Re: rural reconstruction

From Joel Andreas <>
Date Mon, 09 Jan 2006 09:18:46 -0500
References <BAY109-F14C0B1CD179631514B3B31A9220@phx.gbl>


This is not my area of expertise, but one in which I am interested. I can't 
give you much help on sources, but your query inspired this thought: Many 
people (including many of the advocates) look for inspiration and lessons 
for current efforts at village reconstruction in antecedents from the 1920s 
and 30s. In so doing, they skip over the biggest village reconstruction 
effort of all time - the communist commune system. The communist project had 
many elements in common with those of Liang Shumin, James Yen, and Tao 
Xingzhi, and, of course, many elements that were different. But it does not 
make sense to seek guidance from the lessons of projects implemented on a 
tiny scale for a short time many decades ago, and ignore (or, at least, fail 
to systematically analyze) the lessons - both positive and negative - of a 
project that had many more years of history, was implemented on an 
incomparably larger scale, and more recently. Moreover, the commune system 
established the structural foundations of the existing order and the 
cultural framework from which the rural population views all current 
projects of rural reconstruction. Whether the purpose is to build economic 
coops and rural social and political institutions, or provide health care 
and education, and provisions for the elderly and disabled, how can one 
avoid looking at the lessons of the commune system?

Take care,


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Sunzi Hu" <>
To: <>
Sent: Monday, January 09, 2006 1:39 AM
Subject: rural reconstruction

>A while back this list briefly discussed the "rural reconstruction" 
>(&#20065;&#26449;&#24314;&#35774; or simply "xiangjian") work promoted by 
>insititutions such as the James Yen school in Hebei, and by figures such as 
>Wen Tiejun. That thread touched briefly on how the most prominent 
>participants in this self-described "movement" tend to understand their 
>work, in particular the role of cooperatives (usually buying and selling 
>coops, sometimes cooperative enterprises) in relation to regional, national 
>and global political economies. Alex, for instance, pointed out that the 
>general assumption tends to be that xiangjian projects such as pilot coops 
>should help some of China's more marginalized villagers establish a more 
>competitive position in the market, and that some critics have argued that 
>coops mainly improve peasants' position relative to other peasants (rather 
>than to "middle men"), so that the projects' ultimate benefits for China's 
>overall rural population would be negligible.
> I would like to reopen this discussion, and I would also like to ask if 
> anyone can recommend any English or Chinese materials on "xiangjian" in 
> general. I'm only now getting around to wading through (with my bad 
> Chinese) the Chinese literature available on the web, and a few materials 
> I picked up this summer. I haven't seen anything at all written in English 
> on the topic - does anyone know of anything? As for the Chinese, can 
> anyone recommend any good introductions to the following topics:
> 1) the various meanings of key notions such as "xiangjian" and 
> "alternative devopment" (linglei fazhan) (they seem to mean very different 
> things to different people and in different contexts)
> 2) what are some of the various long-term visions associated with Chinese 
> xiangjian work, and how do they address criticisms like the one mentioned 
> above, and bigger political economic questions in general?
> 3) how do various xiangjian advocates (Wen Tiejun representing one, but 
> not the only trend) relate the "New Rural Reconstruction Movement" to its 
> early 20th century predecessor and its various advocates (James Yen, Liang 
> Shuming, Tao Xingzhi - themselves representing somewhat differing trends), 
> and to other "alternative development" models (most notably the Indian 
> KSSP model)?
> For instance, at the founding of the People's University Center for Rural 
> Reconstruction this summer, several of the foreign guests tried to relate 
> Chinese peasants' situation to that of people in Kerala, Chiapas, and 
> elsewhere, but Wen concluded the conference by basically disowning this 
> relation and insisting that, because Chinese peasants' situation is so 
> different (that most Chinese peasants have secure access to enough land to 
> take care of basic subsistence, etc.), it was still unclear to him exactly 
> what the Chinese xiangjian movement could glean from alternative 
> development movements in other countries. At the time I suspected that he 
> was just saying that for political reasons - otherwise why would he have 
> invited these guests in the first place? - but later several lower-profile 
> activists said in personal conversation that this was really Wen's 
> position (some agreed and some disagreed with his assessment).
> Thanks for your help!
> Matthew Allen Hale
> Anthropology Department
> University of Washington
> Seattle, WA 98195