Friday, May 11, 2012

The Peasants Ye Have Always With You

It is said that the critical question for all 20th Century Revolutions is "what to do with the peasants?"  The usual response is, one way or another, betray them.  Now this:
The peasant is the weak point in all China's postwar planning. Unless his standard of living goes up, China's industry will have no true domestic market but will be linked to the uncontrollable cycles of world trade and the menace of war; unless he is helped, 80 per cent of China will remain unchanged.  To raise his standard of living, reform must start in the village, with the problems of landholding, rent, and credit, by the introduction of modern agricultural methods and seeds.  Unless reform roots itself in the village, the industry of the planners will mean little.  So far as the peasant is concerned, the new industry till be a Christmas tree decorated with imported tinsel bearing present only for others, but none for himself.
So Theodore H. White and Annalee Jacoby, 
Thunder out of China 306 ( 1946) 

So how's it going out there?

1 comment:

Jimbo said...

Well, let's see. We had the Great Leap Forward, which enormously exacerbated the 1958-61 famine that killed tens of millions. From the 1980s the commune system slowly got liberalized but is still often medieval and corrupt.

Since China's explosive export-led growth starting really in the 1990s what we have seen is a huge construction and manufacturing explosion in China's cities and this has led to a huge rural-urban migration, probably unrivaled in history over such a short time span.

The problem now is that there may not be enough labor in rural villages to produce the food that China needs. Climate change has also exacerbated the problem, which the USA and China are now the biggest drivers of. So, just as China is driving much of the oil price increase (not Obama) so it will also start to drive up food commodity prices, which will help US farmers but not many others.