The patterns of labor use in land-intensive farming, represented by grain production, and in labor-intensive farming, represented by fruit production, are both undergoing quiet changes. The input of family labor and the number of hired laborers are decreasing in grain production, while in fruit production the decrease in family labor is accompanied by increases in the number of hired laborers and the proportion of hired labor in the overall labor input. These different trends of labor use are determined by various factors, including the difficulty of replacing labor with machinery, the reallocation of family labor, and the decline of labor exchanges among peasant families. The difficulty of labor supervision is not a critical obstacle to the use of hired laborers, because it can be relieved through various mechanisms, such as hiring laborers from acquaintance communities, working alongside the hired laborers, firing unqualified laborers, using the employer’s knowledge and experience to evaluate the efforts of hired laborers, and suitable practices of labor division. These changes in the patterns of labor use indicate that Chinese agriculture is undergoing a process of modernization, in which family labor is dominant and seasonal short-term labor is supplementary, and the new managerial units, like family farms and co-ops, are inclined to operate under appropriate farm-scales in an environment of market economy and commercialization but still with collective land ownership as their institutional basis.
At the most basic level of governance, China had long relied on a state-society interactive “third sphere” approach, leaving considerable space for societal self-governance, lightening thereby the oppressiveness of bureaucratic government. This article delineates once more the modes and operative mechanisms of that third-sphere mode of governance. After China entered its revolutionary and contemporary periods, that system was transformed by the rise of Communist Party organization into a new third sphere model with a close relationship between party leadership and popular participation. It turned out to be one that released immense energies, as evidenced in the revolutionary movement and the “people’s war” that ended in victories first over Japanese occupation, then in the civil war against the Guomindang, and further in fighting to a standstill the even stronger U.S. led forces in the Korean War. That party and people combination evinced great energies also in the early-stage cooperatives based on the natural villages (and the return back to that mode of organization by 1963 after the errors of the Great Leap Forward), and again in the Reform era when the party-state yielded individual decision-making powers in the newly marketized economy to peasant households through the “responsibility land system.” To be sure, there were also multiple errors of excessive bureaucratic control along the way. Nevertheless, even today, a mutually beneficial cooperative relationship between the party and the people can still be a good path for basic-level governance, one that could counter the excesses of “bureaucratism” and its “iron cage” effects, to enter into a kind of (popular) participatory socialist market economy, distinguished from a controlling bureaucratic socialist planned economy.
The development of the Chinese revolutionary movement in the early twentieth century absorbed cultural resources from traditional secret societies and associations. The White Lotus, the Tiandihui, the Gelaohui, the Triad, and the various secret societies that had emerged in the Taiping and the Boxer rebellions were all incorporated into the discourse system of revolutionary history. The secret societies’ slogans of “overthrow the Qing and restore the Ming” and “rob the rich to help the poor” merged with the revolutionaries’ platform of “drive out the Manchus” and “relief for people’s livelihood,” and finally advanced the success of the Xinhai Revolution and was turned into a coherent historical narrative. After the founding of the Republic of China, Sun Yat-sen and Song Jiaoren carefully assessed the function of secret societies and distinguished them from modern political parties. On the other hand, leaders of the Communist Party, such as Mao Zedong, Qu Qiubai, Yun Daiying, and Chen Duxiu, emphasized the ideological transformation of secret societies and the suitable role they could play in the revolution, thus showing a dynamic strategy of allying with these organizations. The history of the relationship between the Chinese revolution and secret societies reflects the changing characteristics and logic of the underclass of Chinese society.
“The Party leads the army,” “the Party controls the army,” and “the Party commands the gun” are the political principles and institutional designs of the Chinese Communist Party’s leadership of the army, which emphasize that the army must follow the leadership of the Party, carry out the political tasks set by the Party, and defend the key interests of the Party. After the outbreak of the all-out War of Resistance against Japan, the Eighth Route Army, under the Party’s strategic guidance, marched toward the Taihang mountains. The army helped the local Party organizations there to recover and develop, while the local Party organizations helped the army to fight and to enlarge its forces. The coordination and cooperation of the local Party organizations and the army together established the basis of the political-military configuration of the Taihang Base Area and put into effect the strategic intentions of the Party. When the Base Area entered into the consolidation-and-development stage 发展巩固阶段, however, signs of discoordination emerged. In this special political situation, in order to ensure the smooth progress of the war against Japan, the Chinese Communist Party further ironed out the Party-army relationship by organization-building (for both Party central and local and military branches) and fighting against Guomindang reactionaries and the Japanese invaders and their puppet government. Particularly, the Party continued political training for the army to make sure that it remained under the absolute leadership of the Party. By uniting the army and the local Party organizations to implement the political lines and concrete policies of the Party central, a unified configuration of leadership in the Taihang Base Area was established, the Party, the army, and the people all united as a whole, and the Chinese Communist Party earned tremendous support for the war against Japan. This process involved at once the relationships between the Party central and the army 中央与军队, between the military Party branches and the army 军队党与军队, and between the local Party branches and the army 地方党与军队, and it was an arduous journey rather than an easy walk.
Rural governance in China has the significant characteristic of relying on the third sphere, in which state and society complement and interact with each other. The Chinese Revolution and the Chinese Communist Party’s entry into the countryside brought a new operational logic to the third sphere. During the Cooperative Movement, labor experts emerged in the process of agricultural production in local village communities to become the pivotal figures in the operation of the third sphere. After the Rural Reform, those pivotal figures became the village leaders who knew how the market economy works and could organize collective activities to benefit their communities. In the present situation, when the nation is trying to find a way to revitalize the countryside, the third sphere, which closely relied on the endogenous energy of local village communities, can still exert a positive influence, provided that the top-down erosion of the third sphere by bureaucratization and formalism is avoided.
The article reviews the history of the word “involution,” the empirical basis of the concept of “agricultural involution,” and the mechanisms operating behind that phenomenon. It then considers the very different empirical bases and mechanisms of “bureaucratic involution.” State and peasant might interact in a positive way that leads to development – as when the state in the Reform era gave peasants the power and right to respond to market stimuli and develop the “labor and capital dual intensifying” “new agriculture” that has led to genuine development, demonstrating how small peasants have been the true primary subjects of Chinese agriculture and the true key to genuine agricultural development. By contrast, if bureaucratic involution should force on peasants policies that run counter to realities, it can lead to malignant “ultra-involution.” Similar consequences can be seen in spheres with scarce opportunities relative to the number of people seeking them, once they are placed under the forces of bureaucratic involution, as in the “examinations-above-all-else education system” as well as in similar (public and private) enterprise management. That is why the word “involution” has recently triggered such widespread resonance among so very many people. What is needed is state-party policies that truly accord with the interests of the people and draw their active participation. That kind of combination is what can check tendencies toward ultra-involution.
Centering on the terms of “deagrarianization” 去农化 and “depeasantization” 去小农化, this article aims to reinterpret socioeconomic changes in rural China from a theoretical and global perspective. Deagrarianization and depeasantization interwove to shape the dynamic process of rural transformation. Throughout the reform era, rural China underwent a transition from “deagrarianization without depeasantization” to “salient depeasantization.” In the end, deagrarianization led to a continual process of rural deterioration and at the same time turned rural China into a space of complexity. Depeasantization has been diversifying Chinese agriculture into multiple organizational forms. The mode of “part-time worker and part-time farmer” that emerged in the process of deagrarianization is gradually yielding to the specializing mode of “full-time farmer” or “full-time worker” during depeasantization. The strategy of rural revitalization should be adjusted dynamically on the basis of a recognition of these two interwoven processes.
An analysis of the Class Background Registers of Yanshan county, Hebei, shows that households of landlord and rich peasant status accounted for less than 10 percent of the local population and possessed less than 15 percent of the land, while households of poor and lower-middle peasant standing owned about half of the land. Overall, land distribution was relatively balanced, as seen in the Gini coefficient of 0.3–0.4 in the distribution of land rights and the fact that about half of the households owned 2–5 mu of land per capita. But the economic condition of the rural population was not determined by the factor of land distribution alone; in places where the natural endowment was poor, off-farm income-making activities mattered a great deal to local residents. Such activities took various forms, which could improve as well as worsen people’s livelihood. An analysis of social mobility in this area further shows the perpetuation of the existing class structure. Those whose grandparents had lived in poverty found it difficult to move up socially. On the whole, the rural area under study shows a prolonged trend of deterioration, which is meaningful for understanding the land reform.
The itinerant notary system was an important measure taken by the Nationalist government in Nanjing to enhance its control of grassroots society in rural China. There was no intent to challenge the central government’s wishes of “enlarging government revenues for the benefit of the state treasury” and safeguarding the integrity of the central government’s jurisdiction, which made smooth implementation of the itinerant notary system possible. It was against this background that the court of Linxia, Gansu province, expanded its reach to local business centers, selected superintendents of public notaries from among local gentry elites, and offered awards for notary services. The itinerant notary system thus combined a “modern” legal institution transplanted from the West with endogenous resources, and turned out to be an experiment conducive to overcoming the either/or binary of Western vs. Chinese, exploring a pluralistic and less disruptive path of institutional development.
This article examines a series of Nü zhuangyuan narratives in drama and tanci works of the Ming Qing period. They share similar story-patterns but contain different writing purposes. From a male perspective, Xu Wei composed his drama Nü Zhuangyuan Ci Huang De Feng as an entertainment practice and meanwhile conveyed frustration for his unrecognized talent and dissatisfaction with the imperial examination system. Afterwards, during the Qing dynasty it is the talented women rather than the male literati that continued to write the stories of Nü zhuangyuan, but this time from a female perspective to express their views on such gender issues as women’s identity, talent and virtue. Some female personas of Nü zhuangyuan desire to change their gender so as to pursue high official position, glory and honor which are available only to men. As a representative of this kind, Meng Lijun in the tanci Zaisheng Yuan even intends to cut off the relation with her natal family in order to maintain her superior status at court. However, female moralists criticized Meng’s behavior as a violation of the decorum, so they added a sequel to or even revised the Zaisheng Yuan to teach women how to properly deal with the interrelationship between talent and virtue. With the admonishing purpose, the vernacular genre of tanci is thereby embedded with the social function of teaching and preaching as the poetry always has, and its significance is simultaneously elevated. In the transitional era of late Qing when the enlightenment function of vernacular literature was highly emphasized, the story of Nü zhuangyuan no longer appears, but its influence and stereotype are still inherited by and can be observed in then-popular literature that portrays and appraises new women.