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

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

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

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

Synopsis

In this book the author has managed to gather together an impressive array of historical documents to provide the first comprehensive treatment of the political causes and consequences of the Great Leap Famine.

Excerpt

The prevailing interpretations of the rise of rural reform in China are dominated by conceptions or hypotheses emphasizing the traumatic legacy of the Cultural Revolution and the role or "plans" of revisionist leadership. Both are obviously relevant to our understanding of the political economy of change in China. Yet, as I hope to demonstrate in this study, these conventional hypotheses essentially miss the target as causal explanations of the rise of rural reforms in China. The central thesis of the present study, to summarize drastically, is that the key to understanding the rise of rural reforms in China and the interactive relationship between state and rural society that went with them lies in the Great Leap Famine of 1959-61, the worst in human history. The patterns of the famine were in turn accounted for by the interaction between the Chinese leadership and certain structural features of the political system generated by the communist takeover. In other words, the dramatic victory of the communists over the Guomindang (i.e., nationalists) unfortunately also produced the structural conditions for the Great Leap. But out of the ruins of the Great Leap Famine arose the incentives for political innovation or reform. The delineation of reform patterns thus requires an understanding of both structural conditions and political entrepreneurship. The path and political dialectics of reform in China were embedded in history, a very specific history.

The analytical results of a study of China's rural institutional transformation not only permit us to gain a better understanding of the dynamics . . .

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