CHAPTER IV
THE POSSIBILITIES OF RURAL PROGRESS

The problems presented by the economic conditions of rural life in China are of two principal types. There are those, in the first place, which spring from natural or inherited disadvantages, such as poverty or exhaustion of soil, a deficient or irregular rainfall, the destruction of forests, rivers liable to flood, the physical limitations of the cultivable area and the immense number of human beings, which, as a result of past history, that area must support. There are those, in the second place, which have their source in defects of economic organisation or in social habits: the absence, for example, of a tolerable system of communications, the miseries inflicted by civil disorder, primitive methods of cultivation, the exploitation of the peasant by dealers and money-lenders, the unsatisfactory character of land tenure in parts of the country, and the tyranny of a tradition which gives an artificial stimulus to the increase of a population already excessive.

These two groups of factors obviously interact; but it is expedient, nevertheless, to distinguish between them. The consideration of methods of ameliorating the conditions of the rural population requires that due account should be given to both. There are the inexorable limits, and the space for manœuvre which the limits allow. It is necessary to eschew both the facile sentimentalism which makes light of the burdens imposed by nature, and the fatalism which ignores the possibilities of scientific knowledge and social art.


(i)
ANALOGOUS PROBLEMS ELSEWHERE

In so far as the disorders of Chinese agriculture belong to the second category, they are acute in degree but not unique in

-78-

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Land and Labour in China
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • By the Same Author 4
  • Title Page 5
  • Prefatory Note 7
  • Contents 9
  • Chapter I- Introductory 11
  • Chapter II- The Rural Framework 23
  • Chapter III- The Problems of the Peasant 51
  • Chapter IV- The Possibilities of Rural Progress 78
  • Chapter V- The Old Industrial Order and the New 109
  • Chapter VI- Politics and Education 161
  • Index 203
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