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Chinese Village, Socialist State by Edward…

Chinese Village, Socialist State (1991)

by Edward Friedman

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Another view of the CCP and its role in its attempts to reform the rural villages. Acts as a counterpoint to Fanshen in some of its assertions.

The authors argue that the CCP's initial goals of land reform and equality had been accomplished with a fair degree of success by 1946, and it was the party's later, more dogmatic policies, which led to more erratic results with agriculture and societal reform. They visited Wugong village, in the northeast of China, in Hebei province, about 20 times over some 30 years, and conducted many interviews and investigations. They get credit for making this village come alive, as Hinton does.

The earlier years, when the CCP posited itself as an agricultural reformist/'peasant' movement, were those most beneficial to the rural workers. From the early 1930s to 1946, the average 'poor peasant' was 300% better off in some respects. But power, of course, corrupts. After the tax and land reforms in the mid 1940s, the authors attack the CCP's move from agricultural reform to massive statist central planning.

The book aims to discuss the role of the state at the local level. The central planning based on broad goals, which did not take into account individual village requirements, was a disaster. The 'household iron forges' and other such follies during the Great Leap Forward were utter catastrophes. Patronage within the CCP was necessary for prosperity. Class status was based off of an arbitrary year and fixed forever. The peasants adapted and endured.

It will be impossible to conduct an exhaustive study like this of all of China's villages. These broad criticisms or praises of Maoist policy require more careful examination. Each settlement is a world unto itself. The experiences of those in the mountains or Xinjiang or Tibet is a world apart from those in the Yangtse or Pearl River valleys. Each is different. It's important to note that both here and in Fanshen, the CCP had a role at least since the 1930s. What of the Pearl River areas, which were not administrated by the CCP until 1949? Clearly more observation needs to be done.

One wonders if the Maoist years of statism and consolidation were necessary in order to provide a basis of Deng's reforms. A case can be made that the artificially low grain prices allowed the state to develop a fiscal base for later heavy industry and foreign trade. China goes on. 500 million people still live in villages like these. The countryside endures. ( )
  HadriantheBlind | Mar 30, 2013 |
An extensively researched, detailed, and nuanced examination of the relationship between the rising Chinese Communist Party and rural China. Fascinating insights abound - the discussion of early peasant collectives is particularly illuminating. Superb. ( )
  Layabout | Apr 1, 2010 |
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