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"At the Time a Silkworm Breaking Its Cocoon": The Status of Chinese Rural Areas, the Peasants and the Differences between the Regions before and after 1978

Author: SuHaiZhou
Tutor: YangFengCheng
School: Renmin University of China
Course: Contemporary Chinese History
Keywords: The Status of Chinese Rural Areas The Peasants The Differences Between The Regions Before and After 1978
CLC: D422.9
Type: PhD thesis
Year: 2008
Downloads: 431
Quote: 1
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Year 1978 is a remarkable one in the Chinese Contemporary History. Studies and researches focusing on Year 1978 are not only historically meaningful but also of practical importance. During the 30 years from the very beginning of the reformation,we have seen complicated feelings towards the rural reform, from either ordinary peasants to researchers, be it respectful or sad, praiseful or hateful. How can we understand the living status of the rural areas and the peasants in the early stages of the reform around year 1978? The answer is simple and complex. It is simple as it appears that an answer can be concluded once we take into account as much factors as possible, such as the political, economical, social and phycological etc. It is rather complex when we realize those factors are so much inter-related that it is difficult to prioritize their importance. Furthermore,the impact atrributabel to those factors is neither limited within a period of time in history,nor disappeared as the historical events come to an end.Without question, the achievement of the Chinese rural reformation is very resplendent. The passion and strength of Chinese peasants in the reformation changes their situation that their living conditions in rural area is too bad in long time. Although it is the rural areas where the reform took its place,the peasants are hardly the major beneficiaries. 30 years after the rural reform,“Three Nong”phenomenon becomes a foundamantal issue stunting the development of Chinese society. To summarize the living status of the rural areas and the peasants after 30 years from the reform, someone put it this way:“too poor is the rural areas, too hard are the peasants, too dangerous is the agriculture”. During the 1950’s and 1960’s which we name as the period of collectivization of agriculture, or the rural area cooperation,peasants were the profession gifted with“iron rice bowls”. The protection the country’s social security system provided could meet the peasants’basic living needs,thus the riskes of land production was never undertook soley by the peasants on their own. The peasants were enjoying the public medical, educational and pension benefits provided by the county’s socail benefit systems. However after the reform,the“iron rice bowls”in hands were broken. At the time when a system environment was once again created where the peasants could operate their lands independently,they were once again put back to the status of“living on the climate”.Resulting from the less investment towards the rural areas from the government, coupled with the collapse of the public social benefits systems,the peasants have more and more pressure on their shoulder which were not necessarily undertook previously on their own.As the reform takes its course,on one hand,the gap between the urban cities and rual areas is widening instead of narrowing,the living conditions and facilities in rural areas lags far behind the cities. On the other hand, within the rual areas itself,the differences between the peasants is increasing. The rich peasants have changed their identities into the class of private entrepreneur, businessmen or the management team of the rual areas, with huge fortune and resources accumulated in their hands.Meanwhile the poor peasants become the employees of industrial and commercial industries in either the cities or the rual areas (as“peasant employees, or laborization”). With the lost of the principal status of rural areas, those belonging to the identity of the peasants are becoming vulnerabel groups more and more in society. Those people move between the urban cities and rual areas,therefore their rights can hardly be either expressed in an organized way,or proteced as it should be. To summarize,the foundamental issues and problems existing in the current rural areas have so far triggered new impression from some people,who start to repondering the success or failure of 30 years reformation of the rual areas.This thesis adopts a methodology of“the macro first with the micro followed, the whole picture first with the segments followed”. After making comparison of the interactive relationships between the country and rural areas, the inner and outside environment of the rural areas, the mentality and behavior of the peasants, and the differences between various districts at the early stages of the reform,the writer has conculded a viewpoint,that is, the Chinese rual reform taking place immediately before and after 1978 is not of holistic character,but showing local characteristics. Contributing to the local characteristics are the prominent differences between various rural areas, the peasants in natural environments, ecomonic foundations, policy factors and group mentality etc.. Therefore,when commenting on the success or failure of the Chinese rural reform, we have to combine the historical effects and practical influences together.Here follows the main viewpoints of this thesis:First,in terms of the rural areas itself,the meaning of the rural reform is not as tremendous as is widely accepted. On some degree the rural reform with“contracting production quotas to individual households”as its core is the returning to traditional production method. Thanks to the peasants’spontaneous adaption of this systems,after the policy environment was cultivated, the application of the spontaneous systems countered no big obstruct in rural areas but received good effects rapidly.Secondly, the driving force of the Chinese rural reform is derived from inside the rual area. This endogenetic reform is consequences of the conflicts between realistic ecomomic status, the peasants’living demands and the policies. It is the peasants’behavior leading up to the change of the policies rather than the policies guiding the peasants’behavior. After the reform the peasants’enthusiasm for producation as well as the productivity was greatly improved from the period of collectivization of agriculture, or rural areas cooperation. However this type of magrginal utility originated from the change of the systems has been weakening as the time moves forward. In other words, in order to continuously explode the production potentials of the rural areas, further innovations has to take place on the current systems,or investment into the rural areas has to be increased in terms of technology, funds etc..Thirdly,instead of the fact that most Chinese rual areas adopted a basically same method during the early stages of the reform, the advance of the reform is not holistic,but with a trend of localization. Only those peasants and areas which possess revolutionary tradition and the adventurous spirit of making innovations and taking risks took the lead in winning success,accordingly those people completed their change of identities during the process of the reform. Meanwhile,because of the local characteristics of the reform process,the gap between the rural areas in itself, as well as the gap between the urban and rural areas is contine to be expanding.Fourthly,the reasons for the reform localization lies in the otherness of different factors exsiting between the various rural areas in different districts. Those different factors then“coincidentally”influence the orientation and process of the reform. The economic systems in various rural areas are relatively self-enclosed, attributable to the self-enclosement of the Chinese traditional collective structure. In addition, the impact on the economic systems, resulting from the inter-relations between the rural areas, natual environment, economic structures and individual mentality, behavior, is also relatively independent. Thus after the promotion of the reform,most Chinese rural areas have welcomed the idea of“each does things in his own way”,which explains the existence of rare similar genes for immitation between the rural areas. It accelerated on some degree the process of polarization of the peasants and rural areas.Fifthly,immediately before and after year 1978 the Chinese rural reform was under the dazzling political halo for its magnificent achievements. While people are unquestionably expressing their admiration for the reform,the various problems left behind the reform are neglected. Most problems come into surface in terms of individual cases,nevertheless, when individual cases are banded together, it embodies the deep structural conflicts widely exsited in the rural society. Those conflicts were not created purely at the later stages,in fact the“seeds”were sowed at the very beginning of the reform.

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CLC: > Political, legal > Workers, peasants,youth, women's movement and organization > Farmers' Movement and Organization > Chinese peasant movement and organization > History of the peasant movement
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