An Examination of Mao Tse-Tung’s Self-Reliance Principle in Foreign Trade, and Whether Chinese Leaders Have Been Following It to Achieve National Goals

Leung, Chung
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University of Hawaii at Manoa
In October 1949, under the leadership of Mao Tee-Tung, the Chinese Communists took over the war-disrupted, inflation-torn, and fragmented economy of China. Mao, facing the legacy of economic backwardness and chaos in 1949, vowed to reconstruct China through "self-reliance". The concept of "self-reliance" was used during the civil war years and later during periods from 1949 to 1976. Adherence to this concept was alternatively emphasized and deemphasized during different periods of economic development from 1949 to 1976. Since the Chinese have been ambiguous about the self-reliant principles in foreign trade, I shall use both Western and official publications of the Chinese government to illustrate the Chinese foreign trade policies during different periods. There are different interpretations of Mao's self-reliant policy. Mao himself did not define how much trade is considered as self-reliant. For the purpose of this thesis, I shall use Eckstein's interpretation of the self-reliant policy ---A deliberate pursuit of an import-substitution and import-minimization policy. The objective of this thesis will be to explain the origins and objectives of Mao's self-reliant policy and to examine its effect upon Chinese attitudes toward foreign trade during periods of economic development since 1949. The recent reported changes in Chinese foreign trade policy under Teng Hsiao-Ping and Hua Kuo-Feng will be evaluated to see whether they are a continuation of Mao's self-reliant principles or whether they represent a departure from Mao's line.
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