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By the mid-1970s China's economy had recovered from the
failures of the Great Leap Forward. In 1979 per capita grain output
first surpassed previous peak levels achieved in 1957. In addition,
small enterprises in the mid-1960s began to produce substantial
quantities of chemical fertilizer. Government researchers developed
fertilizer-responsive seeds. Focusing these inputs on the high- and
stable-yield areas meant that parts of China that were already
advanced tended to be favored over backward or less-developed
regions, thus widening a gap that already had potentially serious
, ch. 3).
At the same time, the government urged poorer areas to rely
mainly on their own efforts. This was symbolized, especially during
the Cultural Revolution, by the campaign to "learn from Dazhai."
Dazhai was a village in Shaanxi Province that overcame poverty and
poor production conditions to become relatively wealthy. The
authorities claimed that this was accomplished through
self-reliance and struggle. Dazhai became a model of political
organization and its leaders national emulation models as well.
These policies--"agriculture first," emphasis on the supply of
modern inputs, and the Dazhai and other models--formed the
framework for agricultural development from the early 1960s until
the post-Mao era. The Cultural Revolution caused some disruption in
the agricultural sector, such as political struggle sessions and
changes in local leadership, but not nearly as much as in the
(see Trends in Industrial Production
, ch. 7).
Data as of July 1987