The People's Commune Movement
Following the movement of agricultural cooperation, China began, in 1958, to establish people's communes which featured a three-level ownership with production team as the basic unit and the integration of government administration with commune management.
In the 20 years from the time when people's communes were established to the time when they were disbanded, China's agriculture experienced many ups and downs. This period can be divided into three stages:
a) The Great Leap Forward (1958-1960) Policy errors plus serous natural disasters led to severe setback in agricultural production. The total agricultural output value in 1960 dropped by 23.1% and grain production went down by 51.5 million tons as compared with 1958, resulting in the so-called "three years of difficulty" for the Chinese national economy.
b) The Readjustment Stage (1961-1965) To restore the Chinese national economy, the Chinese government adopted the principle of "readjustment, consolidation, supplementation and improvement." As a result, agricultural production quickly recovered and scored new developments. The output of grain, cotton and oilseeds in 1965 increased by 36%, 98% and 87%, respectively, as compared with 1960, and all rural undertakings also witnessed some growth.
c) The Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) In this period, ultra-Leftist errors continued and class struggle was taken as the key link of all work. As a result, free market, private plots as well as practices such as contracting out collective land to individual households were all condemned as being capitalistic, once again resulting in a stagnation of agricultural production and rural economic development.
During these 10 chaotic years, despite that the state had provided great financial and material support to agriculture and the farmers had worked hard, the output of grain and oil-bearing crops in 1976 increased only 3.6% and 0.9% as compared with 1965; cotton output even experienced a negative growth; while other farm produce also witnessed very low growth in output.