CHAPTER III
THE PROBLEMS OF THE PEASANT

The economy of China was for long immobile, for geography had isolated her. On the seaboard, on the rivers, and in a few great cities, it has been, since the advent of the steamship, in process of change. Change confronts her with issues similar to those which have sprung elsewhere from the Industrial Revolution, and their intelligent treatment is vital to her future. But, since three-quarters of her population live by tilling the land, by traditional handicrafts and by petty commerce, her gravest problems are of a different kind. They are those, not of an industrial, but of an agricultural, civilisation; nor must it be forgotten that the social consequences produced by capitalist industry, as is shown by its history in Europe and in America, depend partly on the character of the rural environment in which it develops. Not the wage-worker, but the peasant, is the representative figure in China to-day; and, as industrialism develops, it will be from peasant families, with the standard of life to which the farm has habituated them, that the industrial wage-workers will be drawn. Before considering, therefore, the case of the latter, it is necessary to glance at the situation of the former.


(i)
METHODS OF CULTIVATION

Those entitled to express an opinion are few, and the layman can do no more than reproduce their conclusions. Agriculture is at once a craft, a business, and a manner of life. Its problems are partly technical, partly financial and commercial, partly cultural and social. The Chinese peasant is, by general agreement, a highly skilled farmer, who has achieved, in certain branches of his art, an extraordinary efficiency. But the

-51-

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Land and Labour in China
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • By the Same Author 4
  • Title Page 5
  • Prefatory Note 7
  • Contents 9
  • Chapter I Introductory 11
  • Chapter II The Rural Framework 23
  • Chapter III The Problems of the Peasant 51
  • Chapter IV The Possibilities of Rural Progress 78
  • Chapter V The Old Industrial Order and the New 109
  • Chapter VI Politics and Education 161
  • Index 203
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