It is understandable that you find it hard to believe what I wrote about Mao Mao. Virtually all Western sources claim that Mao’s tenure was a ‘disaster’ and make many personal attacks on Mao as well. But that is normal propaganda: delegitimize the founding father and you weaken the legitimacy of all that follows. You can see the same mechanism at work today on Dr Putin who is, without a doubt. The best leader Russia has ever had and has the support and respect of 85% of his people. When our leaders have the support of 30% of theirs. Let’s look at your main questions:
You said All of those countries were at an abysmally low level of development around 1950. But, then that should mean that China’s growth should have been even greater. As simply rebuilding what has been ruined is always easier than building something you’ve never built before
China was much, much poorer than is Afghanistan today. In 1945, the nation was convulse by civil war. Russia had taken Mongolia and a piece of Xinjiang, Japan occupied three northern provinces. Britain had taken Hong Kong, Portugal Macau, France pieces of Shanghai. Germany Tsingtao and the U.S. shared their immunities and profits.
China was agrarian, backward, feudalistic, ignorant and violent. Of its four hundred million people, fifty-million were drug addicts, eighty percent could neither read nor write and life expectancy was thirty-five years. Peasants paid seventy percent of their produce in rent, women’s feet bound, desperate mothers sold their children. In exchange for food and poor people sold themselves, preferring slavery to starvation.
The Japanese had killed twenty-million and General Chiang Kai-Shek wrote that, of every thousand youths he recruited, barely a hundred survived the march to their training base. U.S. Ambassador John Leighton Stuart reported that, during his second year in China, ten million people starved to death in three provinces.
When Mao stepped down in 1974, the invaders, bandits and warlords were gone:
Life expectancy was sixty-seven, the population double, literacy was eighty-four per cent, wealth disparity had disappeared, electricity reached poor areas, infrastructure was fully restored. The economy had grown five hundred percent, drug addiction was a memory, women were liberated, girls were educated, crime was rare and everyone had food and shelter and, thanks to his massive dam and irrigation projects. China’s 750,000 square miles of arable land had grown to two million.
Jerome Meisner says, “The higher yields obtained on individual family farms during later years would not have been possible without the vast irrigation and flood-control projects–dams, irrigation works and river dikes–constructed by collectivized peasants in the 1950s and 1960s. Steel production rose from 1.4 to thirty-two million tons; coal from sixty-six to 617 million tons; cement from three to sixty-five million tons; timber from eleven to fifty-one million tons; electricity from seven to 256 billion kWh.; crude oil from nothing to 104 million tons; and chemical fertilizer from thirty-nine thousand to 8.7 million tons.
Mao’s China produced jet aircraft, locomotives, oceangoing ships, ICBMs and hydrogen bombs and had a satellite in orbit. By some key social and demographic indicators China compares favourably even with middle-income countries whose per capita GDP was five times greater”. He reunited, reimagined, reformed and revitalized the largest, oldest civilization on earth, modernized it after a century of failed modernizations, liberated more women than anyone in history and ended thousands of years of famines. A strategist without peer, political innovator, he was a master geopolitician and a Confucian peasant, under crushing embargoes Mao had grown GDP by 7.3 percent annually and left the country debt-free.
India today, with its staggering illiteracy and millions of annual deaths from starvation, has still not caught up to Mao’s China.
You said that China’s growth rate exceeded by both Japan and S. Korea over the same period
China was under crushing embargoes that excluded it from technology, finance, food and participation in world bodies throughout Mao’s tenure. While Japan and S Korea were–and remain–American-occupy colonies that give every assistance. I know, because I lived in both countries, as a guest of the US Government, in the 1960s. With that kind of support–which Mao repeatedly requested–Mao would obviously have outgrown both.
Those really are not “standard, accepted figures.”
According to your chosen source, Angus Maddison himself, his estimates are ‘mere conjecture’. Most peer-reviewed evaluation of Angus Maddison’s work has dubbed them ‘nothing more than an educated guess’ or at best ‘far fetched speculation’. Read China’s Reform Period Economic Growth: Why Angus Maddison Got It Wrong and What That Means, by Carsten Holz, which is free. Unlike Angus Maddison, Professor Holz is a specialist in Chinese statistics. His conclusion? “Angus Maddison’s growth estimates for China in the reform period constitute no alternative to the official data”.
The sources I referenced are accepted by virtually all international bodies.