China Study Group

series on "patterns of rural governance" published

The central China school of rural studies (华中乡土派) recently completed a series of 16 books on "patterns of rural governance in China" (中国村治模式实证研究丛书), edited by He Xuefeng & published by Shandong People's press in January 2009.

This series is partly modeled on Fei Xiaotong's project on "the comparison of types" of Chinese villages, but it is organized around the central China school's framework of "rural governance" (or "village governance") & its "regional patterns." The series consists of 15 village studies by different scholars (mainly grad students at the Center for Research on Rural Governance at Huazhong University of Science & Technology, a few more established scholars) & one collection of several shorter village studies by He Xuefeng. In all the series deals with 15 villages in 11 provinces, and, within the general framework of "rural governance," it examines such issues as official & unofficial village organizations & decision-making & their relationship with the state, mechanisms of villager cooperation, the supply of public goods & services (water, roads, health care, schooling, etc.), varying & changing forms of land tenure, the transformation of familial structure & peasant values, welfare of the elderly, and the impact of labor migration & market forces.

By this summer I aim to write English & Chinese reviews of Wang Ximing's book from this series, Village Community Governance on the Western Sichuan Plain: A Study of Jing Village, Luojiang County (川西平原的村社治理:四川罗江县井村调查). For now you can see an English translation of an article related to the book here, and a Chinese overview of the book here. (Also see the just-published English translation of another article by Wang Ximing here.)

By fall I aim to write English & Chinese reviews of the series as a whole, or at least something dealing with other books in the series. I would like to find one or two people to collaborate on this project. Each of us could choose a few books to read, & then we could write a review together. Contact me if you're interested.

The Chinese introduction to the series is here.

See Chinese Sociology & Anthropology 41(1), fall 2008, for Alexander Day's introduction about the central China school of rural studies & a translation of several related articles: Chen Baifeng's article on Liwei village is related to the book he co-wrote for the series (number 14 below), He Xuefeng's article is the first English text introducing the central China school's theory of "rural governance" & its "regional patterns," & the other three articles put this kind of research into the historical context of Chinese political studies & intellectual politics.

Below is the list of titles with my rough translation of them (please let me know if I made any mistakes):

The simple governance of a complex society: A study of Maowang village in Guanzhong
by Ding Wei

Village community governance on the western Sichuan plain: A study of Jing village, Luojiang county
by Wang Ximing

Leaving the shadow of the ancestors: The southern Jiangxi pattern of rural governance
by Guo Liang

Village rule by intellectuals: The Huizhou pattern of rural governance
by Zhang Shiyong

The [social] circles of Jian village: A Hakka village's pattern of rural governance
by Lv Dewen

Xiaohe village at the crossroads: An initial exploration into the northern Jiangsu pattern of rural governance
by Luo Jianjian

The village will no longer be a village: The central Hubei pattern of rural governance
by Chen Tao

An initial exploration into the northern Henan pattern of rural governance: A study of Heng village, Anyang prefecture
by Guo Pengqun

The pain of transition: A study of Nanludong village in central Jiangxi
by Wang Xiaojun

The old village is not old: A study of Old Quzhou village in western Zhejiang
by Chen Hui

Lasting ties: The symbolic world of a lineage village in southern Hunan
by Yang Hua

The social foundation of village development: Rural governance in a village in eastern Henan
by Liu Yang

Patterns of rural governance: Several case studies
by He Xuefeng

Peasant life & its value-world: A study of Liwei village in northern Anhui
by Chen Baifeng & Guo Junxia

The wanderings of a mountain village: The northwestern Hubei pattern of rural governance
by Li Derui

Rural governance in a new-style migrant community: A study of Zaozihe village in Jilin
by Li Hongjun & Zhang Xiaoli

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attacking the police

July 14 1:19 pm | by husunzi | tags: protests riots police

Update 2 (July 20): incident #5: Yesterday in Menglian, Yunnan, somewhere between 400 and "over 1,000" rubber farmers attacked police sent to arrest alleged instigators in a conflict with rubber plant managers, apparently about being forced by the government to sell their crop at 40% below its market value. The police shot dead 2 of the farmers, one of them "a student who knelt in front of [the police] begging for leniency for his father," according to this report, wounding 15 others and arresting about 20. Brandishing knives and steel pipes, the farmers managed to injure 41 officers and burn 8 police vehicles. Several high-ranking provincial officials have gone in to mediate the conflict, but as of this morning over 200 farmers were still protesting. (Google menglian for latest reports.)

Incidentally, over 1,500 petitioners were arrested in Beijing between July 14 and July 16, according to this report, with one committing suicide in protest, and one being sent to a labor camp on July 17, according to this.

Update (July 19): a fourth incident in the string of violent attacks on police and local governments in China was reported today. By connecting the dots provided by the scanty reports and a little bit of prior knowledge, I surmise that what happened is:

In Shangnan village on the outskirts of the (prosperous, export-processing) city of Huizhou, Guangdong, migrant workers from poor inland areas, who probably rent rooms from the villagers (most of the villagers probably living relatively comfortably from this rent & running local businesses, and so probably perceived by the migrants as something like class enemies), exploded in anger when they found that one of their fellow migrants, who had worked as a motorcycle-taxi driver, was dead, apparently murdered by a village "security guard," apparently because the driver refused to pay a 200 yuan "protection fee" to the "security guard."

The reports don't say what these security guards are, what they guard, or how they are in a position to charge protection fees from migrants (who I'm only assuming to be tenants in this village). SCMP says they were "government-hired," but it's clear that what the reporter means by "government" is the village authorities (who are formally independent from the government, but who often function as extensions of the nearest township party committee). What do they guard? Maybe they function as police for the village (since villages don't have formal police). Or maybe this village is more like a gated community for rich people, and the security guards are there to keep poor migrants from coming in to rob them?

Anyway, somewhere from "over 100" to several hundred migrants attacked the security guards and the village authorities' office, as well as the Yuanzhou township police station and nearby shops, brandishing knives and waterpipes, and turning over a police car. When the migrants tried to set fire the village authorities' office, about 300 villagers then attacked the migrants. The township police and riot police from Boluo county then came in to suppress the conflict. Netizens claim that three security guards were killed, but the state media hasn't reported any deaths on either side. 8 rioters were detained, among whom 7 were released, only the 25-year-old cousin of the deceased being kept under accusation of inciting to riot. Witnesses say that over 1,200 people were involved in all.

The best report I've seen is in today's SCMP, but you'll need to go through a subscribing library to access the online version. Google "huizhou police" for other reports, but mine's the best so far, i'm afraid. Let me know if you learn any more details or see any mistakes (the obvious way would be to search in Chinese, but i'll just wait for someone else to do that for me ;-)

Original post:

In the past two weeks there have been three incidents reported about Han Chinese attacks on the police: the riot in Weng'an, Guizhou; the individual attack on a police station in Shanghai; and now the riot in Kanmen, Zhejiang. (Considering the delay in reporting about the last incident, the lack of details about all three, Beijing's heightened efforts to control its image at this time, and precedence about this sort of incident over the past few years, it seems likely that other incidents of this kind have occurred recently.) Like the Tibetan riots in March, these incidents are all "criminal acts of violence," "terrorism of the highest order".

The best collection of info on Weng'an riot I've seen is Roland's, including photos & links to videos. Here is the first in the series of videos on Youtube:

Here are some of the photos:

w 1w 2w 3

Today the local state media announced that authorities have arrested 100 people & blamed the riot on gangs, still denying the claims that they had covered up the rape & murder of a girl, which had sparked the riot. According to AP, against this official claim that the riot was stimulated by gangs, "Locals have insisted that most of the rioting was done by middle school classmates of the dead girl, who had accused police of covering up her rape and murder by the son of a local official." However, according to local state media via Reuters, "Forensic experts have conducted three autopsies on the 16-year-old victim, Li Shufen, and have repeatedly ruled out the possibility of sexual assault or murder, saying she died by drowning." Instead (according to an earlier report), the provincial authorities are blaming local officials for creating a volatile atmosphere by their involvement with gangs as well as mishandling "public tensions over mining development, housingdemolitions and resident resettlement, Xinhua reported."

There has been little reporting on the Shanghai incident. The best report/ commentary I've seen is this. Today Xinhua released some more information about the suspect, but still nothing about his own explanation (they had briefly mentioned his explanation before but then removed it, saying that it was "inappropriate" to publish the suspect's point of view, according to Danwei).

I have seen no pictures or videos of the Kanmen incident either, although according to the reports hundreds of people were involved and it lasted for three days. I haven't found much searching in Chinese either (and shouldn't be spending much time on this now anyway - hopefully Roland, CDT, or someone will do that for me :) Apparently it's been covered up pretty well, considering it was only just reported in both Chinese & Western media four days after the riot began & a day after it was suppressed. The best report I've seen is this.

Incidentally, Tibetans & Hans are not the only people rioting lately. The past few weeks have also seen violent protests in India, Mongolia and Japan (in addition to the largely peaceful G8 protest, where 21,000 police outnumbered an terrorized an estimated 3,000 protesters), a prisoners' rebellion in Ireland, and a police mutiny in Nepal, not to mention the numerous food-related protests and riots around the world that preceded these for several months.

Such reports, "when viewed individually, may appear at first glance to be irrational actions, or simply isolated events. When viewed as a whole, they point to large areas of discontent and general patterns of activity..."

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China Left Review Launched

May 19 12:31 pm | by admin

China Study Group is pleased to announce the launch of the bilingual web-journal China Left Review. Our purpose is to stimulate discussion and collaboration between left-leaning scholars and activists in Chinese and English-speaking worlds. We seek to do this by compiling, translating, and commenting on a variety of works related to controversial and pressing social issues. Our focus is on China, including both the struggles of China's subordinated classes in today's capitalist context, as well as the lessons, positive and negative, that yesterday's socialist experiments provide for those struggles. But we hope also to explore how such struggles and lessons relate to the struggles of people everywhere oppressed by capitalism, patriarchy, and racism, and to contribute to the global circulation of struggles toward building a more just, sustainable, and inclusive world.

We hope eventually to publish several issues a year full of original contributions in both Chinese and English, and translations or summaries of all contents in both languages. At this point, however, we are running almost entirely on uncompensated labor done when most of us should be sleeping or working for capital. As we grow, these stolen moments may add up to a proper voluntary workforce, but for now, we are limiting our goal to two issues per year, each with a few original contributions and translations, and introductory overviews in both English and Chinese.

Works originally published here are common property. You are welcome to use and circulate this material for non-profit purposes, but please indicate that it was originally published by China Left Review.

If you would like to submit a Chinese or English article, essay, story, poem, or picture for publication, or if you would like to help us by translating or working on the website, please contact us at [email protected].

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aufheben & walker on class conflict in urban & rural China

May 12 4:20 am | by husunzi | tags: class labor peasants political economy history protests

The 2008 issue of Aufheben (#16) is out in its print edition.

Apparently they wait about a year before posting new issues on, so you'll have to get it from your local distributor or order it from them or AK Press. Their first article on China, "Welcome to the Chinese century?" from issue #14, is up on libcom in case you haven't seen that already.

I highly recommend this new issue in general, which also contains critiques of Virno's Grammar of the Multitude and De Angelis' Beginning of History, and a review of Forces of Labor by Beverly Silver. The China article brings together a fair amount of recent material into an original analysis of the major class conflicts and the prospects for going beyond their present limits. There are a few minor errors that we must forgive the author(s?) due to the difficulty of penetrating the somewhat provincial world of China studies, and to the poor quality of a lot of journalistic writing on Chinese labor and peasant struggles, in particular.

From their conclusion:

[C]ontrary to what it may appear at first sight, the immense economic transformation of China has resulted in widespread, and at times quite intense, resistance from both workers and peasants. However, [...t]hrough the combination of making timely minor concessions and the ever present threat of repression, the Chinese state has, for the most part, succeeded in restricting social protests to narrow and parochial issues and focussed on the malfeasance and corruption of local party-state cadre.[...] However [...] there are signs that China will find it increasingly difficult to provide world capital with a plentiful supply of cheap and compliant labour-power.[...]

Due to the limitations of our sources, the emphasis of this article has been on the struggles of _danwei_ workers that occurred several years ago. Important as they are [...] they are, what may temred conflicts of class de-composition, or what Beverly Silver has called Polanyi-type struggle.[... C]apital may take flight from class conflict and find a new home but it cannot escape its nemesis forever. Having alighted in China, capital is in the process of summoning into being anew working class, as the peasant migrant workers turn into a fully fledged proletariat. No doubt the struggles of this new working class will become increasingly important in the future.

One thing they mentioned that was new to me was that some of the peasant land struggles, anti-tax protests, etc., developed into full on insurrections and incipient counter-hegemonic organizations in the late 1990s, before the state managed to stem this tide through a combination of repression and concessions (and I would add, ideological moves, such as the new campaign to "construct a new socialist countryside"). Aufheben directs us to a particularly insightful overview and analysis of these peasant struggles by Kathy Le Mons Walker: "'Gangster Capitalism’ and Peasant Protest in China: The Last Twenty Years,” Journal of Peasant Studies, vol 33, no. 1 (2006):1-33. I've just read that article as well and also highly recommend it (she's also got a new article on "Everyday Peasant Politics in China and the Implications for Transnational Agrarian Movements" in a special issue of the Journal of Agrarian Change on "transnational agrarian movements" - vol. 8, nos. 2 & 3, 2008). There she notes:

[A]lthough mostly ignored in both Western scholarship and the Western press, [...] since the mid-1980s protest, resistance, and outright insurgency have gathered momentum in the countryside. The movement has involved hundreds of thousands of incidents and millions of peasant participants. It reached new levels of intensity in 1993 when, according to the Hong Kong press, there were uprisings in nearly a dozen of China’s 21 provinces and several thousand casualties [Bernstein, 1994: 8; Ngo, 1999: 471–2].[...]

By the late 1990s there was also evidence of greater militarization and an openly insurgent politics, including the formation of dissident organizations and paramilitary forces. In some localities protesters established ‘peasants’ revolutionary committees,’ ‘peasant rebellion command committees,’ or armed self-defense units to replace the party and government [Perry, 1999: 315; Thornton, 2004: 93, 98]. The obscure and secretive ‘Anti-Corruption Army of the People, Workers and Peasants’ is also a case in point. In late 1998 Yang Jiahua, a 52-year-old peasant, organized the ‘Southwestern Yangzi Column’ of the Anti-Corruption Army in western Sichuan. This peasant-based force apparently viewed itself as a new communist organization and patterned its structure on China’s ruling party, from a politburo down to a propaganda department. The Column surfaced publicly in early June 1999, when it led a series of rallies in three counties and 13 townships in the Chongqing region where, according to news reports, it appeared to have wide appeal. At these rallies several hundred Column members distributed leaflets condemning the Chinese Communist Party as no longer authentic, totally corrupt, and unfit to rule [Holland, 1999a: 10].[...]

Paralleling the above developments, in the late 1990s rural protests snowballed with some locales being hit by weekly, if not more frequent,actions. According to internal government statistics, the number of demonstrations, protests, and risings in 1998 alone rose to 60,000; in 1999the figure was even higher, reaching 100,000 [‘Dissidents Warn’, 1999; ‘Five Thousand PRC Farmers’, 1999; ‘One Thousand Protest’, 1999; ‘Police Clash With 1,000’, 2001: 1–2].

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Symposium on Giovanni Arrighi's Adam Smith in Beijing

May 5 9:50 pm | by admin

Is US power in decline? What are we to make of the rise of China? Will a possible equalization of North-South relations herald a more brutal capitalism or a better world? Giovanni Arrighi, Joel Andreas, and David Harvey give their perspectives in this forum, for a discussion of Arrighi's 2008 book Adam Smith in Beijing (Verso), filmed in Baltimore, MD, in March of 2008. The event was organized by the Red Emma's collective ( Discussants: Giovanni Arrighi is professor of Sociology at Johns Hopkins University. His books include The Long Twentieth Century (1994), Chaos and Governance in the World System (w/ Beverly Silver, 1999), and Adam Smith in Beijing (2008). Joel Andreas is professor of Sociology at Johns Hopkins University. He is the author and cartoonist of Addicted to War: Why the US Can't Kick Militarism (2004). David Harvey is is professor of Anthropology at the Graduate Center at City University of New York. His many books include Spaces of Hope (2000), The New Imperialism (2003), A Brief History of Neoliberalism (2005), and Limits to Capital (new ed, 2007).

April 30, 2008

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