Wednesday, May 22, 2024
HomeOpinionAbiy’s Economics Has Similarity with Mao Zedong’s China in a Bad Way

Abiy’s Economics Has Similarity with Mao Zedong’s China in a Bad Way

Abiy _ Ethiopian Economy _ Yonas

Yonas Biru, PhD

Mao Zedong was competing with Russia to become the leading communist country in the world. To achieve this goal, he institutionalized “the Great Leap Forward” (1958-1962) to make China self-sufficient in its endeavor to transform itself from a predominantly agrarian economy to an industrial powerhouse. He declared “going all out” to accelerate China’s industrial growth.

The Communist Party created communal farming. This involved forcing farmers to pull their resources (equipment, livestock, and seeds) together and farm and eat in communes. Saving for rainy days for their families was banned. Going all out meant taking all resources from the agricultural sector to finance the rapid industrialization of China.

Local party cadres demanded communal farmers to increase their production by planting seeds closer together. Taxes from each commune were assessed based on the Party’s cadre’s unrealistic production projections.

To meet their taxes, farmers were required to send all their productions to the government, cutting on their food consumption and seeds. As a result, China’s grain exports increased to a historic level. The policy met with remarkable success in its initial phase but in the end ran out of steam and ended up with a disaster of epic proportions. The peasantry was subjected to starvation. As noted in South China Morning Post, “at least 45 million people died unnecessary deaths.”

Mao’s death on September 9, 1976, opened an opportunity to end his era with mixed results. On the one hand, it laid a foundation for industrialization. On the other hand, it left a decimated agricultural sector and proved that Mao’s self-sufficiency was insufficient to build an industrialized nation.

His successor, Deng Xiaoping ended Mao’s policy. Under Deng’s leadership, China ushered in a two-pronged economic development strategy: “Reform and Opening-up.” Both components were bold in their call for a paradigm shift. The reform component required bidding farewell to the Mao-era mindset of internal self-reliance and the communal system. The opening-up component promoted joining the global economic system, embracing the marvels of capitalism.

Deng made a strategic choice, stating: “As we look back, we find that all of those countries that were with the United States have been rich, whereas all of those against the United States have remained poor. We shall be with the United States.”

Under Abiy, Ethiopia’s industrial base shrank. In 2023 alone over 500 manufacturing entities were closed. The government’s agricultural report is rejected by experts as fabricated. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimated MY 2023/24 wheat area is approximately the same as the previous two years. Satellite imagery analysis by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service and several other researchers indicated that irrigated wheat area did not increase by two million hectares as claimed by Ethiopia’s Ministry of Agriculture.

Abiy’s policy is focused on building vanity projects, including palaces, parks, museums, siphoning resources from farmers.  In the Oromo tribal land farmers were forced to sell their produce below market price to the government to meet the nation’s unrealistic export quota. 

Ethiopia’s economy epitomizes a house whose foundation is being devoured by termite while the owner of the house paints the roof and covers the walls with glittering façade. The Prime Minister’s Achilles’ heel is the economy. 

Editor’s note : Views in the article do not necessarily reflect the views of


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  1. What was any good about Mao’s economic policy? If someone tries to tell me that during the butcher’s time not a single Chinese went hungry. Don’t even think about telling me that. If you do, I will clobber you with the 50 million Chinese that died from starvation during Mao’s ‘The Great Leap Forward’ and ‘Let The Hundred Flowers Bloom’. Don’t start with me about that demon!!!

  2. I wish Brother had mentioned about the role of the late President Nixon. As visionary he was about the future global economy, he correctly chose Red China to be the factory of the world. By doing that, unintentionally, in a way, he saved Mao’s and his successors’ behind. We who happened to be there on business in the late 1970’s and early 80’s how China looked like industrially and economically. Mao was skeptical about President Nixon’s ‘ideas’ but his successor embraced it and went on to designate the huge swath of Southern China and Guangdong Region a ‘Special Economic Zone’. In his twisted mind he believed that lead China to a perfect ‘socialism’ where milk and honey will rain and flow like raging rivers. Then the world will never forget about the pro democracy rally in 1989. It was believed that his cadres encouraged thousands of young people to go in the streets and demonstrate. Then he sent his tanks and APC’s and butchered them in their tens of thousands. That was a perfect replica of what his predecessor, the demon Mao, did in the 1950’s. Mao felt that students in high school, universities and professor had started criticizing his policy/ideology beginning the mid 1950’s and wanted to smoke out those grumbling below his watchful radar. So he came up with the so-called ‘Let Hundred Flowers Bloom’. In promoting this game plan, he urged everyone to say anything on his/her mind. Millions took the ploy and started telling him that his ideology is leading their country to a disaster. While they were writing and talking in the open he was taking down names. Then his bloody carnage began in late 1950’s lasting thru the early 1960’s in which millions were rounded up and butchered. Deng replicated that to the letter at 1989 at Tiananmen Square and in every city. Tens of thousands were never seen again.
    So, please don’t start with me either about Mao or Deng.


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