The Great Leap Forward
The initial stage of the aviation industry construction in the Second Five—year Plan was coincided with the country—wide movement of the "Great Leap Forward". That movement brought heavy setbacks and losses to the flurishing development. Seeking more and fast, exaggerating subjective role without counting practical possibility prevailed in aviation industry. Arrogance and overanxiety for quick result were developed under the situation of "Great Leap Forward", stressing the method of "trial production at a fast pace". The "Great Leap Forward" of the late 1950s greatly inspired the Chinese spirit of warfare, and developed a series of various types of civilian aircraft. In addition to "Beijing No. 1", there were many imitations and self-developed models of China's aviation industry during this period, including civil aircraft, such as "Songhuajiang No. 1", "Capital No. 1", "Yan'an No. 1" and "Feilong No. 1". "Heilongjiang No. 1", "Red Flag No. 1" and "Shenhang No. 1" etc.,
A lot of serious quality problems happened due to careless large scale process changes, blindly reducing the use of necessary tools and fixtures and standard parts and the cancellation of many approved procedures and inspection operations. There was not a single qualified aircraft or engine of the J-6 and Z-5 aircraft delivered from 1958 to 1960.
The unpractical high design target was set for the new aircraft. Although the East Wind 107 fighter whose design was started in 1958 already had high target performance, another development programme East Wind 113 fighter had even higher performance target. It was designed by a military engineering institute and was put into trial production too almost at the same time. It was hoped to break the "thermal barrier" and reach 25,000 m service ceiling and Mach 2.5 maximum speed in level flight, without sufficient necessary development and test facilities and technical base. The development of East Wind 107 was later stopped in order to concentrate on East Wind 113, but the latter had to be cancelled too because it was too far from reality.
There were also a lot of problems in capital construction. Under the slogan of "Two for Three, One for Two" ( i.e. three—dollar things done with two dollars and two—dollar things done by one dollar), too many projects but with overlow standard and overhigh construction speed were constructed. Consequently, 1.02 million square meters floor area buildings, about 70% of the total construction area built by 25 construction units from 1958 to 1960, were reconstructed or repaired later due to their inferior quality. More over, more than 50 large projects were constructed simultaneously with long construction cycle and less investment effect. There was not a single newly built factory up to the final acceptance standard until 1962.
Those problems concerning product quality, new aircraft development and capital construction were all closely linked with negligence of scientific management. At that time, scientific management was devalued as taboos and commandments fettering productivity. Therefore, each factory or agency of construction and scientific research had to reshuffle its management organizations, cadres and technical persons were ordered to leave their posts, reasonable regulations and rules and strict technical responsibilities were cancelled, which made a mess of the technical foundation of production and scientific research. Because the quality inspection system under an unified leadership was neglected as the typical case of "one man leadership system", quality management was greatly weakened. The two important pillar—process regulations and quality supervision with which the product quality was ensured during the First Five—year Plan period had been vanished almost completely.
During the "Great Leap Forward", leaders of the Ministry of Defence Industry and the Bureau of Aviation Industry were somewhat hot—minded and, hence, some unpractical practices like "doubling the output value" and "the fast trial production" were initiated, bringing negative effect to the production of enterprises. However, the quality of aviation product was after all the issue of high sensitivity and great importance and the alertness could not but be aroused by the weakened management and inferior quality of products. With the support of Minister Zhao Erlu, the Bureau of Aviation Industry held meetings in succession starting from early 1959 in Nanchang, Harbin and Xi'an to lower temperature and improve quality of products, stressing that quality first was the unshakable policy of aviation industry and the effective management organizations and regulations and rules were requested to be restored.
To stop the tendency of getting worse in quality, Minister Zhao Erlu wrote twice to enterprises and called one telephone meeting. He also said sincerely to leading cadres: "Product quality should be regarded as the most important thing even at the last minute of our life if we are determined to work in aviation industry for all our lives." But it was a pity that those "temperature lowering" measures had not been implemented due to the nationwide struggle "against right deviation". Further efforts were made by the Minister at the beginning of 1960, who personally went to Shenyang to check product quality in aviation factories, requesting factories to reestablish quality assurance system and to support the movement of delivering finished articles without defects. Leaders of the Bureau of Aviation Industry such as Wang Xiping, Jiang You and Xu Changyu later headed groups respectively to Shenyang and Harbin factories to guide the reestablishment of quality control system.
The Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council were soon alarmed by the inferior quality of military products. The Defence Industry Commission of the Military Commission of CCCPC and the Secretariat of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China issued circulars and held telephone meetings in August and September of 1960 about the detailed arrangement of reestablishing quality control system. To strengthen the defence industry, decision was made by the government in September to re–seperate military production from civil production which had been merged into the Ministry of Machine Building and, the Third Ministry of Machine Building was formed to take care of the management of defence industry, with Zhang Liankui as the Minister and Xue Shaoqing as the Vice Minister and Director of the Bureau of Aviation Industry.
In September 1959, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China formed a new military committee. The chairman was Mao Zedong, and the vice-chairmen were Lin Biao, He Long, and Nie Rongzhen. On November 7, the Standing Committee of the Central Military Commission, after listening to the report of the Minister of the First Machinery Industry, Zhao Erlu, on the situation of the defense industry, suggested to the Central Committee to establish a National Defense Industry Committee under the leadership of the Military Commission to strengthen the leadership of the defense industry. On January 5, 1960, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China approved the proposal and appointed He Long as the director of the National Defense Industry Commission. At that time, during the "Great Leap Forward" period, the "Left" guiding ideology eager to achieve success in economic construction inevitably affected the defense industry. "Communist winds", "exaggerated winds" and blind command winds have caused serious consequences for the production of aviation products. He Long devoted tremendous energy, with the courage and courage of the proletarian revolutionaries, to make efforts to correct the unhealthy trends in the field of defense industry, and minimize the loss of state property.
The defense industry is the material basis for modernizing the military. As the vice chairman of the military commission in charge of the defense industry, He Long knew the weight of his shoulders. The day after he received his appointment, he held a meeting of the National Defense Industry Committee and decided to set up an office of the National Defense Industry Committee under the committee to handle daily affairs. He Long solemnly said to everyone: "The party wants me to manage, and I must really manage it. I am in charge of the defense industry, and I can't just hang a sign and don't do actual work. I want to do a solid job."
He Long attaches great importance to investigation and research in his work. In late February 1960, when he participated in the expanded meeting of the Central Military Commission in Guangzhou, he agreed with Nie Rongzhen and Luo Ruiqing that he would definitely inspect the defense industry after the meeting and plan to spend one year to inspect key military industrial enterprises across the country and make a comprehensive investigation. the study. After the meeting, they set off to inspect Nanning, Guiyang and Chongqing first. On March 17, He Long, Nie Rongzhen and Liu Yalou visited the aircraft manufacturing plant on the outskirts of Chengdu.
This plant is the second fighter jet manufacturing plant designed and built by itself in 1958. The slogan of the plant is "built in one year" and the aircraft was produced that year. When He Long inspected this factory, he walked with a walking stick because his leg disease did not heal. Entering the factory office, he saw the factory leader holding a thick stack of documents and asked: "What are you doing with so much information? Are you going to report?" The factory leader replied: "Yes." He Long said: "First No, let’s talk about it."
During the "Great Leap Forward" period, the "Left" guidance eager to achieve success in economic construction inevitably affected the defense industry. "Communist winds", "exaggerated winds" and blind command winds have caused serious consequences for the production of aviation products.
The unprecedented large scale meeting of leaders at three levels of the defence industry was held by the Defence Industry Commission in December 1960, which gieatly accelerated the reestablishment of quality control system currently implemented in aviation industry. After the meeting, all factories unfolded more detailed work regarding reestablishment of quality control system. But under that historical situation, the wrong "Left" guiding thought could not be corrected. "Self–criticism" was practiced at each level, a number of leading cadres were hurt and enthusiasm and creativeness of technical personnel were dampened. Incorrect criticism to civil production affect¬ed the implementation of the principle of combining military production with civil production for a long time.
Three years of "Great Leap Forward" had brought heavy losses to aviation industry. But after all, it was only a small portion of 10 years of initial establishment and in the first 7 years fast development and great achievement were made. Some creative and fundamental achievements were made evidently in some fields even during the three years of "big leap forward". By 1960, China's aviation industry had become a newly established business. Fighters, trainers, helicopters and small transports were being manufactured in batches. New designs were on the drawing boards and foundation for the later development had been laid.