The Everyday Lives of Policies and People
Edited by Norman Long, Jingzhong Ye and Yihuan Wang
Chapter 5: Building Livelihoods: How Chinese Peasants Deal with State Regulation of Opportunity and Risk
Flemming Christiansen HOUSEHOLD RESPONSIBILITY AND RATIONALITY 1 In China policy in the first place signifies a major control mechanism for the allocation of resources in the political economy, and in the second a trail-blazer for new forms of large-scale, often global, incorporation and commercial control; only in the third place comes policy as a regulator acting for the well-being of ordinary people and as a protector of the weak; this reflects how the role of the state is still gradually changing from planning to regulation and redistribution.1 China’s rural transformation is, in essence, a massive social transformation away from the ‘rural’ as we know it, towards an urban reality. Although it is willed by policy, its main dynamics and forms emerge from infinite interests and practices converging in transient institutions of behaviour, occasionally nudged and guided by state intervention and gradually leading to reformulations of policy. This chapter explores the intersection of peasant livelihoods and state intervention in China in recent decades, during which society and people have undergone huge changes. It does this by examining how people in China make a living and how the state directs development through policy initiatives, seeking to address issues of what structures agency and purpose of action both for the individual and for policy-makers. In doing so, it will rethink some common conceptions of livelihoods and livelihood strategies, and will use risk as a core notion, that is, risk as an outcome of policy and risk as a resource in livelihoods strategy. The...
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