Mutual Aid Practices in the Shaanxi-Gansu-Ningxia Border Region: Mechanisms and Effects

In: Rural China

Mutual aid was a mechanism that emerged under the condition of insufficient factors of production in traditional Chinese society; it aimed to improve the productivity of factors by applying the principle of “deduct from the more-than-sufficient and add to the insufficient.” Mutual aid worked to improve the productivity of factors chiefly because it could lead to high efficiency through the full and economical utilization of factors of production that were given and limited. Unlike the input of modern capital that could result in immediate gain in productivity, mutual aid only led to indirect and passive improvements in productivity. Increased social interaction through mutual aid could further boost laborers’ morale and willingness to compete with one another, thus adding to improved productivity. Finally, mutual aid reduced the time spent on and the consumption of factors of production, thus permitting more farmers to engage in wasteland reclamation, sharpening of farming skills, and construction of water-control projects, which also contributed to agricultural growth.