Making Capitalism in Rural China
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Making Capitalism in Rural China

Michael Webber

This stimulating and challenging book explores the duplicitous nature of development in China. On the positive side, it brings longer and healthier lives; fewer children dead before they are five years old; more comfort and security from famine and disaster; more education; more communication; more travel; less war. But from another, darker perspective, development brings violence to some people – those who are in the way of the new things, those who cannot adapt to the new ways – and it threatens old knowledges, habits and societies as it disrupts old power structures.
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Chapter 1: Development is Not a Dinner Party

Michael Webber

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1. Development is not a dinner party In 1927, Mao Zedong wrote a report on the peasant movement in Hunan. Some comrades were worried that their revolution faced opposition which might mean a violent struggle. Mao remarked: 革命不是请客吃饭,不是做文章,不是绘画绣花,不能那样雅致,那样从容 不迫,文质彬彬,那样温良恭俭让。1 Loosely translated, Mao said that revolution is not a dinner party, not an essay, nor a painting, nor a piece of embroidery; it cannot be advanced softly, gradually, carefully, considerately, respectfully, politely, plainly and modestly. Development is like this, too. In both the communist and capitalist versions that we are familiar with, development is no dinner party: not soft, gradual, considered or respectful. It has caught everyone up – supporters, opponents and the indifferent – and rewarded them or tossed them aside. It has captured the imagination of professional thinkers, politicians and ordinary people; and has repelled just as many of them. On the one side, Deng Xiaoping; on the other, Dai Qing.2 For development is two-faced. On the one side, it brings longer and healthier lives; fewer children dead before they are five years old; more comfort and security from famine and disaster; more education; more communication; more travel; less war. But it does a violence to some people – those who are in the way of the new things, those who cannot adapt to the new ways – and it threatens old knowledges, habits and societies even as it disrupts old power structures. It changes the manner in which people relate to each other and it threatens our entire environment. Deng and Dai were...

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