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The Relationship between Chinese Peasants’ Right to Subsistence and China’s Social Stability

April 1, 2009

Part 2 of series
Part 3 of series

In this first part of a three-part series on land rights and social stability—one of the most critical issues in China today—exiled Chinese economist He Qinglian examines the Gordian knot that the government faces in its attempt to solve the problem of subsistence for the country’s 940 million rural inhabitants.

Since the 1980s, both the government and academic circles of China have hoped that China’s “three rurals” problem (peasants, the countryside, and agriculture) and the abuses associated with a huge disparity between city and countryside could be resolved through the completion of the society’s transformation [from rural to urban] as posited by economist Arthur Lewis in the “dual sector economic model.”1 But after thirty years of economic reform, despite overtaking Germany as the world’s third-largest economy,2 China is still unable to change the reality that goes along with the current economic downturn and the vast numbers of unemployed migrant workers returning to the countryside. Thus, China remains a nation of peasants, with more than 68 percent of its population residing in rural areas. This so-called “peasants problem” remains China’s number one problem. Although the “dual sector economic model” summarizes the economic experiences of developing nations, it does not work when applied to China.

In the present stage, the crucial element in China’s “three rurals” problem is in reality the “peasants problem.” There are several levels to the problem: the land issue, the right to work, and the reconstruction of rural society. When Mao Zedong seized political power and when Deng Xiaoping initiated reform, the land issue was the key to solving all other issues. The rural population was much smaller then than it is today (460 million in the early 1950s),3 and allocation could fundamentally solve the problem of peasants’ subsistence. But at the present stage, when China’s rural population is at a high of around 940 million,4 and arable land in the countryside has tumbled below the 1,800 million mu5 “critical mark,” China can no longer rely on land to support the livelihoods of the whole rural population. Thus, the so-called “peasants problem” is no longer simply a question of land—it also includes the question of how to create “rice bowls” [livelihoods] for peasants.

I. The Evolution of the “Peasants problem” in China

China is a traditional agricultural country, with peasants6 making up the vast majority of the population. The “peasants problem” has constituted the foremost problem of Chinese society since the twentieth century. Its primary expression is a vast surplus population in the countryside that throws the contradiction between land and people into high relief. Non-agricultural sectors are incapable of absorbing this vast rural surplus population, which has led the rural economy to fall into semi-bankruptcy or bankruptcy. This, in the end, has placed huge pressure on the whole society.

The issue most intimately connected with the “peasants problem” is land. Chinese politicians have long attempted to solve the problem: from Sun Yat-sen to Mao Zedong and on to Deng Xiaoping, several generations of politicians have been keenly aware that the land problem was the greatest of China’s social problems. Due to differences in the background and social conditions of their respective times, their thinking differed around the two issues of land ownership and the means to achieve it. But there was one point on which agreement was unanimous: land should be nationalized.

  1. Sun Yat-sen advocated the nationalization of land and its allocation to peasants for their use. From his “equalization of land rights” to his “land-to-the-tiller” policies, he stressed that land should revert to state ownership, and peasants should only enjoy land use rights, not ownership. Methodologically, this meant the government would award land to peasants with little or no land and collect a land tax from them. Peasants could also supplement their allocations with land leased from the state. But Sun’s proposal was never put into practice.
  2. Mao Zedong’s thinking on land differed before and after the Chinese Communists seized power. Prior to seizing power, Mao advocated carrying out agrarian revolution, confiscating land from landlords and distributing it to peasant ownership. Once the Communists seized power, the land that had been distributed to the peasants was returned to collective (state) ownership through the establishment of cooperatives and people’s communes. But Mao’s people’s communes caused peasants to lose enthusiasm for production and the rural economy to become impoverished.
  3. Deng Xiaoping’s economic reforms began with implementing the “household contract and responsibility system” in the countryside. This land [management] system-retained collective ownership of the land, but his policy of contracting work to households was in form similar to Sun Yat-sen’s “land-to-the-tiller” proposal.

In October 2008, the Seventeenth Party Congress touted “new land reforms,” but in reality there was no change in the nature of state ownership of land (collective ownership). These reforms simply permitted peasants to transfer “land contract rights.” In other words, they allowed peasants to break completely from the land.

Here the distinctive land system in China’s countryside—collective (state) ownership—must be explained. The land tilled by each peasant family and household in China does not belong to them, because they do not possess right of ownership of the land. They only have land contract rights. That is, they are tenant peasants of the state, and they engage in cultivation for a time period within the terms of the contract and pay the relevant taxes. After October 2008, the government allowed peasants to “circulate land contract rights,” which was tantamount to permitting the buying and selling of these rights. If peasants sell their land contract rights, it is tantamount to selling their land. In doing so, they become landless peasants who no longer have any relationship to the land. Yet [these] peasants have no way to settle in the cities, but have to live, landless, in the countryside.7

Although the Chinese government staked the resolution of the long-standing intractable problems such as “greatly raising peasants’ consumption levels” and “solving the food issue and other big issues” on the circulation of land contract rights, this “reform” has not been welcomed by peasants.

Take Jiangsu Province as an example. In 2008, prior to the central government granting permission for contract land rights circulation, 8,240,000 mu of land were already in circulation, constituting 16.5 percent of the land area contracted to farm households in the entire province. There were also incidents of peasants being forced to circulate their land. Following encouragement from the government to circulate land rights contracts in October 2008, some cities and counties directly [set] fixed targets. One county announced that it would “guarantee” the circulation of 60,000 to 70,000 mu of land that year, with the task of achieving this target divided up among the townships. This reporter has met many township cadres, whose talk was all about a “1,000 mu plan,” and “10,000 mu greenhouses,” which in fact force peasants off the land.8

Similar situations also happen in other provinces. Fruit tree farmer Shi Chaoxu of Liao City, Shandong Province, said in an interview with a BBC reporter that there is no way peasants can benefit from this land circulation. Reports in the media, he said, were all false—because he used to believe the government and he used to believe the media, but he always lost out.9

In 2008,more than 100,000 businesses failed throughout the country, forcing 20 million migrant workers to return to the countryside.10 This situation intensified peasants’ reliance on the land (for they had no other occupation and nowhere else to go), and revolt by peasants everywhere against land seizure has become the predominant type of mass incident. In recent years, mass incidents in the countryside resulting from land seizure constituted 65 percent of all rural mass incidents.11 Even following the Chinese government’s decision in October 2008 to permit the circulation of agricultural land contract rights, struggles against land seizures continued. In February 2009 alone, in a village in Chengguan Town, Yunxi County, Shiyan City, Hubei Province, when the government seized more than four hundred mu—the only land left to the peasants in that area—more than one thousand peasants revolted, in an effort to block the seizure. The local authorities mobilized dozens of public security personnel to drive them away, and undertook monitoring of the rights activists who led the revolt. Petitions to Beijing by these rights activists were intercepted by the local authorities.12 Similar resistance took place in Liulan Village in Mengxu Township, Guiping City, Guangxi Province,13 and Tongxin Village, Dayi County, Chengdu, Sichuan Province.14

II. China’s “Peasants Problem”: Trend toward Greater Complexity

In the past thirty years tremendous changes have taken place in the Chinese countryside, but in fact the situation illustrates the deficiency of Arthur Lewis’ dual sector economic model.

The main thrust of Lewis’ theory is that in a dual economic structure suffering from overpopulation—a national economy where two sectors, distinct in nature, exist side by side, one a modern economic sector produced by modernized methods, the other an agricultural sector based on traditional methods—due to an unlimited supply of surplus labor in the agricultural sector and an industrial sector whose production is greater than that of the agricultural sector, the nation can borrow surplus labor from the agricultural sector and transfer it to the modern industrial sector to accelerate economic development. In the end all surplus agricultural labor is absorbed, changing the dual economy into a homogeneous one. Wages of laborers in the industrial sector and the income of farm laborers gradually rise as investment increases and industry and agriculture develop toward equilibrium. The transition in the national economic structure is then complete.

In 2008, more than 100,000 businesses failed throughout the country, forcing 20 million migrant workers to return to the countryside. This situation intensified peasants’ reliance on the land (for they had no other occupation and nowhere else to go), and revolt by peasants everywhere against land seizure has become the predominant type of mass incident.

In the China of the 1990s, the first stage of development described by the dual economy theory did in fact appear: profits grew sharply, capital accumulation quickened, and surplus labor was swiftly absorbed. But in fact the economy still was unable to enter the second stage of Lewis’ theory. Incomes in the industrial sector and the agricultural sector did not rise at the same rate; rather, the gap between them continued to grow. Nor did the dual economy gradually shift toward a homogeneous economy: in the middle of the first decade of the 21st century, the transfer of surplus labor fell into stagnation.

In general, the reasons why China has not been able to transition smoothly from the first stage of the dual economy to the second stage include the following:

  1. The contradiction between man and land is unprecedentedly acute; the number of landless peasants increased tremendously.

    In the eleven years from1996 to 2007, the total surface area of arable land in China shrank by 125 million mu.15 In March 2006, the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture publicly reported that two million mu of arable farmland were being seized annually, which indicated that at least one million peasants lost their land each year.16 In this case, the Ministry of Agriculture calculated two mu of land per capita, but in reality, by 2006 the per capita figure had fallen to 1.39 mu17 (the world average per capita arable land is 4.8 mu). Even if we calculate according to the 1996 level of per capita arable land of 1.59 mu,18 this 125 million mu reduction suggests that at least 78 million peasants have lost their land.19 Another fact must be taken into account: for many years, in the vast majority of the countryside, no land has been allotted to any new population, which means that a great many people in villages have never had land.

  2. The mode of farm production and livelihood has gradually evolved from a single “agricultural income supplemented by income from a side occupation (raising livestock)” to a “work income (or non-agricultural income) supplemented by an agricultural income.” It is only the proportion occupied by each that differs from place to place. In economically-developed areas, non-agricultural rural household income far outstrips agricultural income and has become the major source of increased income among peasants.

Despite the changes to rural household income described above, the purchasing power of peasants remains low. According to a survey done by the National Bureau of Statistics in 2005, 83 percent of consumption nationwide took place in cities. This suggests that the disposable income of the rural population (70 percent of the total population) accounts for less than 20 percent of the country’s total consumption.

Overall, then, the reason peasants remain poor is that there is no way for the non-agricultural portion of their income to continue to expand.  First of all, non-agricultural income is limited by the reduction in work opportunities for peasants. China’s modernized economic sector has already reached the saturation point with respect to absorbing rural labor. Second, the low wages for rural labor [in the city] make it impossible for peasants to survive apart from the land. These two major factors have intensified peasants’ attachment to the land. Chinese peasants can neither return to a life that relied solely on agriculture, nor can they go to live in cities. The tide of business bankruptcies in 2008 led to a great number of migrant workers losing their jobs and returning to the countryside. Many of them had been living in cities for ten to twenty years. Their children were born and grew up in cities, yet they could not put down roots there, becoming a unique people on the margin, straddling city and countryside.

III. The Failure of Rural Reorganization and the Degradation of Rural Local Political Power

After the Chinese government replaced the people’s communes with a two-tier structure of township and village,20 it continued to extend its nerve endings into China’s villages, directly intervening in the rural reorganization process. Pursuant to the Local Government Organization Act (Difang Zhengfu Zuzhifa [地方政府组织法]),21 town and township heads must be elected by the township People’s Congress through an indirect election. The current voting method reforms primarily aim at increasing competitiveness in elections. However, county- and township-level political forces have formed some intricate and tricky rural interest groups that posed all sorts of difficulties in the trial rural elections that began in the 1990s. A look at the current model for township and village government reveals manipulation by the government and by mafia-like organizations working with the government, and, in ethnic minority areas, manipulation by clans.

The three situations described above were in place as early as the mid-1990s. I have discussed this at length in my book The Pitfalls of Modernization (现代化的陷阱: 当代中国的经济社会问题).22 In this century these situations have tended to worsen:

  1. There have been numerous studies of the manipulation of local government. One is an observation and analysis of forty village committee elections in Jiangxi Province. It revealed that the township government, though it did not cast ballots in the village elections and had no candidates in them, interfered at almost every step of the way. The goal for nearly all the elections was similar: the township government hoped that their preferred candidates would be elected. In particular, they hoped that the former village committee office holders (or the important ones among them) would continue in office. In establishing the official candidates, they tried every means possible to get rid of the most competitive among the other candidates, rather than establishing the candidates through a simple vote tally. Their machinations, in addition to making use of qualifications restrictions, included many unofficial methods. For example, in Ai Village the township authorities forced a certain Deng, a very competitive candidate for the position of village director, to withdraw over involvement in canvassing for votes, etc. [Covert] activities were found in 17.9 percent of cases and blatant cheating in 12.8 percent.23
  2. The mafia and local governments operating in tandem is a common phenomenon in rural areas. After investigating 40 villages in a city in southern Hunan, Yu Jianrong, director of the Rural Development Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, concluded that the reason criminal forces could control village-level political authority was entirely due to the fact that the local political authority—township and county party committees and governments—deliberately support them. In some places, for example, where one township falls under the jurisdiction of two counties, things get extremely chaotic; in this case, the township party committee and the township government made use of three people with ties to criminal elements to serve as party branch secretary or village director in three villages. Once these people gained political power at the village level, they bought guns and organized criminal forces in their county and other counties to engage in numerous armed fights. The fact that the criminal forces are unchecked in these places depends in large part on the corrupt township cadres who are derelict in their duty, take bribes, act irresponsibly, and engage in mutual exploitation with criminal elements, working hand in glove with them.24
  3. Clan forces control village committees. Clans remain a resource for local power that cannot be overlooked. This force is even now making use of new mechanisms and methods to influence the allocation and operation of village rule and have begun to interact with state power. The family name background investigation of village cadres done by the task group for Research on Self-rule in Chinese Villages25 in six counties and sixty villages, including Lishu in Jilin, Qianxi in Hebei, Xuchang in Henan, Linyi in Shanxi, Xinluo in Fujian, and Linli in Hunan, showed that the majority of the cadres had a common surname, the ratio being especially high among party branch secretaries. Among the “popularly elected” village directors, the ratio rose to 60 percent. A survey done in Jiangxi Province showed similar results.26

Compared to the rural gentry government in the countryside prior to 1949, the present type of rural rule that is controlled by local power composed of black and white forces is certainly not village self-governance and is even less of a benevolent government for the populace. In the 1990s, China scholars in the West overstated the role of village elections, believing the elections to be a favorable beginning of “the democratization of the countryside.” This was not only a misreading of the politics, but also a false academic proposition.

The crux of the failure of rural reorganization is the fact that peasants do not have ownership of the land, only the right to use the land. The serious abuses that exist in this land system have created consequences that will have a far-reaching impact. For example, agents of the government in the rural areas, the local cadres, have the power to allocate land, providing institutional guarantees for the local government’s seizure of land in the countryside. They also facilitate corruption, diversion of funds, and the invasion and seizure of land by local cadres, causing relations between the local village cadres and the peasants to be extremely tense.

The importance of land ownership is deeply felt by peasants. In December 2007, a letter of appeal from 70,000 peasants in the Sanmenxia Reservoir area, in Yuanhuanghe, Shaanxi Province, “announcing to the country that we are reclaiming ownership of our land,” stated:

If we gain land ownership and if we further achieve locally-organized schools and health care, then the new three “Big Mountains” oppressing peasants will be overturned and every social guarantee for peasants will be basically solved . . . It is our belief that only peasants’ ownership of land and right to entrepreneurship are blessings, and only they can solve the root of the rural question. Only then will peasants be equal to city dwellers, only then can they participate in and share in the fruits of modernization. We need to have village elections in place for 20 years—then we’ll really have achieved something.27

A single survey is enough to prove that the process of rural reorganization in China during the reform period has failed: up until now, the composition of rural Chinese society has resembled a vast inverted T, with about 96.7 percent of the population at the bottom rung of society—the horizontal line of the inverted T.28 The structure of rural society in China today is nearly the same as the social structure of the Ming and Qing dynasties.

The scarcity of land and work opportunities has caused a great number of peasants to have lost the right to subsistence. Among peasants who have lost their land, many have not found work. This is true even in provinces with large economies like Guangdong, where there are far more work opportunities than other places. One research team at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences did a survey of Guangzhou, Zengcheng, Foshan,  and Zhongshan in Guangdong Province and discovered that among the peasant households surveyed, the land of nearly 54 percent had been appropriated. Peasant households whose family land had been seized accounted for 62.3 percent of all those surveyed. Twenty-five percent had completely lost their land; more than 75 percent had half or more of their land seized. Of peasants who lost their land, 68 percent had not found work.29

In the eleven years from 1996 to 2007, the total surface area of arable land in China shrank by 125 million mu. In March 2006, the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture publicly reported that two million mu of arable farmland were being seized annually, which indicated that at least one million peasants lost their land each year.

The so-called “landless peasants” and “unemployed migrant workers returning home” are in fact the displaced persons in pre-modern Chinese society. The peasant rebellions that overthrew dynasties in their last years throughout Chinese history were rebellions of displaced persons. Now that China has become a member of the international community, the impact of the “peasants problem” on China will certainly not be contained within China’s borders. But the problem of Chinese peasants’ right to subsistence has become much more complex than it was in the era when Mao Zedong led the Communist Party in revolution. Mao could put peasants together with a small parcel of land by “overthrowing the local tyrants and distributing the land.” But today, when land has already been distributed to peasants through the “household contract responsibility system,” the government can no longer reorganize the relationship between people and land by adjusting the model of ownership of land resources. How to provide “rice bowls” for the several hundred million people with seriously inadequate education is now and will continue to be China’s greatest human rights issue.

Translated by J. Latourelle


1. Sir William Arthur Lewis, a Saint Lucian economist known for his contributions in the field of economic development, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1979. According to the “dual sector economic model,” a developing nation with a dual economic structure (modern, industry-based, and traditional, agriculture-based) can transfer its surplus labor from the agricultural sector, where the wages are low, to the modern industrial sector, where wages are higher, to accelerate economic development. See section 2 of this article, “China’s ‘Peasants Problem’: Trend toward Greater Complexity,” for a more detailed discussion of the “dual economic sector model.” ^

2. China overtook Germany to become the world’s third-largest economy in 2007 after the Chinese authorities revised upwards the figures for growth during that year. Geoff Dyer, “China Becomes Third Largest Economy,” Financial Times, January 14, 2009, ^

3. Zhongguo Nongyebu Jihuasi, ed. [中国农业部计划司编], Zhongguo nongcun jingji tongji daquan (1949–1986) [中国农村经济统计大全(1949–1986)] (Beijing: Nongye Chuban She, 1989 [北京: 农业出版社, 1989]), 6. ^

4. Zhongguo Nongyebu, ed. [中国农业部编], 2005 nian zhongguo nongye fazhan baogao [2005年中国农业发展报告] (Beijing: Nongye Chuban She, 2006 [北京: 农业出版社, 2006]). ^

5.One mu = 666 2⁄3m² or ~797.3 sq yd, or ~0.1647 acres. “Tudi zongti guihua gangyao tongguo jianshou 18 yimu gengdi hongxian” [土地总体规划纲要通过坚守18亿亩耕地红线],  Xinhua News Agency [新华社], August 13, 2008, ^

6. The term “peasants” is very different from the term “farmers” in the Western context. Western farmers buy their land and can live wherever they wish. They can also choose any occupation and no one will see them as “farmers” or “landless farmers.”Their children can move to pursue their studies and work and will not be met with bias because of who they are. In China, “peasant” is not only an occupation, but a kind of social identity, because the household registration system divides Chinese into a rural population and an urban population. Even if peasants enter the city as migrant laborers or entrepreneurs, they cannot make the city their long-term residence. The first reason is the household registration (hukou [户口]) system, which requires their sons and daughters to pay higher fees to study in urban schools than urban people with registration in that city. For example, 1) they must pay a very high sponsorship fee (several thousand yuan annually; it varies from place to place); and 2) the urban cost of living is too high—migrant laborers’ income is exceedingly low, such that they cannot afford to live in the city long-term. The Chinese economy was poor in 2008; migrant laborers, as well as many people who had been doing business in the cities for over a decade, were forced to return home. Because their roots are in the countryside, a parcel of land can produce what they need to live and keep a roof over their heads. (Peasants have use of two types of land: one is for cultivation, the other is for building a house.)When Chinese peasants lose their land, they fall into the realm of the “three withouts”: without work, without land to farm, and without shelter, and thus they become displaced persons. ^

7. Following the establishment of the Communist regime in 1949, the historical evolution of the Chinese rural land system proceeded as follows. From 1953 when the rural cooperatives were established (transformed into the people’s communes in 1957), farmers’ land was all under collective ownership (another term for state ownership). Through the cooperatives (later, people’s communes), peasants engaged in collective production, recording work points every day, and receiving bonuses based on the work points at the end of the year (that is, incomes were distributed). Thus, there was no initiative to produce. After 1978, reform in China began in the countryside, and farmers could contract for land based on the family as the [contracting] unit. This was termed the “household contract and responsibility system.”The farmers paid an agricultural tax to the government (the tax was abolished by the central government in 2005 because additional fees collected from farmers by local governments were too burdensome and discontent was widely voiced). The special characteristics of this type of land contract rights system are: farmers do not have ownership of the land, only thirty-year contract rights of use (now that the thirty-year period has expired, it has been extended to fifty years), therefore farmers cannot freely buy and sell land. This problem led to many other problems, such as forcible seizure of land by local governments without the consent of the peasants, and peasants not receiving reasonable compensations. Thus, farmers were continually asking that the government return ownership of the land to them. The so-called “new land reform of 2008” still did not allow farmers ownership of the land, but did permit the sale and purchase of land contract rights. ^

8. “Tudi liuzhuan chengxian jiasu taishi mo qiangpo nongmin tuichu tudi jingying” [土地流转呈现加速态势,莫强迫农民退出土地经营], Xinhua Daily [新华日报], October 8, 2008, ^

9. “Tudi jingying liuzhuan: zhengfu re, nongmin leng” [土地经营流转:政府热,农民冷], British Broadcasting Corporation, October 10, 2008,  ^

10. Zhao Linlin [赵琳琳], “2000 wan nongmingong yin jinrong weiji shiye fanxiang” [2000万农民工因金融危机失业返乡], Guangzhou Daily [广州日报], February 3, 2009, ^

11. “Zhongyang jiang zhubu gaige zhengdi zhidu jianshao nongcun quntixing shijian” [中央将逐步改革征地制度减少农村群体性事件], Beijing News [新京报], February 23, 2006, ^

12. Yan Xiu [严修], “Hubei yunxi nongmin zuzhi nongdi bei qiangzheng” [湖北郧西农民阻止农地被强征], Radio Free Asia [自由亚洲电台], February 24, 2009, ^

13. Xin Yu [心语], “Guangxi Guiping jingmin yin tudi qiangzheng chongtu cunmin daibiao zao jubu” [广西桂平警民因土地强征冲突村民代表遭拘捕], Radio Free Asia [自由亚洲电台], February 25, 2009, ^

14. Ding Xiao [丁小], “Sichuan cunmin kangqiang zhengdi zao kansha shuren zhongshang” [四川村民抗强征地遭砍杀数人重伤], Radio Free Asia [自由亚洲电台], February 11, 2009, ^

15. “Zhongguo gengdi 11 nian jianshao 1.25 yimu, chao Henan quanbu gengdi mianji” [中国耕地11年减少1.25亿亩, 超河南全部耕地面积], China Business News [第一财经日报], October 29, 2008, ^

16. “Zhongguo shidi nongmin nianjun yu baiwan, guanyuan cheng yao yange baohu gengdi” [中国失地农民年均逾百万,官员称要严格保护耕地], Beijing News [新京报], March 9, 2006, ^

17. “Gengdi gaoji nengfou shouzhu 18 yimu hongxian?”       [耕地告急能否守住18亿亩红线?], Yang Cheng Evening News [羊城晚报], October 7, 2008, ^

18. Ibid.. ^

19. A sample survey by Wang Jingxin, professor at Zhejiang Normal University, in 2003 in 11 provinces (including Hebei, Shandong, Hubei, Guangxi, Zhejiang, and Yunnan, and 134 counties). Only 84.5 percent of the total population had received land. Extrapolating from this, at least 13.7 percent of farmers nationwide have no land; the number of farmers who have lost their land is in the neighborhood of 50,930,000–55,250,000. If those who have not received land due to reasons such as exceeding the birth control limit are added in, the number of farmers without land in China exceeds 60,000,000. Songbin [宋斌], “You duoshao nongmin shiqu tudi” [有多少农民失去土地], Guangzhou Wenzhai Bao [广州文摘报], December 29, 2003, ^

20. Here, “township” and “village” do not denote the English notion of countryside, but rather, refer to the Chinese government’s political authority at the local level: the township government and the village committee. These are similar to the United States’ administrative divisions and their corresponding government bodies in the four-tier system: federal government, states, counties, and towns. In China there are six tiers: the central government, provinces (or minority autonomous regions, such as Tibet and Xinjiang), prefectures (municipalities directly administered by the central government), cities (counties), townships (towns), and villages. Officials in the first five tiers are appointed by the government and paid by the finance ministry. At the last tier, the village, prior to the 1990s, officials were appointed by the county and township governments. From the 1990s on, they were nominally elected by the farmers. There are two primary political resources for the Chinese Communist Party in township and village society: the first is the two-tier town and village structure, which consists of town- and village-level party organizations, and the township government and village committee under their leadership; the second is a group of town and village cadres who serve as channels for publicizing and implementing the Chinese Communist political line, guiding policies, and government policies. Until 2004, due to consolidation of the township and village committees, there were approximately 17,800 townships, 19,200 towns, and approximately 65,270 village committees. National Bureau of Statistics of China, ed. [中华人民共和国国家统计局编], China Statistical Yearbook 2005 [中国统计年鉴2005] (China: China Statistics Press, 2005 [中国: 中国统计出版社, 2005]). Since China’s “Reform and Opening Up” in 1978, especially during the “fee and tax” era, the main functions of cadres in the township and village tiers were to 1) represent the state in implementing collection of taxes and fees in rural society, and 2) control the township- village society, including birth control, comprehensive administration of public security, and responsibility for some public works, such as road work, education, etc. ^

21. Zhonghua renmin gonghe guo difang geji renmin daibiao dahui he difang geji renmin zhengfu zuzhi fa [中华人民共和国地方各级人民代表大会和地方各级人民政府组织法], issued by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress [中国全国人民代表大会常务委员会], promulgated July 1, 1979, effective July 1, 1979; amended and effective December 2, 1986, February 28, 1995, and October 27, 2004, ^

22. He Qinglian [何清漣], The Pitfalls of Modernization: Economic and Social Problems in Contemporary China [现代化的陷阱:当代中国的经济社会问题] (Beijing: Jinri Zhongguo Chuban She, 1998 [北京: 今日中国出版社, 1998]). ^

23. Xiao Tangbiao and Tang Xiaoteng [肖唐镖及唐晓腾], “The Role of Basic-Level Governments in Villager Committee Elections—An Analysis of Observations of 40 Village Committee Elections in Jianxi” [村委会选举中基层政府的角色与行为分析―对江西省40个村委会换届选举观察的一项综合分析], China Elections & Governance [中国选举与治理], November 1, 2002, ^

24. Yu Jianrong [于建嵘], “Heie shili shi ruhe qinru nongcun jiceng zhengquande?—dui xiangnan 40 ge ‘shikong cun’ de diaocha” [黑恶势力是如何侵入农村基层政权的?—对湘南40个‘失控村’的调查], Xueshu Zhonghua [学术中华], October 25, 2004, ^

25. Xiao Tangbiao [肖唐镖], “Zongzu zai cunzhi quanli fenpei yu yunxing zhong de yingxiang fenxi” [宗族在村治权力分配与运行中的影响分析], Journal of Beijing Administrative College [北京行政学院学报], 2002, no. 3. ^

26. Ibid. ^

27. “Shanxi sheng yuan huanghe sanmenxia kuqu yue 7 wan nongmin xiang quanguo gaosu shouhui tudi suoyouquan” [陕西省原黄河三门峡库区约7万农民向全国告诉收回土地所有权], Canyu [参与], December 12, 2007, ^

28. Li Qiang [李强], “‘Dingzixing’ shehui jiegou yu ‘jiegou jinzhang’” [ ‘丁字型’社会结构与‘结构紧张’], Sociological Studies [社会学研究], 2005, no. 2. ^

29. Li Xiaoxi [李晓西], “Shidi nongmin weihe buyuan canjia zhiye peixun” [失地农民为何不愿参加职业培训], Journal of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences [中国社会科学院院报], August 7, 2008, ^

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