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In: Journal of Chinese Overseas
Author: Yulin Zhang

After more than ten years of compensatory growth, the Chinese people’s dietary life has undergone a significant consumer revolution since the 1990s: there has been a major change in the quantity, structure, and consumption patterns of food, and animal food intake has increased significantly. The consumer revolution is underpinned not only by the “hidden agricultural revolution” in China, but also by the huge imports of agri-food and the hundreds of millions of acres of “virtual farmland,” which reached 200 million tonnes and one billion mu respectively in 2017. Given the tendency of food consumption to exceed the needs of maintaining health, the heavy ecological pressure on domestic agriculture, as well as the risks of the international situation and the external ecological impact associated with massive imports, the sustainability of this unfinished revolution is in question. At the national strategic level, advocating the moderation of consumption and the reduction of waste and reducing consumption expectations and consumption volume have become necessary choices.

In: Rural China
Author: Peng Du

This article explores the process and mechanism of the politicization of the land in order to understand the operational logic of the collective land system and the deep structure of the rural political order. The actual process of land politics functions to facilitate the political integration of rural communities and reshape the mode of resource allocation between the state and the rural population. While the politicization of the land manifests the autonomy of rural collective organizations, the rights-based attributes of the land function to undermine the autonomy and disrupt the political links among the state, the collective, and rural residents, hence the depoliticization of the land. The effective governance of rural society entails more room for experiments in the rural collective land system.

In: Rural China
Author: Jiayan Zhang

Swan Islet, located in the old course of the Yangzi River in Shishou, Hubei, central China, was chosen as a nature reserve first to conserve milu 麋鹿 (Père David’s deer) in 1987 and white-fin dolphins 白鱀豚 in 1992. The local government then built dikes to protect this area from the annual high water of the Yangzi River, which turned a considerable amount of riverside wasteland into reclaimable land attractive to the local farmers. At the same time, more land was needed to feed the fast-growing herds of milu. In the river, dolphins and fisherfolk compete for resources. Different interests have caused conflicts between the government, farmers, and fisherfolk. Conflicts between governmental bureaus has made things even more complicated. With the increasing appeal of wetland preservation, the local government added wetland preservation to its agenda and applied for financial support from upper-level governments. Attempting to lure tourists with milu—a “national treasure”—and original wetlands, the local government is hoping to promote eco-tourism and eventually to boost local economic growth, all in the name of protecting the environment.

In: Rural China
Author: Qingpo Zheng

While the overall pattern of peasant economic activities in Ding county has remained largely unchanged since the Republican years, in which farming as the major source of income was supplemented with sidelines, this article finds constant changes in the ways in which this pattern continues and in the nature of supplementary sidelines. Specifically, there have been four types of peasant households: completely farming; farming combined with sidelines; non-farming combined with sidelines; completely non-farming, with the “combined households” being the dominant type and undergoing a transition from the farming-based to the non-farming-based. The farming household-based managerial pattern currently remains and will continue to be an optimal choice in the long run.

In: Rural China
Author: Gang Lin

This article challenges the view that land transactions in China from the Song to the late Qing periods became increasingly marketized and effective in resource allocation. In traditional China, the land was never a commodity in the ordinary sense; it served as the very basic means of survival and production for peasants while functioning as the most critical determinant shaping the sustainability of the environment for the survival of humankind. Neither market transactions nor any means external or internal to the state were effective enough in regulating either the total demand or the total supply of the land in China and alleviating the tension in man-to-land relations. Land transactions in imperial China were very different by nature and in terms of their social and economic impact from the received wisdom in Western economic theories, which assumes the decisive roles of supply and demand in shaping market prices and the patterns of production in the commodity economy.

In: Rural China
Author: Zhi Gao

Chen Zhongshi’s novel, White Deer Plain, is a complex text revealing the social, political, economic, and cultural dimensions of a community in transformation in which multiple public spaces coexist and struggle to survive. As a reinterpretation of the novel, this article examines three types of public spaces: the popular, the political, and the cultural-educational, respectively. Focusing on the forms of depiction, the inner workings of the public spaces, the overlapping between different spaces and their expansion, this article aims to delineate the trajectories of the rise and fall of such public spaces and explore their entangling and association with modernity.

In: Rural China