The Five Year Plan was an attempt by China to boost her industry and set her on the path to become a world class power. When Mao came to power in 1949, China was many years behind the industrial nations of the world. Mao wanted this to change.

On an international level, Mao’s China had the same status as Stalin’s Russia. Communism was feared throughout the western world and here was the world’s most populated nation turning to communism.

The only country who would want a treaty with China was the Soviet Union. In December 1949, Mao met Stalin in Moscow. They signed the Treaty of Friendship, Alliance and Mutual Assistance. This treaty gave China money and technical assistance to modernise her industry. Though the money received from Russia was minimal ($300 million over five years), Russia did provide 10,000 engineers to boost China’s industry and therefore her economy.

Influenced by the Russian engineers, and also by the success of Stalin’s Five Year Plans, China introduced her own Five Year Plan in 1953. Heavy industry was targeted as being in need of major reform. The Five Year Plan attempted to tackle steel, coal and iron production. As in the Russian model, each factory or mine was given a target to achieve. Failure to meet a target was the equivalent of failing your people.


1957 planned 1957 actual output
Coal 63 million tonnes 113 million tonnes 124 million tonnes
Pig iron 1.9 million tonnes 4.7 million tonnes 5.8 million tonnes
Steel 1.3 million tonnes 4.1 million tonnes 5.2 million tonnes
Oil 0.4 million tonnes 2 million tonnes 1.4 million tonnes
Cement 2.6 million tonnes 6 million tonnes 4.6 million tonnes
Chemical fertiliser 0.2 million tonnes 0.6 million tonnes 0.7 million tonnes