China under Mao
China under Mao (19 November 1962)
Historical Map of China, Mongolia, & Korea
Mao's attempts to rapidly modernize China led to the disastrous Great Leap Forward from 1958-61. At the same time, Tibet unsuccessfully attempted to throw off Chinese rule and its leader, the Dalai Lama, took sanctuary in India.
Sino-Indian tensions were further increased by a border dispute over two Himalayan territories connected to Tibet, Aksai Chin and the North East Frontier Agency. In 1962, China defeated India in a short border war but agreed to withdraw from the North East Frontier.
Great Leap Forward
Mao Zedong, Chairman of the People's Republic of China, launched the Great Leap Forward - a campaign of rapid industrialization and collectivization in an attempt by China to overtake the United Kingdom's economy in fifteen years. To facilitate this, farms were made communal, each neighborhood built 'backyard furnaces' to produce steel, and alleged pests such as sparrows were systematically exterminated. The result was economic regression and the Great Chinese Famine - a disaster which killed from 15 to 55 million people.
Following severe unrest in the Chinese-administered Tibetan regions of Kham and Amdo starting in 1956, hostility to the Chinese presence in Tibet increased. In March 1959, Lhasa broke out in revolt, lasting for several days until it was brutally suppressed by the People's Liberation Army. Fearing that the Chinese government was planning to abduct him, the 14th Dalai Lama fled to exile in India.
In 1957, the People's Republic of China began building a road across Aksai Chin, a Himalayan region also claimed by India, prompting the Indians to increase troop numbers and border patrols in the area. On 20 October 1962, the Chinese launched two attacks against India - one in Aksai Chin, the other 1000 km east on the also-disputed North-East Frontier Agency (NEFA). After overwhelming the Indian positions, the Chinese declared a unilateral ceasefire, withdrawing from NEFA but retaining their hold over Aksai Chin.