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Fanshen: A Documentary of Revolution in a…

Fanshen: A Documentary of Revolution in a Chinese Village (1966)

by William Hinton

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  OberlinSWAP | Jul 21, 2015 |
This is a very interesting look at the history of rural China and the turbulent revolution which followed (fanshen - {ûzk) (Did I get that right?).

It is important to note that this book is uncritically supportive of Mao's policies. To be fair, this, if anywhere, where he did the most good.

Village life in the late 19th and early 20th century was dirty, nasty, brutish, and short. I recall testimonies of other villages having to purchase mines and machine guns even before the Japanese invaded because they feared the 'local bullies, evil gentry', and warlords so much. Robbery and graft made even local trade almost impossible. Many other villages weren't so lucky. Feudal management, heavy taxation, and natural disasters contributed to years of famine. Even in good years, there was always a risk of famine. People fought and competed over horse dung for their farms.

So when a guy from this new-fangled 'Communist party' shows up promising land reform, fairer treatment of the citizens, abolition of the old customs, the poor tenant farmers are naturally going to listen to what he has to say.

The Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) was another brutal time. Again, one of Mao's best moves during this time was to treat the civilians with utmost respect. The Eighth Route Army (which later became the PLA) had policies of not stealing or foraging for food, depending on local kindness, and treated the civilians with extraordinary respect. This gained him a large backing of loyal allies and friends. Compare this to their enemies - the Japanese had a policy of Kill All, Loot All, Burn All, and even the GMD wasn't much better - they attacked villages and armies which were suspected of being Communist supporters.

So of course the rural population would go over to Mao immediately after the war was over, and they were integral in his victory in the Chinese Civil War. The people of Long Bow village suffered under Japanese occupation, and they yearned for any help. The CCP was happy to deliver.

This book chronicles the reform and revolution which takes place during the late 1940s. It moves from the abolition of the feudal structure to the emancipation of women, the expulsion of the Christian community, and the distribution of land to the farmers. In one case, breaking up one farm and distributing it to the peasants resulted in the average doubling of their plots. They moved from the brink of starvation to being free and healthy almost overnight.

The process is not swift and smooth. There are inner party struggles. But this is a party of agrarian reform, which was much needed, and much progress was made. It's hardly a wonder why they won. This is a very well told and interesting narrative of ( )
1 vote HadriantheBlind | Mar 30, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0394704657, Paperback)

More than thirty years after its initial publication, William Hinton's Fanshen continues to be the essential source for those fascinated with China's continual process of rural reform and social change. This edition will appeal to anyone interested in understanding China's complex social processes, and to those who wish to rediscover and re-experience this classic volume again.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:58 -0400)

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