Handbooks of Research on Contemporary China series
Edited by David S.G. Goodman
Chapter 18: Rural development
One of the more noteworthy features of China’s development is the degree to which poverty was reduced by broad-based economic growth that raised peasant incomes. This is not to say that China has solved its development problems. Poverty has not been eradicated, some areas are still extremely poor (Unger 2002), inequality is growing, and the demographic challenge may mean that China will grow old before it grows rich. Nonetheless, China’s development experience illustrates how a country, even one with limited resources, and without large outlays of investment from the state itself, has the potential to increase production and growth by providing sufficient incentives for producers and agents of the state who are tasked with implementing reform policies. The Chinese case is also instructive for understanding who are the key actors in economic development. The answer to this question says much about what it would take to generate similar growth in other developing countries. Much of the earlier scholarship highlighted the efforts of the local state in rural China’s take-off, although that work also recognized the incentives for and efforts of the peasants who responded to state-led policies. Others take a contrary view, to argue that it was due to the entrepreneurial spirit of the peasants themselves; some adamantly deny that this was done with any support from the local state (Zhou 1996).
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