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People's Century; Great Leap, 1965

Part of Stories of East and South East Asia.

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People's Century
Great Leap, 1965
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Series Description

As the twentieth century rushes toward its conclusion, People's Century looks back at the story of our times. This landmark series offers new insight into the turbulent events of these hundred years through the revealing personal testimony of the people who experienced them. Some of the interviewees are over 100 years old. John Forsythe and Alfre Woodard narrate. Program 101W: "1900 Age of Hope" The people remember: the Paris Exposition of 1900, Queen Victoria's funeral, President McKinley's assassination, technology and consumerism, American democracy, Theodore Roosevelt, the Russo-Japanese war, Russian Revolution of 1905, African National Congress, emigration to America, the first flight across the English Channel, mobilization and the tremors of war. "1916 Killing Fields" The people remember: conscription, machine guns and mustard gas, aerial bombing, the trenches, Battles of Verdun and the Somme, conscientious objectors, military justice, American participation, armistice. Program 103W: "1917 Red Flag" The people remember: the storming of the Winter Palace, Lenin, Bolsheviks, civil war, mass literacy campaigns, Lenin's death, Soviets' five-year plan, collectivization, kulaks, show trials, Stalin's purges. "1991 People Power" The people remember: 1980 Gdansk, the role of the Church, Solidarity movement, martial law in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, the Berlin Wall, Romania, Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin, the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Program 105W: "1927 Great Escape" The people remember: silent movies, Charlie Chaplin, The Jazz Singer, decline of live entertainment, movie palaces, film in the Soviet Union and India, propaganda, New Deal documentaries, the birth of television. "1930 Sporting Fever" The people remember: the 1908 Olympics, baseball, Babe Ruth, first World Cup, boxing, Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, racism, the Berlin Olympics, sport in the Cold War, sport and television. Program 107: "1926 On the Line" The people remember: Henry Ford, the Model T, mass production, the moving assembly line, Detroit's River Rouge Plant, Italy's Fiat, Joseph Stalin's industrial revolution, Stakhovites, the United Auto Workers, labor movement, wages. Program 108: "1929 Breadline" The people remember: Wall Street and the US stock market crash, mass unemployment, Chilean copper mines and nitrate towns, German banking crisis, Jarrow Shipyards, the allure of Communism and Fascism, Nazi rearmament, FDR's New Deal. Program 109: "1919 Lost Peace" The people remember: Armistice celebrations, Woodrow Wilson, the Treaty of Versailles, League of Nations, German reparations, World Disarmament Conference, pacifist movements, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Italy and Ethiopia, Franco and the Spanish Civil War, Lord Chamberlain, Austria, Czechoslovakia. Program 110: "1933 Master Race" The people remember: Adolf Hitler, racism, public works, Mein Kampf, Hitler Youth, the annexation of Austria, march on Prague, the Allies, Kristallnacht, the ghettos, the Final Solution, concentration camps, propaganda. Program 111: "1939 Total War" The people remember: economic mobilization, shipbuilding, women and children join the war effort, slave labor, the Blitz, siege of Leningrad, Dimitri Shostakovich, air raids, Hamburg, Pearl Harbor, Tokyo fire raids, the atom bomb. Program 112: "1945 Brave New World" The people remember: meeting on the Elbe, refugees in Europe, Joseph Stalin, Winston Churchill at Fulton, Nikita Khrushchev, propaganda wars, NATO, Berlin blockade, Korea, Hungarian uprising, Berlin Wall. Program 113: "1947 Freedom Now" The people remember: colonial rule, Mohandas Gandhi, Indian independence, Ghana, Kenya, Mau Mau uprisings, government corruption -- a new oppression, Algeria, Mozambique. Program 114W: "Boomtime 1948" Post-war prosperity transforms lifestyles and cultural values in the United States and abroad. "Young Blood 1968" A new generation challenges the "Establishment." Program 116 W: "Fallout 1945" Nuclear energy is unleashed. "Endangered Planet 1959" Runaway growth brings prosperity at a price. Program 118 W: "Great Leap 1965" China yields to Chairman Mao. "Asia Rising 1951" From the ashes of war, Japan and Korea rise to economic prominence. Program 120 W: "Skin Deep 1960" Racial oppression is challenged in the United States and South Africa. "Half the People 1970" At home and at work, women fight for equal rights. Program 122 W: "Picture Power 1963" Television unexpectedly transforms society, culture and politics. "Living Longer 1952" Medical advances further the fight against disease. Program 124 W "Guerrilla Wars 1973" Revolution succeeds through guerrilla warfare. Program 126 "Fast Forward" Looks at global trends since the 1970's. Series release date: 4/1998

Program Description

China yields to Chairman Mao.

Thirty years after the rise of communism in the USSR, Mao Zedong's People's Liberation Army took control of China. Drawing his power from the large peasant population, Mao promised China a Communist society free of inequality, poverty, foreign domination -- and the corruption and revisionism he believed had derailed the Soviet original.

China's peasant farmers were at last granted the land reform they'd wanted for so long. Women were given new rights at work and in marriage. But, in his fervor to harness the energy and idealism of the people, Mao set in motion a series of cataclysmic social experiments in which millions suffered and died as they attempted the "great leap" toward Mao's new society.

Mao's desire to overtake Western industry and food production led to goals of doubling the production of food and steel in a year. Zealous adherence to Mao's assurance that "revolutionary enthusiasm will triumph over all obstacles" led competing communes to make absurd pledges about food production -- contributing to the dangerous fiction that food was plentiful. In 1960, fiction turned to famine: more than twenty million died from starvation.

In 1966, when Mao felt China was veering down "the capitalist road," he unleashed the Cultural Revolution, in which students were encouraged to question authority at all levels, and unspeakable violence against intellectuals and other "subversives" swept the country. Mao's Red Guards attacked the "Four Olds": old habits, ideas, customs, and culture. Books were burned and museums pillaged. Schools and hospitals closed. Offices and factories were in chaos. Infighting within the Guards led to anarchy. China was soon in the grips of perpetual revolution -- until 1976: With Mao's death came the end of the Cultural Revolution, and a re-emergent China's new focus on stability and increasing prosperity.

The people remember: Mao Zedong, the People's Liberation Army, "take-over" of 1949, land reform, Great Leap Forward, denunciation meetings, communes, Cultural Revolution, Red Guards, arrest of Gang of Four, Deng Xiaoping.

Great Leap is produced and directed by Jennifer Clayton. Series senior producer is David Espar. Series executive producer for WGBH Boston is Zvi Dor-Ner; Peter Pagnamenta is executive producer for the BBC.

John Forsythe narrates.

Asset Type

Broadcast program

Media Type


Social Issues
Military Forces and Armaments
Politics and Government
Global Affairs
Dor-Ner, Zvi (Series Executive Producer)
Clayton, Jennifer (Producer)
Espar, David (Series Producer)
Forsythe, John (Narrator)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “People's Century; Great Leap, 1965,” GBH Archives, accessed March 3, 2024,
MLA: “People's Century; Great Leap, 1965.” GBH Archives. Web. March 3, 2024. <>.
APA: People's Century; Great Leap, 1965. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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