Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
State and Peasant in Contemporary China

State and Peasant in Contemporary China: The Political Economy of Village Government

Jean C. Oi
Copyright Date: 1989
Edition: 1
Pages: 308
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    State and Peasant in Contemporary China
    Book Description:

    The political economy of village government.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-91189-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  6. Abbreviations of Newspapers and Journals Cited
    (pp. xix-xx)
  7. Note on Measures and Transliteration
    (pp. xxi-xxii)
  8. CHAPTER 1 Peasant Politics in a Communist Economy: An Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    Communist revolutions eradicate traditional power structures, but they do not alter the basic issue of peasant politics: how the harvest shall be divided. Although the revolution removes landlords from the historical stage, the state and its agents appear as newly powerful claimants on the harvest. To a historically unprecedented degree, the state directs the division of the harvest, and this brings it into direct conflict with the peasantry. Before the revolution the harvest was divided in the context of a class relationship, but after the revolution it is divided in the context of an increasingly direct state-society relationship.

    In most...

  9. CHAPTER 2 Dividing the Harvest
    (pp. 13-42)

    Legitimacy is a difficult political concept to define. As much seems to rest on form as on substance; the way a government handles a situation is often as important as its resolution.¹ Nowhere is this more true than with regard to conflict over food. Charles Tilly argues:

    The initial choice of methods of extraction, . . . the type of response to conflicts over food supply adopted all independently affected the path and pace of state making, as well as the structure of power which emerged around the nineteenth-and twentieth-century state.²

    James Scott, who studies the normative roots of peasant...

  10. CHAPTER 3 The Struggle over the Surplus
    (pp. 43-65)

    Vivienne Shue writes that the state grain procurement system,tonggou tongxiao,was well received in the transition to socialism.¹ She argues that the government provided peasants with strong incentives to sell grain to the state, offering competitive prices and security in 1953 – 1954. Although Shue may be right, the conditions she describes held only for a short period of time. The context in which the procurement system operated changed markedly, but the procurement system itself changed little after its initial implementation; in large part, that is the problem.²

    When first offered, the state price was competitive with the market price,...

  11. CHAPTER 4 Local Grain Reserves as a State Strategy, 1956–1978
    (pp. 66-83)

    The brutality of Soviet collectivization and the procurement crisis that followed has caused Westerners to use the imagery of Stalin thinking of the countryside and the peasants as merely the “milking cow” to satisfy the needs of rapid industrialization. Students of China have resisted that image in describing the Chinese Communist party’s relationship with its peasantry; in fact they have made a point to distinguish it from the relationship that existed in the Soviet Union. Shue’s book on the use of incentives to smooth the socialist transition is within this tradition, as is Bernstein’s early comparative work on Chinese and...

  12. CHAPTER 5 Bureaucratic Strategies of Control
    (pp. 84-103)

    Control by the Chinese communist state does reach to the grass roots, as the totalitarian model stresses, but the question is whether it does so effectively. Previous research on the Chinese countryside suggests that the system could be circumvented, that peasants and cadres have been able to cheat the state and pursue their own interests.¹ In the last two chapters I have shown that grain procurements declined over time and that the state employed alternative strategies of control. This chapter examines the forms and mechanisms of state control in an attempt to understand how the local levels could thwart the...

  13. CHAPTER 6 Evading Controls: Team Leader Strategies
    (pp. 104-130)

    Previous chapters have implied that the struggle over the harvest resulted from the need of production teams to retain more grain than was allowed under the state’s apportionment policy. This chapter will present an accounting of these needs and consider the economic and political consequences of the strict budgeting process. The state created a context where the team leader faced conflicting demands for a limited good—the team harvest. The state’s apportionment policy created a maximum surplus but left teams with insufficient funding to meet their expenses.

    Team leaders were in a difficult position, but they were not without recourse....

  14. CHAPTER 7 A Clientelist System: Collectivized Agriculture and Cadre Power
    (pp. 131-154)

    Some team leaders were clients to brigade and commune officials, but all team leaders had the potential to be patrons within their own production team. They could manipulate peasant income opportunities, welfare funds, and rationed commodities. This created the basis for a system of clientelist politicswithinthe village. This chapter explores both the limits of team leader authority and peasant dependence to define the characteristics of socialist clientelism.

    The Chinese terms for cultivating personal relationships areguanxiandganqing.Both expressions may be roughly translated as having connections, or a personal relationship, with someone. Butguanxiandganqingare...

  15. CHAPTER 8 A New State Strategy: Prices, Contracts, and Free Markets
    (pp. 155-182)

    Just two years after the death of Mao Zedong, the December 1978 Third Plenum of the Eleventh Party Congress opened the door to a new era of rural development. In rapid succession the government reopened markets, raised state procurement prices for agricultural goods, diversified the rural economy away from its singular emphasis on grain production, and replaced the collective system of agricultural production with the household responsibility system.¹ In 1985 it abolished the system of unified procurement in favor of contract purchases. Thus, within less than a decade after Mao’s death the party dismantled the defining structural features of collectivized...

  16. CHAPTER 9 The Evolution of a Clientelist System: The Household Economy and Cadre Power
    (pp. 183-226)

    The state decision to adopt the household responsibility system and abandon collective agricultural production ushered in a new stage in the rural economy, allowing peasants a generally higher standard of living and an altered way of life. Peasants are now free from the confines of the collective and the dictates of the team leader. Now the possibility of more income options and diverse rural employment opportunities exists. Peasants may become specialized households within the agricultural sector, or they may leave agriculture entirely and engage in sidelines, work in factories, and participate in the free market.

    To achieve this new stage,...

  17. CHAPTER 10 State and Peasant in China: Concluding Reflections
    (pp. 227-236)

    The underlying theme of this book is that the Chinese revolution did not eliminate the struggle over the harvest that is central to peasant politics. In fact, after eliminating landlords and collectivizing agriculture, the state for the first time stepped directly into the struggle with peasants over their harvest. In that struggle the state showed itself to be a powerful and autonomous actor capable of penetrating to the lowest reaches of society. But that penetration became characterized by personalized authority exercised in a clientelist fashion, leaving the door open for peasant participation through the use of personal networks and evasion....

  18. Appendix A: Research and Documentation
    (pp. 237-255)
  19. Appendix B: List of Interviewees
    (pp. 256-258)
  20. References
    (pp. 259-272)
  21. Index
    (pp. 273-287)