China Study Group

The End of the Peasant? New Rural Reconstruction in China
by Alexander Day | originally published in: boundary 2 1 jul
Introduction to the alternative rural development current of China's New Left and some of their experiments w/ rural cooperatives


In the 1980s, the main people expressing discontent were urban,
and the reform of rural China was largely judged a success. While through-
out the 1990s rural unrest intensified markedly, it was not until the publi-
cation of Li's letter that this crystallized into a new recognition within the
public sphere that rural China was in a crisis. This anxiety has given rise in
recent years to a diverse set of rural activities, experiments, and research
that have coalesced into a rural social and cooperative movement, the so-
called New Rural Reconstruction Movement (Xin xiangcun jianshe yun-
dong, hereafter NRRM).

This major intervention by intellectuals and rural activists, who argue
that this rural crisis cannot be understood simply as a problem of rural
economics and agricultural production but as a social crisis that calls for
the reconstruction of rural social life, is best grasped as a Polanyian social
protective movement in reaction to the marketization of society and per-
ceived lack of an urban solution. As a critique of developmentalism and the
economic mode of analysis, it turns to culture and cooperative relations as
vital to the reorganization of rural social life. The contemporary rural social
and cooperative movement is marked by diversity and complexity, as had
been its antecedents in the 1930s, to which many of the activists look for
inspiration. This essay focuses on the politics and practices of one effort
at transforming rural society, led by the influential intellectual Wen Tiejun,
who has played a seminal role in articulating problems of rural China and in
promoting the NRRM.

My underlying premise here is that contemporary China's rural prob-
lems need to be viewed in a global perspective. These problems have much
to do with China's plunge into globalization over the last decade and a half,
and the marginalization of the Chinese peasantry is part of a global trend.
Within the next few years, half the world's population will be urban—a world
historical milestone. This global urbanization process has been uneven,
however, and has provoked powerful, sometimes violent, resistance. This
resistance belies the teleological necessity often assumed by ideologues
of globalization. Home to the world's largest rural population, China is a
key site to investigate this transformation and how people react to and
understand it. From this perspective, it is not surprising that the NRRM
has strong resonances with non-Chinese rural social movements of the
1990s that came to prominence in the antiglobalization movement, such
as the Zapatistas in Mexico or the Landless Workers Movement (MST) in
Brazil. Activists seeking to resolve problems of rural China are part of this
global effort to find an alternative to the future envisaged by champions of

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Rural Studies

From Covert to Overt: Everyday Peasant Politics in China and the Implications for Transnational Agrarian Movements

Kathy Le Mons Walker | 16 jun

Relates everyday peasant politics in post-socialist China, especially land struggles and class consciousness, to transnational agrarian movements such as La Via Campesina


曹锦清 | 04/08



谭同学 | 03/18


Rural Studies tag cloud

agrarian cooperatives 现代化 社会主义新农村建设,农民本位的新农村建设,生活方式,� identity land nrr peasants protests TAM 另类发展 土地私有化、媒体批评、三农、增收 宋儒 宗法 新农村建设 新乡村建设 殖民化 三农 三农问题 中国国情