Re: rural reconstruction

From "Yiching Wu" <>
Date Tue, 10 Jan 2006 02:45:09 -0600
Cc <>
Organization U of C
References <BAY109-F14C0B1CD179631514B3B31A9220@phx.gbl> <007e01c61527$a53bb7e0$6401a8c0@DB134221>


Joel made an excellent point. It in fact puzzles me too why antecedents have 
been sought almost exclusively in the much smaller and briefer projects in 
the 20s and 30s, while experiences and lessons of much grander scale are 
ignored. Indeed a far more meaningful point of reference is the 1950s.

But the "communist project", of course, went in different phases and in 
different forms. There were very significant differences between the 
pre-1955 cooperative movement and the post-1955 "big push" (coincided with 
the First Five-Year Plan) which led to the near-universal "communization" in 
a few years only. I think Mark Selden's critique of the post-1955 
developmental model and his more positive appraisal of the pre-1955 model 
would be interesting to look at in this respect (see his Political Economy 
of Chinese Development, 1993). Friedman, Pickowitz and Selden's jointly 
authored book Chinese Village, Socialist State (1991) provide useful 
historical and ethnographic materials, and should be quite relevant too for 
thinking about the contemporary xiangjian issues.


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Joel Andreas" <>
To: "Sunzi Hu" <>
Cc: <>
Sent: Monday, January 09, 2006 8:18 AM
Subject: Re: rural reconstruction

> Matt,
> 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,
> Joel
> ----- 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