The Peasant Challenge at the Turn of the Century
Since the mid- 1980s, fundamental changes have taken place in China, as discussed in previous chapters. The massive transformation of Chinese society has naturally carried within itself seeds of instability. China's social order and political stability are threatened by the social and political consequences of China's economic success. The CCP faces challenges on many fronts. This chapter, in addressing these challenges, focuses on the peasant challenge.
The peasant issue has always been the most important issue in China. Historically, the Chinese revolution succeeded largely because the CCP was able to build a revolutionary movement on peasant discontent through careful, painstaking organization. The Maoist model of development from 1958 to 1976 failed because it built peasant discontent by binding peasants physically on the land and politically under the people's commune system. The peasant issue remains the most important issue in China today, because most Chinese still live in the countryside. The success of China's modernization program depends on the transformation and industrialization of rural China.
Since the mid- 1980s, Chinese peasants have contributed enormously to China's becoming the fastest-growing economy in the world. Between 1980 and 1993, about 30 percent of China's increase in general social output value, 35 percent of the increase in national industrial output value, and 45 percent of China's total export were due to Chinese peasants. 1 Economic success, however, has had its social and political