Rural Transformations and Development – China in Context
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Rural Transformations and Development – China in Context

The Everyday Lives of Policies and People

Edited by Norman Long, Jingzhong Ye and Yihuan Wang

This unique book explores the varied perspectives on contemporary processes of rural transformation and policy intervention in China. The expert contributors combine a critical review of current theoretical viewpoints and global debates with a series of case studies that document the specificities of China’s pathways to change. Central issues focus on the dynamics of state–peasant encounters; the diversification of labour and livelihoods; out-migration and the blurring of rural and urban scenarios; the significance of issues of ‘value’ and ‘capital’ and their gender implications; land ownership and sustainable resource management; struggles between administrative cadres and local actors; and the dilemmas of ‘participatory’ development.
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Chapter 6: Land to the Tiller: The Complexities of Land Ownership and Use in a North China Village

Zhao Xudong


Zhao Xudong INTRODUCTION This chapter explores the debates and issues concerning land ownership and use in China. It covers key arguments regarding land reform and land privatization and illustrates the complexities involved with a case study of land use in a north China village. As a basis for survival, land has always been the special focus of social institutional arrangements. However, land occupied as the private property of the individual is, in China, only a recently emerging phenomenon. Land was originally collectively owned by the lineage, clan or tribe, and more recently by the collective and state. Rousseau’s comment that ‘the noble savage’ had no concept of a piece of land being defined as private property in his name might still be the case for many rural cultivators in China. Rousseau implies that its formation and development is the basis of one aspect of the human civilizing process.1 Since time immemorial, whether in the north or south, at least one piece of land has been reserved for communal use in rural China. It was the basis of the common consciousness of a village community. There were several names for such land, including ‘lineage land’ (zu tian), or ‘righteous land’ (yi tian). In his famous 1947 book, The Golden Wing, Lin Yueh-hwa describes, for Huang Village in Fujian Province, the important role played by public/common land in collective action: The first ancestor is said to be the nominal owner of a piece of land, usually called the ancestral plot, which is...

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