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 4: ‘We Never Forcibly Evict Anybody, Except Those Who Refuse to Move’

Michael Webber


1 When Premier Li Peng won the endorsement of the National People’s Congress for the Three Gorges Project in 1991–92, he proposed a budget of RMB 57 billion.2 By 2008, when the dam was completed, the official cost was RMB 180 billion, in 2008 prices and including interest payments. However, Chinese officials then apparently said privately that the dam might end up costing RMB 400–600 billion.3 Such a huge project, absorbing nearly 1 per cent of China’s total investment in fixed assets during its construction,4 embodies the characteristics of the nation – its peoples’ and leaders’ hopes and disappointments, its forms of development, its modes of managing environments, its structures of class and power and its means of resolving conflicts. Above all, the Three Gorges Project carries official attitudes to peasants. Principally in this chapter I am going to describe what happened to some people who were evicted to make way for the reservoir. The evidence draws on a year’s fieldwork among peasants in two adjacent counties of Hubei province, Badong and Zigui.5 On average, peasants suffered loss of incomes and other individual and community assets for this project; they were forced to turn to paid labour, as the land that supported them as subsistence farmers and independent commodity producers was largely taken away from them. At Three Gorges this forced dispossession was legal, directed by the state.6 A special form of dispossession occurs in mega-projects like the Three Gorges Project. Some people claim that mega-projects represent a...

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