This book is a study of the political economy of rural development in the People's Republic of China (PRC). It has a simple purpose: to illuminate the economic and political transformation of rural China during the past twenty years.
A central theme, emphasized throughout the book, is statecraft. In China, the art of conducting state affairs is the art of trying to merge economic with political values. The goal of statecraft has always been twofold: to improve the welfare of the people and to strengthen the state. If politics is the vehicle to strengthen the state and economics the key to improving the welfare of the people, the interaction of politics with economics constitutes the political economy of development and explains China's transformation over time.
Central government policy played a much more innovative and aggressive role in China than in the limited states typical in the developed West or in the weak states typical in the developing world. The power of central leadership over societal resources led to dramatic swings in policy. Unlike other East Asian societies, central leadership in China was guided by a political ideology. The fact that Chinese policy was so centralized and ideology so controlled made China an excellent case for study of the political economy of development.
For more than forty years a ruling Communist Party has guided the transformation of China's political economy. The communization of 1958-1978, market-oriented economic reform since 1978, village elections for self-government in the 1990s, and the reform of state-owned