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Great Leap Forward


The “Great Leap Forward” is not a financial term but a historical event in China, which took place from 1958 to 1962. Under Mao Zedong’s leadership, this campaign aimed to rapidly transform the country from an agrarian economy into a socialist society through rapid industrialization and collectivization. However, it led to widespread famine and is considered economically disastrous due to its grave failure in achieving its targets.


The phonetics of the keyword “Great Leap Forward” would be: /ɡreɪt liːp ˈfɔːrwərd/

Key Takeaways

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  1. The Great Leap Forward was a radical social and economic campaign launched by the Chinese Communist Party in 1958. It aimed to rapidly transform China from an agrarian economy into a socialist society through rapid industrialization and collectivization. However, it led to widespread famine and death.
  2. It was characterized by the creation of large communes, where groups of families lived and worked together. Although it was intended to increase productivity, it often led to inefficiencies, and the forced communal lifestyle contributed to severe food shortages.
  3. The Great Leap Forward resulted in a significant death toll due to starvation, with estimates ranging from 20 to 46 million people. It officially ended in 1962 and marked one of the deadliest famines in human history. The failure of the campaign led to a loss of power for Mao Zedong and a temporary shift in party leadership.
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      The term “Great Leap Forward” holds crucial historical and economic significance, primarily related to China’s socio-economic landscape. It refers to an ambitious economic campaign from 1958 to 1962, led by Chairman Mao Zedong, aimed to rapidly transform China’s agrarian economy into an industrialized, socialist society. The program intended to boost China’s steel production and agricultural output exponentially using collective farming and communal labor. However, it failed drastically, leading to widespread famines causing numerous deaths and immense economic distress. This failure also signified the pitfalls of forced collectivization and showcased the importance of structured, gradual economic development and modernization. It serves as a lesson that unilateral and hasty economic decisions, without considering ground realities, can have catastrophic consequences. Hence, in business/finance, it marks an important case study towards understanding the complexities of economic planning and development.


      The “Great Leap Forward” is a term derived from the five-year plan initiated by the Communist Party of China from 1958 to 1962, under the leadership of Mao Zedong. This term, in a finance or business context, is often used to reference periods of rapid economic growth or bold economic strategies employed to radically transform a country’s economic landscape. Just as the original Great Leap Forward aimed at rapidly transforming China from an agrarian to a socialist society through industrialization and collectivism, metaphorically, it is often used to suggest drastic economic shifts.The purpose of the Great Leap Forward strategy in a business context usually involves ambitious, comprehensive plans to stimulate significant growth or change within a short period. This could involve expansion into new markets, launching innovative products, or embracing new technologies to leapfrog competitors. For instance, technology start-ups might refer to an aggressive growth strategy to capture market share as their version of a Great Leap Forward. However, just like the historical event, any business strategy referred to as a Great Leap Forward is often high risk and can lead to either significant progress or dramatic failure.


      The term “Great Leap Forward” originally comes from a period of Chinese history in the late 1950s and early 1960s, when China aimed to rapidly transform its economy from agrarian to industrial, which unfortunately resulted in a massive famine. However, in business/finance, this phrase is often used to describe a massive, rapid, and often risky push for growth or progress within a company or economy. Please note that providing real-world examples using the term “Great Leap Forward” might be sensitive due to the historical implications. Thus, instead, I will provide examples of instances that involve a rapid push for growth:1. Tesla’s Gigafactory Construction: In order to meet the increasing demand for electric vehicles, Tesla made a great leap forward with the rapid construction of its Gigafactories around the world. This allowed the company to quickly ramp up its battery production, an essential component of its electric cars.2. Amazon’s Acquisition of Whole Foods: Considered a great leap forward, the e-commerce giant made a bold move by acquiring the Whole Foods grocery chain in 2017. This allowed Amazon to aggressively expand into the brick-and-mortar retail and grocery industry, significantly extending its business reach.3. Jio’s Rapid Telecom Expansion in India: Another example can be Reliance Jio’s quick ascend in the Indian telecom industry. Launched in 2016, the company quickly became a major player by offering high-speed 4G services at very low costs, taking a colossal leap to acquire a customer base of more than 100 million within six months.

      Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

      What is the Great Leap Forward?

      The Great Leap Forward is a campaign that was initiated by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) under the leadership of Mao Zedong in 1958. It aimed to transform China into a society capable of competing with other Western industrialized nations, within a short time period.

      When did the Great Leap Forward begin and end?

      The Great Leap Forward started in 1958 and ended in 1962.

      What were the main goals of the Great Leap Forward?

      The main goals of the Great Leap Forward included rapid industrialization, collectivization of agriculture, and increasing the pace of economic development in China.

      What was the impact of the Great Leap Forward on China’s economy?

      The initial impact appeared positive with reported increases in production. However, it quickly led to economic disaster, as the intense pressure for increased output and hastily introduced agricultural methods resulted in lower quality output, reduced incentives, and even widespread famine.

      Did the Great Leap Forward succeed or fail?

      The Great Leap Forward is considered a major failure. It resulted in an estimated tens of millions of famine-related deaths and severely damaged China’s economy.

      What role did Mao Zedong play in the Great Leap Forward?

      Mao Zedong was the key architect and driving force behind the Great Leap Forward. His policies and directives were instrumental in its implementation.

      What lessons were learned from the Great Leap Forward?

      The Great Leap Forward highlighted potential dangers associated with radical, top-down transformations of an economy, inadequate understanding of economic systems, and the risks of falsified reporting due to political pressure.

      Is the Great Leap Forward relevant to the study of modern economics?

      Yes, it’s studied as a cautionary tale of radical economic transformation without proper infrastructure and planning.

      What is the connection between the Great Leap Forward and the Chinese Famine?

      The Great Leap Forward is directly associated with the Chinese Famine, which occurred between 1959-1961. The campaign’s failed policies, including forced collectivization and misguided agricultural methods, resulted in widespread crop failures, leading to the largest famine in history.

      Related Finance Terms

      • Five Year Plan
      • Economic Development
      • People’s Commune
      • Industrialization
      • Collectivization

      Sources for More Information

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