Project-Based State Intervention and Agrarian Change in Contemporary China: The Case of Rice Production in Pingwan County, Hunan

In: Rural China

This article analyzes the role of the state in the development of capitalist agriculture in contemporary China by focusing on the implementation of the central-government-sponsored National Grain Security Project and Agricultural Industrialization Project in Pingwan county of Hunan province since 2009. It demonstrates that by providing significant (formal and informal) subsidies and transferring large tracts of farmland to large farmers and agribusinesses, the Chinese government has made the capitalist transformation of rice production possible. We stress that in the absence of private property rights, the local governments’ strong control over farmland transactions makes it relatively easy to transfer large tracts quickly, helping agribusinesses and large farmers avoid significant transaction costs they would otherwise have to face under a system of private landownership. The article also shows that existing policies support the transfer of farmland in regions with favorable geographic and climatic conditions over other regions and therefore lack the capacity to significantly decrease regional inequalities.

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