The political economy of Chinese agrarian development policies: 1949-1964
Bain, Agnes Sapienza
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China is a modernizing agrarian society. As such, it pursued certain goals within an environment of resource scarcity. This research analyzes Chinese public policies for agrarian development within a framework of political economy. It begins with the hypothesis that resources, (material output, infrastructure, political legitimacy, etc.), can be politicized such that their values becane relative within a single costs/benefits framework". The exchange of resources between the regime and social sectors is reflected in public policy. The hypothesis is tested in a longitudinal case study of Chinese agrarian policies, extending from 1949 through 1964. During this period, Chinese decision makers focused on the agrarian sector and its role in the attainment of national goals. Therefore, within this time frame, the dynamics of resource creation, investment and exchange can be traced through the agrarian policy matrix to demonstrate the utility of this model. When resources are politicized they are brought into a "political market" where they become available for use. The first step toward the creation of this market is the politicization of existing resources. In China, this was effected by land reform and by the creation of infrastructure to penetrate and control the rural marketplace itself. As the political market expands, it also becomes more complex, generating greater demands for all types of resources. Chinese collectivization policies reorganized the internal resources of the agrarian sector -- land and labor -- in order to increase their productivity. However, internal resources proved insufficient for agrarian modernization and the collective infrastructure proved costly in terms of political and social resources. Therefore, communization was adopted as an alternative pattern of resource use and investment. The size, functional scope and structural efficiency of the commune were designed to maximize the use-value of internal agrarian resources. But its high risk component was the introduction of a division of labor into the rural environment. Differentiation and specialization in the production process would destroy traditional socio-economic units which were functionally integrated. In terms of the political market, these policies would secure and control the availability and value of agrarian resources. The immediate costs of rapid, qualitative change quickly surpassed long-term benefits. During' the crisis period of 1959-1961, the division of labor was withdrawn, along with all but the, administrative functions of the commune. However, political inflation, followed by a drastic deflation, resulted in the collapse of the political market. Still seeking workable alternatives for resource utilization, the regime combined agrarian "self-reliance" with selective technological and capital investments. This strategy promised differentiated development within the sector and a perpetual rural/urban dichotomy. As such, it was opposed by the "Maoist" faction. Reconsolidation policies -- rebuilding the political market -- became infused with an ideological debate. Out of this struggle there emerged a workable and essentially Maoist approach -- the Dazhai model -- which created a supportive environment for long term agrarian development. The political economy of agrarian development energes when these policies are viewed within a single costs/benefits framework. Long range goals were held constant by ideology while intermediate aims were pursued by evaluating and exchanging resources, and by choosing among options for resource utilization and investment. The agrarian policy matrix between 1949 and 1964 thus emerges as complex and non-linear. But it is developmental, in that the aggregate level of resource availability and political productivity was increased.
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