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Foodgrains Output in the People's Republic of China, 1958–1965

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 February 2009


This article has two purposes. Firstly, to indicate that the currently available statistics on foodgrains output for the years 1958–65 appear to have little internal consistency and even less plausibility. Second, to place before the reader alternative estimates for this period. The new series, unlike the estimates it seeks to replace, is not derived from secondary data; it, in fact, incorporates a set of figures provided by Chinese officials to Mr. Burki, a member of a Pakistani delegation that went to China in July 1965, to study the communes. The series presented in this paper was given in response to a questionnaire submitted to the officials of the Ministry of Agriculture and the Bureau of Commune Management.* By then the delegation had visited seven communes in north and north-east China, and all the communes visited had provided output data along with statistics of major inputs. It was with the purpose of checking the performance of these communes and those to be visited later, that the members of the delegation sought to obtain output and input data for all Chinese agriculture.

Research Article
Copyright © The China Quarterly 1970

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* See Burke, S. J., A Study of Chinese Communes, 1965 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1969).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

1 Field, R. M., “How Much Grain Does Communist China Produce?The China Quarterly, No. 33 (0103 1968), pp. 98101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

2 Jones, E. F., “Emerging Pattern of China's Economic Revolution,” in An Economic Profile of Mainland China, Vol. I (Congress of the U.S. 1967).Google Scholar

3 Wenmohs, J. R., “Agriculture in China,” Current Scene (Hong Kong: U.S. Consulate General).Google Scholar

4 This table is taken from the article by Field, R. M. quoted above (note 1), p. 102.Google Scholar

5 The source for columns (1) and (3) is the article by R. M. Field referred to in note 1 above; the source for column (2) is Klatt, W., “Grain Production—Comment,The China Quarterly, No. 35 (0709 1968); the source for column (4) is the chapter by E. F. Jones referred to in note 2 above; column (5) is made up as follows:Google Scholar 1960: Mao told Viscount Montgomery (Sunday Times, London, 15 10 1961) that 1960 output had been 150 MMT, and the preliminary estimate for 1961 had placed it at 160 MMT.Google Scholar1962: Chou, En-lai (Dawn, Pakistan, 11 04 1963) said that 1962 output was better than 1961, and 1961 was better than 1960. Further, the 1962 increase over 1960 was about 24 MMT. Using Mao's figure for 1961, we may derive the 1962 figure at 174 MMT.Google Scholar1963: Chou, En-lai told Edgar Snow (Washington Post, 3 02 1964) that the 1963 increase over 1962 was more than 10 MMT.Google Scholar1964: Chou, En-lai told Edgar Snow (Asahi Shimbum, Tokyo, 27 02 1965) that the 1964 output was about 200 MMT, “the best in the history of China.”Google Scholar 1965: Chinese News Summary, 28 04 1966, p. 1. For further details see the article by R. M. Field quoted in note 1 above.Google Scholar

6 Quoted by Lichnowsky, L., “Agricultural Policy in Mainland China,” United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization: Monthly Bulletin of Agricultural Economics and Statistics, 10 1962 (Rome).Google Scholar

7 For the reasoning behind these figures see the article by Field, R. M. referred to in note 1 above.Google Scholar

8 These figures are taken from Table II and col. (5) of Table IV. The grain figures are deflated by 20 per cent. to arrive at the processed figures.Google Scholar

9 Sources: Col. (1): 1952: Wei-ta-te shih-nien (Ten Great Years) (Peking, 1960). 1953–65: Communication from Ministry of Agriculture, People's Republic of China, August 1965. Note 1965 figure is preliminary.Google Scholar

10 Col. (2): Col. (1) × 0·80. The processing ratio has been derived from Shigeru, Ishikawa, “Factors Affecting China's Agriculture in the Coming Decade,” Institute of Asian Economic Affairs, 11 1967.Google Scholar

11 Col. (5): 1952–53: United Nations, Demographic Yearbook (New York, 1961). 1953–65 by extrapolating at 2·2 per cent. of growth.Google Scholar

10 Edgar, Snow, “Interview with Mao,” The New Republic, 27 02 1965, p. 20.Google Scholar

11 That officials in interview claim a certain figure does not bind them to it. They are open to revision after firmer estimates are received. For example, Chou En-lai appeared to change his view on the 1967 output from October 1967 to February 1968.Google Scholar