Lying Is Contagious: Spatial-Temporal Diffusion of Launching Agricultural “Satellites” in China’s Great Leap Forward Movement

Hongwei Xu, University of Michigan

The Great Leap Forward (GLF) was a massive campaign launched by the Communist Party of China that mobilized the entire country to adopt radical socioeconomic policies from 1958 to 1961. As a hallmark of the GLF, many regions launched agricultural “satellites” - wildly exaggerating grain yields. The resulting delusion of a big harvest led the top political leaders to require excessive compulsory procurement which was one of the causes of the great famine that took away 16.5 to 30 million human lives. This study attempts to understand how lying about agricultural output became contagious across China. Two complementary hypotheses, peer competition and peer learning, are proposed to explain the spatial-temporal diffusion of launching agricultural “satellites”. Historical archive data will be drawn to geocode the location and mark the timestamp of each “satellite”. An event history analytical framework will be invoked to model the spatial-temporal evolution of these “satellites”.

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Presented in Session 99: Spatial Analysis and Network Analysis