Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung


March 5, 1956

[Part of Comrade Mao Tsetung's instructions when the departments concerned under the State Council reported their work on handicrafts.]

1. It seems to me that the pace of the socialist transformation of independent handicrafts was a little too slow. I said so in January this year at the conference of secretaries of provincial and municipal Party committees. By the end of 1955 only two million handicraftsmen had been organized. In the first two months of this year, however, three million more have been organized, so in the main the work can be accomplished this year; that is fine. You are contemplating an average annual increase of 10.9 per cent in the total value of handicraft production over a period of three five-year plans; that seems a bit too small. We set too low a target in the First Five-Year Plan and have suffered a little in consequence; it need not be changed now, but you should use your discretion.

2. As for the size of handicraft co-operatives, generally speaking, about one hundred people per co-operative would be appropriate, although some may have several hundred and others only a few dozen.

3. It is a good idea to organize co-operatives of the blacksmiths and carpenters who make the rounds of the villages to repair farm implements and serve agricultural production, the peasants will certainly welcome this. That is what handicraftsmen in China have been doing for thousands of years. Organized in co-operatives, the craftsmen can improve their skills and serve the peasants better.

4. You have said that the masses were dissatisfied because production was centralized in the repair and service trades and too many service stations were closed during the high tide of the transformation of handicrafts. That was too bad! What is to be done now? "The general trend under heaven is that there is bound to be unification after prolonged division and division after prolonged unification."

5. The highest labour productivity in mechanized and semi-mechanized production is over thirty times the lowest in handicraft production. The annual value of output per capita is 20,000 to 30,000 yuan in modernized state industry, 5,000 yuan in mechanized and semi-mechanized co-operatives, 2,000 yuan in big co-operatives with more than 100 handicraftsmen, 1,500 yuan in small co-operatives and 800 to 900 yuan among independent handicraftsmen. Compare the differences in labour productivity and it becomes clear that the handicrafts must develop in the direction of semi-mechanization and mechanization and that labour productivity must be raised.

6. All the handicraft trades perform useful services. They provide food, clothing and other things for daily use. They also produce arts and crafts, such as cloisonne or the glass grapes blown by "the five spinsters of the Chang family".[1] Besides, the technique of roasting Peking duck is exportable. People in some service trades make their rounds of the streets and villages, taxing all sorts of things, as in the play Mending Jars for Aunty Wang -- these people travel around and are well-informed. The Dawn-in-the-East Market in Peking displays more than six thousand kinds of articles for sale.

Mind you, don't let our fine handicraft products be discarded. Pock-marked no, not even ten thousand years from now. Anything good and characteristically Chinese that has been discarded must be restored and even improved.

7. It is a good idea to improve the quality of arts and crafts and to look after the old master craftsmen, and you should start now and speed up the work. You can set up organizations, open schools and call meetings. Yang Shih-hui, the ivory carver, is actually a very fine artist. Once he and I ate at a table together, and while observing me he was able to carve my likeness. I could have observed him for several days without being able to draw a picture of him, I'm afraid.

8. The prices of equipment and materials allocated by the state to the co-operatives should be reasonably fixed and must not be set at the normal allocation prices. Co-operatives are not the same as state enterprises and there is a difference between socialist collective ownership and socialist ownership by the whole people. At the outset the economic foundations of the co-operatives are not strong enough and they need state assistance. It is a good idea for the state to allocate to the co-operatives at low prices old machines which have been replaced as well as the machinery and factory buildings rendered surplus by the amalgamation of privately owned plants under joint state-private management. "Give in order to take." When the foundations of the co-operatives have become strong enough, the state will collect a larger tax from them and raise the prices of raw materials too. By that time the co-operatives will be owned by the collective in form but in reality by the whole people.

The state should help the co-operatives to achieve semi-mechanization and mechanization, and they themselves should strive for the same goal. The greater the speed of mechanization, the shorter the life of your handicraft co-operatives. The more your "kingdom" shrinks, the better it is for our common cause. You should exert yourselves to hasten mechanization and make a greater contribution to the state.

9. Since the value of handicraft output forms a quarter of the total value of the country's industrial output, why is it that the supply of raw materials for the handicrafts as well as their production and sales have not been made part of the state plan? The handicrafts assume such large proportions that they should be included in the state plan.

10. In some places the Party committees are so occupied with other tasks that they don't put handicrafts on the agenda; this is not good. Why are some cadres rather unwilling to undertake this work? I myself would very much like to do it, as it is very important.

11. You should select outstanding examples from among the sixty-thousand-odd handicraft co-operatives and compile material on their typical experience. The examples should be chosen from every locality and every trade and should include good and bad, big and small, concentrated and scattered, as well as semi-mechanized and mechanized co-operatives. They should be published in book form like Socialist Upsurge in China's Countryside.


1. This refers to the five women of Master Chang's family in Peking famous for the glass grapes they blew.

Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung