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Article
Publication date: 28 October 2014

Yuan Liu, James G. Wen and Xiahai Wei

The purpose of this paper is to explain the puzzle of Chinese Great Leap Famine, which started with a good harvest in the end of 1958 and ended with lowest rural grain…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explain the puzzle of Chinese Great Leap Famine, which started with a good harvest in the end of 1958 and ended with lowest rural grain consumption per capita in 1961, by focussing on the communal dining system characterized by compulsory collectivization of peasants’ total grain rations, and deprivation of private plots and household sideline production.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper uses the panel data of 25 provinces from 1958 to 1962 to make the benchmark estimations by POLS and endogeneity-elimination estimations by 2SLS, employing the great advance in agricultural cooperative movement between 1954 and 1956 and the rural population density as the IVs for the radicalism of communal dining system during the Great Leap Forward. The β coefficients and Gfields decomposition are also presented to assess the relative importance of various factors on famine.

Findings

The empirical study finds that the communal dining system does play a critical role on the famine. The evidences of the β coefficients and Gfields decomposition basing on previous estimations also show that communal dining system is the most important cause on the famine.

Social implications

The lesson from communal dining system on famine provides reference for resolving the current “Three Agrarian Issues” in China. It is important to allow peasants to exit from the compulsive collective system.

Originality/value

The paper discovers the institutional root of the famine by the endogeneity-elimination estimations of IVs and the assessment of relative importance of various factors on famine by β coefficients and Gfields decomposition.

Details

China Agricultural Economic Review, vol. 6 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1756-137X

Keywords

Abstract

Details

35th Anniversary Retrospective
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78190-219-6

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