From Heaven to Earth: Images and Experiences of Development in China

By Elisabeth Croll | Go to book overview

Chapter 10

Living the earth

Family aspirations

It is the main characteristic of rural reforms of the past ten years that they had less to do with the rhetoric of heaven than with resourcing the earth in the interests of raising inputs, incentives, productivity, incomes and lifestyle qualities. Both the promised lands of modernity and peasants’ own experiences of development were various but firmly of the earth. Taking cognisance of the variety of experiences, it is still possible to identify a number of important features of reform which are common to these experiences. Along with the shift in focus from ‘heaven to earth’ or ‘vision to reality’, there has also been a shift from the future to the present and from image to experience. Concern with present rather than deferred needs largely focused on incentives, enrichment and gratification, all of which coincided in the interest in consumption, and interest in consumption is one of the most important of characteristics distinguishing reform from revolution. Indeed, the entire platform of reform was originally premised on the rationale or promise of improved and secure livelihood and quality lifestyle so that with reform, consumption became an end in itself.


CONSUMPTION

In societal terms consumption became the destination of production, and in familial and individual terms it became the reward for production. The initial and rapid delivery of these rewards in many regions of China encouraged the pursuit of the reform programme even in the face of otherwise unpopular policies. It is my own belief that the government could never have continued to push for so long that most unpopular policy of all, the single-child family programme, without a coincidental rise in levels of consumption which themselves became the criteria by which the reforms were judged: ‘Economic reforms have very popular backing. The survey shows people perceive that reforms have improved living standards, boosted production and promoted the quality and variety of goods. ’ 1

With reform, years of absent or minimal quantities and varieties of

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From Heaven to Earth: Images and Experiences of Development in China
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgements xvii
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter 1 - Imaging Heaven 3
  • Part I - Reform: Household and Village 15
  • Chapter 2 - State Policies 17
  • Chapter 3 - Peasant Experiences 36
  • Part II - Readjustment: the Village 95
  • Chapter 4 - Resource Management 97
  • Chapter 5 - Information Networked 116
  • Chapter 6 - Income Generation 135
  • Part III - Readjustment: the Household 161
  • Chapter 7 - Aggregation 163
  • Chapter 8 - Continuity 181
  • Chapter 9 - Discontinuity 198
  • Conclusion 213
  • Chapter 10 - Living the Earth 215
  • Appendix 1 226
  • Appendix 2 292
  • Notes 299
  • Index 311
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