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 7: Urbanization, Decentralization and the Reorganization of Rural Life

Bryan Roberts


Bryan Roberts INTRODUCTION Urbanization is often confounded with the growth of cities and the accompanying changes in economics, politics and culture. Its impact is much broader, however, since it represents an overall transformation in spatial relations that changes rural life through migration and through integrating rural areas ever more closely into regional, national and global economies as a result of trade and improved infrastructure. Despite the often massive transfers of population to the cities, rural populations do not necessarily decrease in absolute numbers during this process. In Latin America, where the urban population was three-quarters of the total population in 2000, countries such as Colombia, Mexico and Peru had a larger agricultural labor force in that year than they had ever had previously. As an integral part of economic growth, urbanization brings rising per capita incomes, economic diversification, but, in comparison with the relatively flat income distribution of subsistence-based agricultural societies, it also brings income inequality between regions of a country, between rural and urban and within rural and urban places. These income inequalities help shape what Norman Long and myself (2005) termed the ‘new ruralities’ where agriculture is not necessarily the dominant way of making a living, where new and more complex relationships have developed between rural populations, external economic actors, governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and where locals and external agents contest over what they see as the proper use of rural resources. Contemporary urbanization is occurring in a global economic and political context marked in many countries...

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