP Politburo,8 established a program in March, 1955, that set more modest targets for each peasant family's production and allowed the family to save, eat or sell the remainder.9 But Mao on May 17 sought to shift the emphasis to his idea of massive mobilization by developing APCs further, especially "advanced" co-ops which eliminated private land ownership and were fully socialist, with peasants being paid only for their work and with all rent payments eliminated. Since the Politburo had endorsed the conservative plan, however, Mao was temporarily rebuffed. But in a speech on July 31, 1955, to provincial party leaders, Mao argued that conditions were favorable for development of co-ops. Only APCs could prevent the increased polarization along class lines in the countryside, he said, meaning that some peasants under the existing system were wealthier than others.

By autumn, 1955, Mao had turned the direction of state policy toward formation of APCs. At a meeting of the CCP central committee in October, Liu Shaoqi, a supporter of the conservative policy, made a self-criticism and Mao criticized Deng Zihui personally.10

As a part of the great drive to transform the country, the Communist leadership decided to turn for help to the higher intellectuals (professionals, scholars, writers, creative artists). It was a turnabout for a regime which strove for an egalitarian society and which had been traditionally mistrustful of China's intellectuals. The Communist party had viewed intellectuals, most of whom had come from the privileged upper classes, as being an incipient gentry that might bring back the inequalities and privileges of the Nationalists or even the mandarins of the Chinese empire.

In January, 1956, however, Zhou Enlai proposed and Mao endorsed reforms to arouse the enthusiasm of the intellectuals. These included giving them more authority, more respect for their views and greater monetary rewards. In May, 1956, Mao announced his famous slogan, "Let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools contend." Though Mao's speech was not published, Lu Dingyi, head of the central committee's propaganda department, called for a new "golden age" of Chinese thought like that of the Hundred Schools in the late Zhou era (722-221 B.C.). Lu called for independent thinking and free discussion. To Mao Zedong, one aim of the "Hundred Flowers" period that ensued was to allow intellectuals to criticize officials to improve the bureaucracy, of which Mao was increasingly suspicious for its tendency to follow routine paths rather than to continue to revolutionize the country.11

The Hundred Flowers brought forth bitter fruit for the Communist party. Instead of demonstrating that China's intellectuals supported the high ideals and aims of the regime, it gave the intelligentsia an opportunity to complain about what they didn't like in contemporary Chinese life. First to speak out were scientists and engineers, who criticized the competence of cadres to direct science and technology, however pure they were in their ideological attachment to Marxism. A number of Western-oriented economists even questioned whether Marxism was relevant to China's economic situation.

Writers were more hesitant to speak out, afraid of being trapped in a shift of party policy. When they did start publishing their ideas in mid-1956, however, some hit directly at the CCP's political results. The party, several wrote, had deviated from the humanitarian ideals embodied in Marxism-Leninism. Stories in literary journals implied that the party bureaucracy had acquired so much power that even the most idealistic critics could make little difference. The complaints aroused a strong response within the party cadres, who considered the criticisms as a challenge to their entrenched positions. By early 1957 some cadres were counterattacking in the People's Daily and elsewhere, indicating that the tide was turning against liberalism and revisionism.12

However, in February, 1957, Mao theorized that nonantagonistic contradictions could exist between leaders and the led in a Communist society. These could be brought into the open by discussion, criticism, reasoning and education.13 In March, Mao called on "all people to express their opinions freely." It was a provocative invitation and it occurred soon after the intellectually stimulating Polish and Hungarian uprisings of 1956 which demonstrated opposition to Soviet tyranny. Many intellectuals took advantage of the opportunity. Some maintained the privileged positions of the party produced the contradictions between leaders and led. Others demanded that competing political parties be allowed to operate freely. Discussion forums popped up in all the major cities. Wall posters appeared at universities.14

The Hundred Flowers had developed a momentum that went far beyond Mao's intention. He was disillusioned. Mao had hoped the intellectuals would be more enthusiastic about Communism and less critical of the party. The Hundred Flowers demonstrated rather that many intellectuals had not abandoned Western liberal concepts and were willing to criticise the Communist system itself. Here was the germ of a counterrevolution and the alarmed leadership moved resolutely to destroy it. On June 8, 1957, the party labeled Hundred Flowers critics "rightists."

Part of the reason for the abrupt reversal was that the economic efforts of 1956-57, especially in agriculture, were not producing anticipated results and the party blamed the intellectuals for undermining the zeal of the people to achieve economic breakthroughs. It was a classic case of transferring blame for the regime's failures to a scapegoat and then attacking the goat as the cause of all problems.

The resulting "Anti-Rightist campaign" quickly escalated from an attack against the most outspoken critics of the regime into a general purge. The party charged leaders with political subversion, subjecting them to unrelenting condemnation until they confessed. Party cadres forced virtually all intellectuals to take part in the Anti-Rightist campaign. The drive became a witch hunt with large numbers of intellectuals removed from their positions and those who denounced them moving up in the hierarchy.

Between 400,000 and 700,000 intellectuals or educated persons lost their jobs and were sent to the countryside or factories for "labor reform." Most cynical was the determination that 5 per cent of people in virtually all units constituted a "quota" of "rightists." This quota had to be filled, even if a given work group had been wholly outside the Hundred Flowers controversy and contained few intellectuals, none of whom had spoken out.

For the population as a whole, the Anti-Rightist campaign won enthusiastic approval. Outside intellectual circles, the idea of intellectual autonomy and the right to dissent had little support. The upshot was that intellectuals, far from gaining respect for their often justifiable criticisms, became isolated from the population as a whole.15

* * * * * * * * * *

The agricultural producer cooperatives did not provide even a partial solution to the problem of farm production, however sweeping had been Mao's victory and however successful he had been in stopping a return to the age-old pattern of a few rich and many poor in China's countryside.16

Agricultural growth in 1956 and 1957 was below that of earlier years. Soybean production (the most important protein source) grew at less than a third the planned rate. Output of oil-bearing seeds and meat stagnated. Grain production gained less than 3 per cent. With population continuing to burgeon, per-capita consumption of food virtually did not increase at all. Demand for farm products was rising inexorably in the cities. In 1952 the nonagricultural population of China was 83 million. By 1956 it had risen to 106 million. By 1957 grain had been rationed in the cities for a year and a half and there was little hope the situation was going to improve.17

The Chinese leadership was groping by late 1957 for some way out of the country's economic impasse. It was imperative to increase agricultural production if the Soviet-style rapid capital-intensive growth of heavy industry was to continue. The shift to advanced agricultural producer cooperatives had not achieved the breakthrough.

Chen Yun, fifth-ranking member and senior economic specialist in the party, proposed a solution that could have been drawn up by a classical economist. Chen believed peasants would not increase production unless they received direct material incentives. He proposed that they get good prices for their products and also have consumer goods to purchase with the money they earned. This meant, Chen recognized, that China's emphasis on heavy industry would have to shift to some degree toward light industry to provide the consumer goods. But prices on consumer goods could be jacked up to provide high profits which the state could use to build more heavy industry. It was a formula for balanced growth with each sector helping the other, rather than the Soviet system in which the peasant was exploited for the benefit of heavy industry.18

Mao Zedong strongly opposed Chen Yun's sensible, moderate approach which recognized human nature and the overriding desire of most human beings to get direct benefits for their labor. Mao wanted faster development, both in agriculture and industry. He continued to believe that even larger agricultural producing units would produce larger economies of scale and that huge mobilizations of peasant labor would produce huge advances in production.

As Nicholas Lardy points out, Mao misunderstood the constraints facing Chinese agriculture. The advanced APCs had not resulted in production increases over private peasant farms and mutual-aid teams.19 The constraints on Chinese agriculture were not size of the producing unit. It already was too large. Constraints were primarily lack of incentive for the average peasant and lack of all the paraphernalia of modern agriculture—chemical fertilizers, pesticides, motorized equipment, better water control and more productive seeds. Because of misunderstanding of agricultural problems by a leader who grew up on a farm and should have known better, China came very close to foundering.

* * * * * * * * * *

China had been greatly preoccupied with its internal economic development and the huge disturbances of the Hundred Flowers and the Anti-Rightist campaign. But its attempts to work out a modus vivendi with the United States had been unsuccessful, due primarily to the hostility of the American military and John Foster Dulles, secretary of state.

The ambassadorial-level talks at Geneva between the U.S. and China had produced no improvement in relations. In May, 1957, the U.S. decided to station on Taiwan a flight of Matador missiles with 650-mile range and capable of carrying nuclear warheads.20 On June 28, 1957, Secretary Dulles delivered an extremely hostile address in San Francisco, charging that China "does not disguise its expansionist ambitions" and considered the United States a principal obstacle in the way of "its path of conquest." Dulles blamed Red China for all Communist uprisings throughout southeast Asia and also attacked it for taking Tibet "by force," not acknowledging that Tibet had been a part of China for centuries. Dulles repeated all of his old positions: refusal to recognize Red China, refusal to allow it in the United Nations and refusal to trade with it. The speech offered virtually no hope of settlement. The long-term solution, Dulles indicated, was to eliminate Communism.21

To demonstrate how little Red China was concerning itself with American antagonism, however, Zhou Enlai made a long address to the National People's Congress on June 26, 1957, and devoted almost his entire attention to domestic affairs, scarcely mentioning the U.S. and not mentioning the liberation of Taiwan at all.22

China's main international concern was now its relations with the Soviet Union, not the seemingly hopeless conflict with the U.S. Red China made a giant step toward becoming a major military power on October 15, 1957, when Nikita Khrushchev signed an agreement with China on "new technology for national defense," which allegedly included a promise to provide China with a sample atomic bomb. Although Moscow never confirmed Beijing's claims, Allen S. Whiting says the Soviet Union's contributions to China's unlocking the secrets of nuclear fission were substantial, despite the fact Russia withdrew its aid in 1959-60. A gaseous diffusion plant near Lanzhou in Gansu outwardly duplicated Soviet facilities. At the Lop Nur nuclear-test site in Xinjiang the supporting infrastructure followed Soviet designs.23

The agreement on sharing atomic secrets came just prior to the fortieth-anniversary celebration in November in Moscow of the Bolshevik revolution. The Soviet Union's launching of the first artificial earth satellite, Sputnik, occurred on October 4, 1957, and this followed announcement that the Soviets had achieved a successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on August 26.

These spectacular developments signified that the Soviet Union was able to match American achievements in strategic nuclear weapons (it had exploded a hydrogen bomb on August 12, 1953, less than a year after the U.S.). However, Khrushchev recognized that the Soviet Union had a long way to go before it could equal American nuclear weaponry and Moscow played down its gains so as not to challenge the United States.24

Mao Zedong, who attended the Moscow celebration, was not in the least willing to hide the Communist successes under a bushel. He proclaimed that "the situation today is the East wind prevailing over the West wind," thereby challenging Khrushchev to press the psychological advantage of Sputnik, which had captured the imagination of the world. When Khrushchev talked earnestly about the "peaceful path" to power that Communism could follow, Mao countered: "Leninism teaches and experience confirms that the ruling classes never relinquish power voluntarily," thereby indicating revolution was the only way to destroy imperialism and capitalism. Thus Mao emerged as a major spokesman for Communism, upstaging Khrushchev. The two leaders never got on together and the implied conflicts of the Moscow celebration were only a prelude to much greater clashes in the future.25

The fundamental nature of the conflict between the Soviet Union and Red China emerged dimly at the conference. Russia, as afraid as the West of a thermonuclear holocaust, was now committed to "peaceful coexistence." This implied that the Soviet Union renounced violent revolution and thus armed confrontation with the West. Communism, the new theory went, would gain against capitalism by peaceful means, not force. Mao Zedong was much more fearful of American aggression. Red China had been cast beyond the pale of "civilized nations" by the U.S. and accused falsely of contemplating the conquest of southeast Asia. Mao was more distrustful of U.S. intentions and more willing to resort to extremes.

The Soviet Union, by contrast, had gained enormous strategic buffers in eastern Europe and the Far East as a result of World War II. It was also comfortable as a member of the United Nations "club" and as an accepted part of the community of nations. It looked out for its own interests just as the Soviet Union had always done under Joseph Stalin, even in its promotion of international Communism. This no longer meant calling for revolution.

Mao Zedong, on the other hand, not only continued to espouse revolution as the way for Communism to succeed, but he also played down fears of a nuclear confrontation with the West. At the Moscow celebration he said, even if nuclear war broke out, half of mankind would survive, "while imperialism would be razed to the ground and the whole world would become socialist."26 For Khrushchev and the Kremlin leadership, this was dangerously provocative thinking.

* * * * * * * * * *

Mao Zedong was also moving firmly away from dependence upon the Soviet Union and all that it implied in terms of Soviet-style economic growth. He had a vision of a dramatically different way of breaking through into advanced economic development and this promised "more, faster, better and more economically." At Nanning in January, 1958, Mao criticized other leaders, including Zhou Enlai and Chen Yun, for failing to support his efforts to raise growth targets. Throughout the first half of 1958 Mao repeatedly talked about the need to mobilize the Chinese people. He attacked the "slavish mentality" that "worships foreign things."27

Mao's solution was the Great Leap Forward, a program distinctly different from anything else tried before. In essence it was a vast expansion of his previous calls for mobilization of the Chinese masses to achieve unprecedented, spectacular and sudden growth. It consisted of great emphasis on industry, embodying a massive infusion of imported machinery and equipment and accelerating the capital-intensive development of the first five-year plan. It also called for "backyard" steel furnaces and other small-scale industrial plants that could be developed in rural areas by peasants. The concept repudiated the emphasis on foreign specialists and technicians and the native intelligentsia who had so disappointed him in the Hundred Flowers period. Dedication to Marxist egalitarian ideals could mean that ordinary people with ordinary skills could achieve wonders of economic development merely by work and enthusiasm.

The Great Leap was also a repudiation of the state bureaucracy and governmental leadership. All of the major government experts in economic development endorsed Chen Yun's conservative plan for the farms. This called for increased state investment in agriculture, especially in the chemical fertilizer industry and manufacture of agricultural machinery which would help the peasant to increase his efficiency. The governmental leaders implicitly rejected Mao's contention that further changes in the organization and size of agricultural production units would result in further growth.28

One effect of Mao's downgrading of the government, and the consequent upgrading of the Communist party apparatus, at all levels was to dismantle the state's grassroots-to-Beijing statistical accounting service. Without accurate figures on production from this meticulous bureaucracy, the Chinese leadership had to reply upon the production claims provided by the enthusiastic but unskilled local Communist cadres. It was a recipe for potential disaster.

In agriculture, Mao's concepts grew out of an immense mobilization of a hundred-million peasants to complete a vast number of small water-control projects during the winter of 1957-58. These armies of rural workers, wielding mainly spades and buckets and depending only upon their labor and often using their own plans, created water-storage facilities, dams, embankments and irrigation ditches for 19.5 million acres in just one frantic winter season.29

The institutional framework for the mobilization of human effort implied in the Great Leap Forward was a radical new political structure combining government, administration, lower-level education, services and production (agricultural and industrial). Mao called the structure "people's communes," taking the name from the Paris Commune which existed for seventy-three days in 1871 during the Franco-Prussian War.

The original people's communes were huge, embracing several of the standard marketing areas of a dozen or more farming villages surrounding a small market town that characterized most of rural China. Most communes had 30,000 to 50,000 people and were thus thirty or more times larger than the advanced APCs. Mao Zedong enthusiastically lauded the communes, writing: "A new social organization has appeared, fresh as the morning sun, above the broad horizon of East Asia."30

Communes were functionally different and more all-embracing than the agricultural production cooperatives. The co-ops were primarily restricted to agricultural production. The communes controlled all economic functions of its members as well as most of their basic educational and political functions, becoming the lowest unit of local government. A near-military discipline and mentality enveloped the communes, a reflection of the military-like mobilization of the people into teams and larger "brigades" to carry out various tasks.

At first, many consumption-related activities (cooking, washing, child-care) shifted to a communal basis, with group mess halls often replacing meals at homes. The primary aim was to free more women to work on the production teams. There was also a utopian mood in the communes, with the idea that people would give up private property, ownership, commerce and gain and that all human needs, including "free grain," would be provided by the community. The mood hearkened back to the Book of Universal Commonwealth (Datong Shu), by the late Qing author, Kang Youwei, who sought to destroy the traditional family and emancipate women from servitude in the kitchen. However, group mess halls lasted only a short while in most places and families continued to live in their private homes.

By November, 1958, rural China had been transformed into 26,000 communes embracing 99 per cent of the farm population. It quickly became clear that the communes were much too large and by the early 1960s they had nearly trebled in number to 74,000 with corresponding reductions in average area and population.

Commune workers ceased to be farmers in the old sense and became members of teams. They lost their private household handicraft and subsidiary-income sources and their personal farming plots, a major source of food for family consumption and for selling in the rural markets (which the government largely shut down).

With utopian concepts predominating, the communes compensated workers mostly on a per-capita basis, not, as had been the case in the advanced APCs, on the basis of labor or tasks performed. The effect (largely not recognized by cadres) was that most peasants, with their livelihood no longer connected to the quality and amount of the work they did, lost their incentive to produce. They became faceless members of teams who now were figuratively driven with the stick, not drawn by the carrot. Evaluation of the work of teams spread out over the commune area became difficult for the commune leadership. The effect was a dramatic drop in labor efficiency.

Also a large number of the irrigation works built by the peasants during the winter of 1957-58 were poorly designed. Many failed to provide for adequate drainage, which thus allowed salts to rise and poison the soil. In many cases the projects lowered yields.31

In the heady, millenarian atmosphere of 1958, however, the egregious structural faults in the commune system were not readily apparent, especially to the Communist leadership in Beijing. With millions of peasants being herded in great military-like columns over the fields or set to work in zealous but unskilled bands to build small "backyard" steel-smelting plants, little chemical-fertilizer factories and other local factories, there was wide acceptance of Mao's idea that a people could break the bonds of economic constraint in one great convulsive effort and move in virtually one step from the swamps of poverty to the broad uplands of wealth and affluence.

* * * * * * * * * *

In the midst of this great surge of the Chinese people, world politics and the incipient conflict of Red China with Soviet Russia rushed in to preoccupy the Beijing leadership. Indeed, the summer of 1958 was a period of world crisis which brought East and West into direct conflict, causing great alarm and the danger of war.

The precipitating factor was the overthrow of the pro-British monarchy in Iraq on July 13 by a group of disaffected Iraqi army leaders. These leaders declared an Iraqi republic and authorized all political parties, including Communist, to operate freely. Although Abd al Karim Qasim (Kassem) soon became the military dictator of Iraq and the "revolution" lost most of its original reforming purpose, the Western powers reacted immediately to protect their oil supplies in the Middle East.

To Western leaders, the Iraqi coup appeared to have sinister connotations of Communist expansionism. The president of Lebanon asked President Eisenhower to commit American forces to protect the country. Eisenhower reacted instantly, sending U.S. marines into Lebanon on July 15. The British landed parachute troops in Jordan two days later. The Communists very likely believed the Anglo-American landings were not intended to protect Lebanon and Jordan but to form bases from which to suppress the Iraqi revolt.

Nikita Khrushchev was determined to use political pressure instead of force to prevent the West from flattening the Iraqi army.32 He proposed a conference of the Soviet Union, U.S., Britain and India. Eisenhower, however, responded that any meeting should take place within the UN Security Council.33 Khrushchev unthinkingly accepted Eisenhower's proposal, thereby antagonizing Beijing since it meant the Nationalist Chinese would represent China while the People's Republic would be excluded.34

The enormous flap which ensued forced Khrushchev, accompanied by his defense minister, Rodion Malinovsky, to fly to Beijing on July 31 for a hastily called conference with Mao, Zhou and other Chinese leaders. However, the reason for the emergency meeting was not solely to discuss Khrushchev's error in agreeing to a Security Council hearing. Already signs had appeared that the West intended to recognize the new Iraqi government. The principal reason for the conference was a dispute between Beijing and Moscow over global strategy.

The quick American move into Lebanon demonstrated how ready Washington was to challenge Communists. Since the U.S. under Dulles's influence had maintained unbending intransigence against Red China, American bellicosity could erupt at any moment in the Taiwan strait. Beijing was not going to give up its claim to Taiwan, Quemoy and Matsu or to accept quietly any aggressive American advance.35

China had been shifting jet aircraft, artillery and land forces opposite the offshore islands for some time. In February, 1958, it had completed a railway to Xiamen (Amoy). This could carry ammunition for the 400 artillery pieces the People's Liberation Army (PLA) now had emplaced on the mainland opposite Quemoy.36

The harsh American response to the Iraqi coup generated a desire by Beijing to challenge the United States in the Taiwan strait. This was a Chinese version of "brinkmanship," possibly calculated to show the United States as a "paper tiger" that would not push a confrontation to general war, especially as strong American forces were committed to the Mediterranean.37

Even so, Mao did not tell Khrushchev what China planned to do in the Taiwan strait, holding, as always, that the conflict was an internal Chinese matter and not something subject to discussion with foreign countries, even allies like Russia.38 After returning to Moscow, Khrushchev backed out of the Security Council agreement. The Beijing meeting had papered over immediate conflicts between Russia and China but did not resolve a broader disagreement over the policy the Communist bloc should take to counter American aggressiveness.39

Mao Zedong was not happy with what he considered Khrushchev's appeasement of the West. He allowed People's Daily to declare on August 4 that Eisenhower and Dulles were carrying out brink-of-war policies. "The peace-loving countries and peoples" had to demonstrate they were not afraid "of the war provocations of imperialism."40

A desire to show fearlessness may, therefore, have motivated Beijing on August 23, 1958, when it ordered PLA batteries to commence an enormous bombardment of Quemoy. In the space of twenty-four hours the Red guns poured 41,000 shells on the tiny islands, now occupied by 90,000 Nationalist troops and about 40,000 Chinese civilians. The shelling and interdicting of seaborne supplies by Red Chinese torpedo boats continued at a high intensity for five days, then fell off sharply.41 The PLA never attempted to mount an invasion and assembled no vessels to carry troops to Quemoy.42

The Quemoy bombardment was a tweaking of the American nose and a device to divert U.S. forces away from the Mediterranean. This quickly happened. After alerting the Seventh Fleet in the western Pacific and the Fifth Air Force in Japan, the Pentagon shifted a carrier and four destroyers from the Mediterranean. By August 29 the U.S. had fifty warships, including six aircraft carriers and five-hundred combat aircraft, either in or on the way to the strait.43

Secretary Dulles, continuing his brinkmanship policy, announced that an attack on Quemoy could result in a war and claimed that the Communist moves showed Beijing's "militarism and aggressive expansionism." He said the U.S. had determined to repel any invasion of Quemoy or Matsu and implied it might attack the mainland.44 Zhou Enlai, however, eased the tension on September 6 by offering to renew talks at the ambassadorial level with the United States.45 The U.S. and Red China soon opened talks in Warsaw, Poland, although little came of them.

Soviet promises to support Beijing came only after Zhou's offer. On September 7 Khrushchev wrote Eisenhower that an attack on Red China would be regarded as an attack against the Soviet Union.46 But Zhou's statement had stilled the war fever and on September 11 Eisenhower said he didn't think there would be war.47

Although Khrushchev took a public stand in support of Red China, privately he was furious by Mao's action and resolved to review Soviet relations with China once tension eased. Beijing's decision to initiate the Quemoy crisis contributed to Moscow's decision in 1959 to renege on its program of helping Red China develop the atomic bomb.48

During the week of September 14-21 Nationalist ships, protected by American warships, resupplied Quemoy. U.S. jet fighters, with orders to fire at Red aircraft, escorted Nationalist transport aircraft in air-drops on the islands. American technicians rushed completion of Matador missile sites on Taiwan. The U.S. armed Nationalist aircraft with Sidewinder air-to-air missiles and these proved decisive on September 24 in an air battle in which KMT aircraft shot down ten MIGs.

On October 6 Peng Dehuai, Chinese defense minister, in effect established a cease-fire by announcing a one-week halt to the shelling and blockade. Two days later the U.S. Seventh Fleet ordered its escort of Nationalist supply ships to cease. Three weeks afterward, Marshal Peng declared a unique program of shelling Quemoy only on even-numbered days. From that point on the shelling slowly petered out and Quemoy disappeared as a confrontation point between China and the U.S.49

The United States leadership breathed a collective sigh of relief. One reason was that American allies, unlike their more hesitant approach during the 1955 offshore-island crisis, made it clear to Washington that they were not in the least interested in supporting a joint Chiang Kai-shek-American adventure to threaten the world with war on account of Quemoy.

On October 8, two days after Peng's suspension of the shelling, Secretary Dulles told officers of the State Department that the crisis had strained relations with foreign governments (and Congress) almost to the breaking point. If the crisis came again, Dulles said it would be extremely difficult to get foreign support for the defense of Quemoy and Matsu.50 Dulles thus admitted his brinkmanship policy was bankrupt. Fortunately for the United States, the Chinese Communists decided Quemoy was not worth causing a world crisis and they abandoned the contest.

Chapter 42: The Great Famine >>

1. Cambridge, vol. 14, chapter 3, "Economic Recovery and the First Five-Year Plan," by Nicholas R. Lardy, professor of international studies, University of Washington, Seattle, p. 179.

2. Ibid., pp. 155-60.

3. Yang, p. 233; Cambridge, vol. 14, p. 167.

4. Shue, pp. 275-6.

5. Cambridge, vol. 14, p. 166.

6. Ibid., p. 167.

7. Shue, pp. 281-2.

8. Cambridge, vol. 14, p. 168.

9. Shue, pp. 236-7, Yang, p. 231.

10. Cambridge, vol. 14, p. 168. In March, 1955, about 14 per cent of peasant households were members of APCs. By May, 1956, the figure had risen to 91 per cent. In January, 1956, 31 per cent of APCs were advanced or fully-socialist co-ops. By the end of the year nearly all were. The average elementary APC averaged thirty households, around ninety arable acres and about a dozen draft animals. Collectives, or advanced APCs, averaged much larger, between a hundred and three-hundred households, with corresponding increases in acreage. In general, the guiding principle in forming advanced APCs was "one village, one co-op," though large villages often had more than one and several small villages were often consolidated into one. The advanced co-op averaged about 800 people. Production teams of about twenty farm households each were the operational units for specific tasks. See ibid., p. 169; Shue, pp. 287-92; Yang, pp. 235-7, 239-40.

11. Ibid., chapter 5, "The Party and the Intellectuals," by Merle Goldman, professor of history, Boston University, pp. 242-4.

12. Ibid., pp. 244-50.

13. See a full exposition on this speech in FRUS, China, 1955-57, vol. 3, pp. 549-52.

14. Cambridge, vol. 14, pp. 250-3.

15. Ibid., pp. 256-7.

16. Cambridge, vol. 14, p. 170.

17. Ibid., pp. 173-7. By contrast, industrial production rose 130 per cent, mostly in producer goods and topped the planned level of the first five-year-plan by 40 per cent.

18. Ibid., chapter 7, "The Great Leap Forward and the Split in the Yenan Leadership," by Kenneth Lieberthal, professor of political science, University of Michigan, p. 300.

19. Ibid., chapter 8, "The Chinese Economy under Stress, 1958-1965," by Nicholas R. Lardy, p. 363.

20. Ibid., chapter 11, "The Sino-Soviet Split," by Allen S. Whiting, professor of political science, University of Arizona, p. 497; FRUS, China, 1955-57, vol. 3, pp. 356-7, 425.

21. FRUS, China, 1955-57, vol. 3, pp. 558-66. President Eisenhower termed the speech "excellent," and apparently approved all of its essential points. See ibid., p. 558, footnote.

22. Ibid., pp. 567-9.

23. Cambridge, vol. 14, p. 483.

24. Rift, pp. 9-10.

25. Ibid., pp. 481-2.

26. Keesing, pp. 12-13; Cambridge, vol. 14, p. 484.

27. Cambridge, vol. 14, pp. 363, 491.

28. Ibid., p. 361.

29. Ibid., p. 364.

30. Chu Li, Tien Chieh-yun, Inside a People's Commune, Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1975, p. 6; Yang, p. 263; Cambridge, vol. 14, pp. 302, 365; Hsü, pp. 656-7; Power, pp. 215-40. Although strongly biased in favor of communes and largely uncritical, Anna Louise Strong's The Rise of the Chinese People's Communes—And Six Years After, Peking: New World Press, 1964, pp. 216-28, is valuable. It's reprinted in David and Nancy Milton, Franz Schurman, eds., The China Reader 4, People's China, Social Experimentation, Politics, Entry onto the World Scene 1966 through 1972, New York: Vintage Books, 1974, pp. 27-44. The Chu and Tien book (above) provides a thorough, though propagandistic, view of the development of the Qiliying People's Commune in a cotton and grain-growing region about twenty-five miles north of the Yellow river near Zhengzhou in Henan province.

31. Cambridge, vol. 14, p. 370.

32. Zagoria, p. 195.

33. New York Times, July 20, 1958, p. 2 (Khrushchev's message); July 23, 1958, p. 6 (Eisenhower's response).

34. Keesing, p. 14; Cambridge, vol. 14, p. 489; Zagoria, pp. 198-9.

35. Zagoria, pp. 200-01.

36. Cambridge, vol. 14, p. 499.

37. Zagoria, p. 201.

38. Cambridge, vol. 14, p. 490.

39. Keesing, pp. 15-17; Zagoria, pp. 202-03.

40. Zagoria, pp. 203-05.

41. New York Times, August 24, 1958, p. 1; September 5, 1958, p. 4.

42. Cambridge, vol. 14, pp. 495-6; Zagoria, pp. 206-08; Keesing, p. 16. See also a full analysis of the offshore island situation in Kennedy Library, NSF, Box 21-23, Memorandum for Mr. McGeorge Bundy the White House, "The Offshore Islands–Alternative Courses and Probable Consequences," August 25, 1961, by George C. McGhee, counselor, State Department; New York Times, August 31, 1958, page E-1.

43. Cambridge, vol. 14, p. 495.

44. New York Times, August 31, 1958, p. E-1; September 5, 1958, pp. 1, 3.

45. Ibid., September 7, 1958, pp. E-1, E-2.

46. Zagoria, pp. 213-4; Keesing, p. 16.

47. New York Times, September 12, 1958, p. 1; Kennedy Library, Roger Hilsman papers, Cambodia-India, Box 1, "Offshore Islands Chronology," no date. Hilsman was director of the State Department's bureau of intelligence and research.

48. Cambridge, vol. 14, p. 499.

49. New York Times, September 14, 1958, pp E-1, E-5; October 5, 1958, pp. 1, 4, E-1; October 6, 1958, pp. 1, 3; October 24, 1958, p. 3; October 26, 1958, pp. 1, E-6; Zagoria, p. 215; Cambridge, vol. 14, p. 497; Kennedy Library Memo to McGeorge Bundy, August 25, 1961. The only subsequent large-scale artillery bombardment of Quemoy occurred in June, 1960, a visit by President Eisenhower to Taiwan.

50. Kennedy Library, Roger Hilsman papers, Cambodia-India, Box 1, "Offshore Islands Chronology," no date.