Environmental History. Jan2020, Vol. 25 Issue 1, p62-84. 23p.
Afforestation, Tree planting, Forests & forestry -- China, Nature -- Religious aspects, Maoism, History of ecology, and Socialism -- China -- History
This article attempts to cast doubt on prior scholarship regarding Maoist environmental rhetoric regarding forestry, which has tended to characterize it as destructive, militaristic, and irrationally extractive. Against this simplistic portrayal of Maoist rhetoric concerning Chinese forestry and Mao Zedong's attitudes toward nature, this article demonstrates that the rhetoric of forestry and environment in general during Mao's period is scientific, rational, and even constructive regarding tree planting. To demonstrate the rational and premeditated aspect of socialist forestry and environmental history, the article first explores the speeches and writings of Liang Xi, probably the most important forester and bureaucratic forestry official in early socialist China, who advocated tree planting as a way of tackling the problem of the scarcity of trees. During the early 1950s, his firm belief that tree planting could solve the problems of the Yellow River clashed with hydrologists who also aspired to solve China's environmental challenges. Using newspaper reports from the People's Daily , the article then examines the rhetoric of the "Greening the Motherland" campaign launched by Mao in 1956. During this campaign, Mao pushed the Yellow River's tree-planting initiative to a national scale, thanks largely to the foresters' concerted efforts of persuasion. This nationwide campaign required foresters to instill knowledge of tree planting in a broader range of people at the grassroots level as well as to integrate it within the socialist revolutionary discourse. Since various literary sources from the early 1960s reflect this discourse, they provide us with a powerful means for exploring how foresters and writers achieved this goal. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]