Winter 1958, and the city streets of Shanghai in China were filled with sensational color and noise. In among the chaos, armed citizens were encouraged to fire their weapons into the sky. It was the opening salvos in a war against the country’s sparrows, ordered by none other than the Chinese leader, Chairman Mao Zedong himself. But why did he pick such a bizarre fight, and how did the conflict cause chaos for years to come?
When the Chinese Civil War ended in 1949 with the victory of the Chinese Communist Party, its then 56-year-old leader, Mao Zedong, oversaw the foundation of the People’s Republic of China. And, under his radical modernizing red regime, the nation flourished at first. However, in 1958, Mao launched a disastrous social and economic scheme ironically known as the Great Leap Forward.
Indeed, the purpose of the Great Leap Forward was to transform China from a medieval agrarian society into a fully functioning industrialized socialist republic. And as part of that four-year plan, Chairman Mao aimed to reform antiquated agricultural practices, turning farming in the country from a private enterprise activity into a collectivized form of industry.