Sustainable Development in Western China
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Sustainable Development in Western China

Managing People, Livestock and Grasslands in Pastoral Areas

Colin G. Brown

This much-needed study provides a unique examination of the intricate web of policies and institutions that now impact on grassland degradation and sustainable development in China’s pastoral region. Understanding this complex matrix and its impact on the management of people, livestock, grasslands, markets and industry structures is crucial in charting a way forward. The authors argue that the aim should be to manage these inter-locking complex systems in a manner that takes advantage of the opportunities that technology present to achieve sustainable use of the grasslands.
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Chapter 5: Managing Structures

Colin G. Brown


Implementation of the Household Responsibility System and the transition to a market-based economy has led to production and marketing structures consisting of very large numbers of decentralized, fragmented and small-scale economic agents. To achieve various goals, be they in the environmental or income generation area, the Chinese government, at all levels, has sought to mobilize these individual economic agents. However this requires that the right incentives be put in place, an issue taken up in the context of markets in Chapter 7. Furthermore there are circumstances where the agents are simply too fragmented or too small scale. In these cases, the government has sought to encourage the creation of new organizational structures to facilitate the transition. The transition of structures is both necessary and inevitable. Yet it is not clear that they will evolve or develop on their own in a manner that is ideal, nor that government efforts to direct this process have been successful. Enabling small households to be part of the transition and to access higher value market segments is arguably the foremost rural development challenge in China. Much of the debate concerning industry structures centres on the relative merits and shortcomings of a centralized, collectivized approach where group and societal objectives drive the system versus more decentralized and fragmented systems where individual incentives prevail. Since the formation of the People’s Republic in the late 1940s, China has proceeded through waves of collectivization and decollectivization (Lin 1997). The introduction of the Household Responsibility System in the early...

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