Zouping offers important general lessons for the study of China's rural transformation. The authors in this volume, all participants in a unique field research project undertaken from 1988 to 1992, address questions that are far from simple and about which there is some controversy.
The questions are grouped around two issues. The first is the role of local governments as economic actors. What is this role, how have they played it, and how can we explain their behavior? Have they dominated rural economies through public ownership of industry and local planning, or has the role of local governments diminished with the rise of market transactions and private ownership? The second issue is market reform and inequality. Have rural cadres enjoyed income advantages in the new market environment? Has the provision of such collective services as education and health care declined, leading to new forms of inequality?
The chapters on the role of local government all point to a single conclusion: one cannot explain the rapid development of Zouping without reference to the role of local governments and of local government officials as economic actors. Scholarly writings about the "transitional economies" have often ignored or distorted this aspect of China's reform experience. On the second issue, changes in inequality owing to market reform, the authors present mixed findings but contribute rich new data to the research on this issue.
No review can do justice to all the significant findings of this rich volume...The book addresses some of the knottier issues that have dominated scholarship for a decade or more, presenting provocative new material and findings. Future debates on these issues must address the work on Zouping collected here.
Andrew Walder makes a major addition to our understanding of the economic role of county government in the reform period...In this highly interesting book, Zouping comes to the fore as a rather sleepy county which is pushed by outside forces into modernity with all its problems. The volume is a major addition to our understanding of institutional change, cadres and policies in North China.
[A] well-researched and timely book.
The introductory chapter by Andrew Walder starts with rich statistics to situate Zouping county in rural China. He then spells out the objectives of this volume [his] goals are ably accomplished by the next seven chapters that are based on empirical studies using data from interviews, observations, official statistics, and survey data from a unique research project undertaken from 1988 to 1993 The book provides valuable insights into the process which local government shapes the development and stratification of a country in northern China. It is an important and timely rendering of the rural reforms and will prompt researchers on transitional societies to focus on the forces that shape the dynamics of transition.
This is a unique book that brings together interdisciplinary research on one county by outstanding China scholars.
- 304 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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