Chinese Commune - A Communist Experiment that Failed

Author: Jan, George P.
The main purpose of this study is to provide a comprehensive description and critical analysis of the Chinese commune experiment for the understanding of contemporary China. The focus is on the period from 1958 when the commune system was first introduced to the mid-1960s when it was drastically modified. The book covers the background of the commune system, its structure, administration and leadership. The militia force, thought regimentation, mass education and social changes in the communes are examined in great deal. The urban communes are also investigated thoroughly. The Chinese commune was a very controversial system when it was introduced in 1958. It caused disputes in the communist countries and concern in the free world. Its eventual failure and abolition have had a significant impact on China’s internal development, world communist movement and the approach to nation-building in the developing countries. This book is the most detailed in depth study of the Chinese commune system available in the Western world.


“Despite the fact that the commune experiment involved 1/7 of the world’s population for a period of a quarter of a century, there is a dearth of systematic study on this important subject. Professor George Jan’s new work on the commune experiment is a welcome contribution to the understanding of this historical event. The book is based on extensive research using Chinese official documents and related scholarly findings. It not only traces the background of the rise of communes, provides detailed analyses of their structure and function, but also examines the theory, practices and the causes of failure. All the analyses are objective, cogent and well-documented. As a pioneer researcher on the commune experiment since its inception in 1958 and having followed its evolution during the past four decades, I found Professor Jan’s study most complete and up-to-date. The book will become a standard reference for both scholars and general readers.” – Professor Chu-yuan Cheng, Ball State University and President, American Association for Chinese Studies (1996-1998)

Table of Contents

1. Background of the Chinese Communes
2. Structure of the Chinese Commune
3. Administration of the Chinese Commune
4. Leadership in the Chinese Commune
5. Military Regimentation in the Chinese Commune
6. The Regimentation of Thought in the Chinese Commune
7. Mass Education in the Chinese Commune
8. Social Changes in the Chinese Commune
9. Urban Communes
10. Failure of the Chinese Commune Experiment