Calamity and Reform in China: State, Rural Society, and Institutional Change since the Great Leap Famine

By Dali L. Yang | Go to book overview

6
The Political Struggle over Reform

Having examined and established the structural incentives and political context for rural institutional change in Chapter 5, I follow up the story of reform and argue that the rise of rural reform in post-Mao China may best be viewed as the result of an interaction between state and peasant. That process--or, more appropriately, political struggle--was mediated by local and regional leaders and fundamentally conditioned by the incentive structures shaped by the catastrophic Great Leap Famine and the opening up of political space that followed Mao's death.

The importance of the famine in shaping post-Mao rural reforms is shown by the behavior of both elites and peasants. At the top, leaders such as Chen Yun and Deng Xiaoping promoted a sequence of policies that harked back to the adjustment policies of the early 1960's for reviving China's stagnant rural economy. Chapter 4 already mentioned that in late 1978 Chen Yun and others called for increasing grain imports--a measure that was similar to what had been done in the early 1960's and that was constrained by the famine's long-term effect on the agricultural structure. This chapter starts with the historic Third Plenum of 1978. This plenum produced an important decision on rural policy that the Chinese have referred to as the New Sixty Articles, and it was indeed fashioned after the earlier ones that were drawn up during the famine under Mao's supervision.

Peasants and cadres in those provinces that had suffered most from the famine had deep memories of it and were more likely to pursue liberal

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