This book is an outcome of my research on rural China over the last five years and summarizes many themes of my previous research. My research interest in rural China grew out of my own experience in rural China. Like millions of high school graduates in China in the mid-1970s, I was sent to a poor, remote village in Qufu county of Shandong province upon graduation in 1975. I stayed in the village for two years. I did not realize until many years later that those two short years had a great impact on me personally and intellectually.
I owe a great deal to many individuals and one institution in the production of this book. Of all the people who provided aid and inspiration, I must single out Brantly Womack, to whom I owe an intellectual debt for my becoming an active scholar. Brantly was my academic advisor and dissertation director while I was a Ph.D. candidate at Northern Illinois University. On a personal level, Brantly was a dear friend, always ready to help. On an intellectual level, he was stimulating and rigorous but not rigid. Without his support, I would not have achieved a successful academic career. I benefited greatly from Brantly's constructive insights at various stages of this project.
My colleagues at East Tennessee State University played an irreplaceable role in the production of this book. I wish to thank Kenneth Mijeski, Andrew Battista, and Hugh LaFollette for their friendship, support, and generous help. Kenneth Mijeski, in his capacity as the chair of the Political Science Department of East Tennessee State University, did all he could to facilitate my research by reducing my teaching load and by