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 9: Development is the Irrefutable Fact

Michael Webber


1 Life in the villages of China is changing under many impulses. These include the myriad schemes of development thought up by local governments and villagers. Some schemes are reactions to China’s booming urban-industrial economy, which has brought rising incomes and so increasing demand for new commodities: income-elastic goods, such as milk and travel; power and water for the new industries and their workers; land; environmental improvement; even poverty alleviation. Individual peasants are led to migrate to the booming cities. Opening up has brought new technologies and new levels of investment to rural areas as well as urban – new ways of implementing these schemes and satisfying these demands. The stories I have told demonstrate how these schemes have produced a variety of forms of development, transforming the lives of people who live in rural China. In Beidaolaban, farmers are encouraged by milk-processing companies, the Inner Mongolian government and their local governments to begin producing milk in small dairy operations, based on intensive corn-fed cattle. This process is led by the market (which transmits demands from newly rich city residents) but encouraged by the various governments. Farmers have not lost their land assets, but are interacting more closely with the market and losing some decision-making autonomy. In Xie, farmers have seen their land appropriated by local governments and transformed into industrial parks. Before that, the communal township and village enterprises in which they held shares were appropriated. The market for land for industrial development set the conditions under which these two...

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