As a socialist revolution, the Great Leap Forward has at least three positive effects.
First is the liberation of humanity. People gained their dignity. People are in control of properties, and not the slave of properties. The most important part of human liberation is the Chinese women who become equal to men. Mao proclaimed The Women Hold Up Half of the Sky during this socialist movement. All feminist rights movements in the world have not reached the achievement that Chinese women accomplished during the Great Leap Forward.
Second, the movement built an irrigation system of reservoirs, dams, and canals for agriculture, prepared the population that doubled in just a quarter of a century.
Third, the first working-class emerges in China. There was an industrial movement within the Great Leap Forward movement. Everyone to make steel and iron. It looks silly and laughable. However, it is very much like the Dot-com bubble crash. Dot-Com is a new industry, and the industry was built by a bubble crash. When China was sanctioned and blockaded, the industry in China was a new industry and need a bubble to transcend from an agricultural society into an industrial society. Mao built a complete industrial system under the world sanction and blockade and in a short time. Dot-Com bubble created the first generation of information professionals for a brand new industry, and the Great Leap Forward created the first generation of industrial workers within an agricultural society.
Let’s evaluate some negatives. Killing all sparrows to protect the corps was a mistake that eroded the ecosystem and is one of the factors for the three years of famine. The European killed cats the natural enemy of rats in the Middle Age is the same mistake of killing sparrows the natural enemy of pests. Killing cats by the Church is responsible for the Black Death the same as killing sparrows to the famine. Black Death reduced the European population by one-third or half, depending on what estimate we take. The disaster of the Great Leap Forward is over-exaggerated by many. Chinese population stagnated for a century from 1840 to 1949, and doubled from 400 million to 800 million under Mao, not to mention that the population under Mao become more educated, more healthy, and most importantly, happier. The worst years under Mao were still much better than the best years during the Hundred Years of Humiliation.
The Great Cultural Revolution is a great revolution. First, it is the first time the ruling group, the CPC, initiated the revolution asking the 99% to again the 1% elites. This is the first time in human history that elites ask the mass to revolution against themselves. We can compare the Occupy Wall Street movement to the Great Cultural Revolution that both are 99% against 1%. Second, Mao did it in the name of Proletarian Dictatorship, or the dictatorship of the mass. Think about it, the movement is asking the 1% elites to live in the countryside with the peasants, or with the workers. Or the 1% to live with 99%. In the Proletarian Dictatorship, 99% is the ruling class, and 1% is ruled. This is the first time in human history that the ruling class asks the ruled to live the same living standard as the ruling. In reality, the 1% when they went to the countryside, were mostly living a little better than the peasants overall. The peasants are kind and know it was hard for the 1% to live in such a poor living standard, they tolerate the 1% living better than the 99%. The two First Times in Human history are very positive for Human history.
The Great Cultural Revolution is a democratic revolution, and evolved into mob rule that harmed many people, just like the French Revolution evolved into the Reign of Terror. By comparison, the Great Cultural Revolution made more human progress than the French Revolution and evoked less social damage. Since Charles the Great, France had been the de facto superpower in Europe for a thousand years. The French Revolution killed so many elites in France that France never regains its superpower position after the French Revolution. France lost virtually all its elites that its science and philosophy became behind British and Germany ever since. By comparison, the elites of China have mostly survived the Great Cultural Revolution that China has been rising after the Great Cultural Revolution. People consider the Great Cultural Revolution is much more horror than the French Revolution because, as the victims of both revolutions, not many elites survived the France Revolution to tell the victim stories, while most of the elites survived the Great Cultural Revolution and telling the victim stories.
To the critic of historical events, one should evaluate the social revolution before and after the event, so as to assess the effect of the historical events. Nothing is perfect. Both the French Revolution and the Great Cultural Revolution contributed to Human progress, and both paid the cost of social disruption. If people have a choice only within these two, the Great Cultural Revolution is definitely much better than the French Revolution.
The same is to critic a historical figure. When Mao was in power in 1949, China was a ruin after a century of humiliation. When Mao died, China already became a strong nation that can resist the pressures of both superpowers at the same time.