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 7: ‘The Miracle of Creation’

Michael Webber


1 Reform and opening up in China since 1978 has set regions off in different trajectories of development and class formation.2 Change has revolutionised societies, but in locally specific ways, directed by a mix of global economic influences, central government policies, regional structures of power and competing systems of valuing goods and services. In previous chapters, I used this framework to examine how individual places are changing; now I move to analyse the relations between places. A central fact of China’s economic geography is increasingly uneven development. Some forms of uneven development are spatial: people’s life chances depend on where they live. Urban per capita incomes are three times those of rural areas; differences in levels of material well-being between coastal and inland China have not diminished under the western development strategy introduced by Jiang Zemin; and there is a core– periphery pattern of development within regions.3 Uneven development is also sectoral, for some economic sectors were isolated for investment or government attention. Export-oriented industrialisation is an often-remarked feature of China’s development; but the tourist industry was also chosen by central and local government planners to lead economic development.4 The nature of and relationships between classes are also developing unevenly. Rapidly increasing levels of inequality reflect spatially uneven development but also the changing weight of different systems of production within places. A variety of kinds of capitalist firms, SOEs and household systems of production have been thrown into competition with each other. These forms of uneven development inter-mesh: in rural...

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