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Model Rebels

Model Rebels: The Rise and Fall of China's Richest Village

Bruce Gilley
Copyright Date: 2001
Edition: 1
Pages: 235
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  • Book Info
    Model Rebels
    Book Description:

    A portentous tale of rural rebellion unfolds in Bruce Gilley's moving chronicle of a village on the northern China plains during the post-1978 economic reform era. Gilley examines how Daqiu Village, led by Yu Zuomin, a charismatic Communist Party secretary and president of the local industrial conglomerate, became the richest village in China and a model for the rural reforms of the 1980s and early 1990s. A growing campaign of political resistance led to increasing tensions between the villagers and the Chinese state, and eventually, in an event that made headlines around the world, an armed confrontation between the village and higher authorities backed by paramilitary police brought Yu Zuomin and his village crashing down.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-92567-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Prologue
    (pp. xiii-xvi)

    In the late summer of 1993, a fuzzy-headed Chinese peasant with bushy eyebrows and big ears was sentenced to twenty years in prison. The charges against him were both plentiful and serious: stealing state secrets, harboring criminals, obstructing justice, and much else. But what made the trial a national, even an international, sensation was the identity of the accused: Yu Zuomin, the celebrated Communist Party secretary of China’s richest village, Daqiu.¹

    When the verdict had been read aloud to the packed courtroom in the northern China port city of Tianjin, a deflated Yu Zuomin (pronounced “yoo zoe-meen”) leaned forward in...

  6. ONE Yanzhao Elegy
    (pp. 1-36)

    Once you pass the pear orchards and vegetable fields of suburban Tianjin on your way south toward the village of Daqiu, the landscape changes suddenly. The tree-lined roads and lotus ponds of the former colonial port city and its environs disappear. So too do the brick houses and well-paved roads that mark the current-day prosperity of Tianjin. By the time you reach Jinghai, the capital of the county by the same name, the countryside is dry and bleak. Corn fields and dust bowls envelop the scene. Adobe and mud huts, known collectively by the Chinese peasants as “dirt houses” (tufang...

  7. TWO Four Hens and a Slogan
    (pp. 37-72)

    Daqiu was not alone in succumbing to the allure of industry in the 1980s. Across China, farmers everywhere were dropping their scythes and heading for factories. By 1986 , seventy-nine million people, or 20 percent of the rural labor force, were working in rural factories and producing a quarter of the country’s industrial output. From making simple items like footwear, clothing, paper, bricks, ceramics, household goods, and plastics in the early 1980s, rural concerns were soon moving into more advanced sectors, like vehicles, electrical machinery, and home appliances.

    “What took us by complete surprise was the development of rural industries,”...

  8. THREE Long Live Understanding!
    (pp. 73-115)

    In all the years he had ruled Daqiu, Yu Zuomin had been openly challenged by just one family in the village. The sixty-four-year-old patriarch of this family was named Liu Yutian (not related to the family of Mr. Do-It-All, Liu Wanquan) and was known by his given name, Jade Field. Though he was Yu’s senior by just a few years, and the two had played together as children, Jade Field considered himself a village elder. That meant he could second-guess Yu’s decisions and criticize his rule. There was nothing wrong with that, of course. Indeed, Yu’s autocratic tendencies and his...

  9. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  10. FOUR Outlaws of the Marsh
    (pp. 117-145)

    It was the last day of November 1992 and a chill wind blew through the steel factories and worker dormitories of Daqiu Village. On this day, Yu Zuomin found himself standing in the small mortuary attached to the village hospital. Before him lay the body of his nephew, Li Fengzheng, the late president of the village’s agricultural holding company, Huada Group.

    Fengzheng, or Righteous Wind, had been one of the village’s most trusted and capable managers. Under his leadership, the Huada Group had assumed a key role alongside the Four Hens as a major incubator of the Daqiu economy. But...

  11. FIVE Conclusions
    (pp. 146-166)

    The rise and fall of Daqiu Village is a portentous tale of rebellion in rural China. Through a combination of luck, leadership, and hard work, a small and unassuming village rose from the alkaline soil of the northern China plains to become an industrial powerhouse. The arresting development of the village and the charisma of its leader, Yu Zuomin, made it a perfect model for the rural reforms of the 1980s and early 1990s. But power and fame also allowed the village to flex its political muscles in ways that caused increasing disquiet in the national leadership. When those tensions...

  12. Afterword
    (pp. 167-180)

    Three-story tiled houses, their sloping roof ridges adorned with ceramic figures of mythological animals . . . White marble bridges engraved with cranes and clouds . . . Children with rosy cheeks . . . Fathers and mothers astride moto-scooters . . . Happy . . . Healthy . . . Rich.

    Those were the images of Daqiu Village broadcast to the nation by a team of reporters and photographers from the official Xinhua news agency in December 1998 as part of media coverage to mark the twentieth anniversary of China’s economic reforms.¹ Daqiu was again prospering as the storm...

    (pp. 181-184)
  14. NOTES
    (pp. 185-206)
    (pp. 207-210)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 211-219)