Sunday, August 4, 2013

Baochan Daohu, the End of Chinese collective Farming

Anonymous farmers put an end to collective farming in China by means of quiet disobedience. The process was called baochan daohu, "return production to the household". The government initially resisted, then tried to guide, then tolerated this process. The following quote explaining baochan daohu comes from "China's Grassroots Movement Toward Greater Freedom" by Kate Zhou. She has written a book "How the Farmers Changed China" on the topic, giving details of what happened and the official government responses.

Grassroots De-collectivization Movement (Baochan Daohu)
The Chinese grassroots movement toward liberty started with baochan daohu, the practice of contracting production to the household. Haunted by memories of disastrous collectivization policies, which led to 10-40 million people dying during the Great Leap Famine of 1959-1961, Chinese farmers were eager to gain greater individual control over food production. The tragic deaths of so many people played an important role in the onset of liberalization, formed the backdrop for the success of rural de-collectivization, and set the stage for like-minded individuals to pursue common objectives without the need for leadership or ideology.
Mao Zedongs’s death in 1976 brought about change in China’s political climate and the government began experimenting with assigning land to small groups of households, allowing desperately poor farmers to break away from the inefficient communes. Even though the party leadership opposed assigning land to individual households, families determined to farm their own plot of land frequently bribed local officials, and the movement gained momentum, greatly increasing output and incomes. These gains were evident and the news traveled so rapidly that it was impossible to stop the proliferation of this new system to nearly all communes. Chinese people often say that baochan daohu spread like a chicken pest; when one family’s chicken catches the disease, the whole village catches it. When one village caught it, the whole county caught it.
Baochan daohu was in essence an unorganized grassroots phenomenon. Those involved were not leaders, and most remain unknown because they did not engage in face-to-face confrontation with the state. Simply wishing to be left alone, they acted against the socialist planned economic system. The aggregate result was the mechanism for a slow social and economic transformation of rural China, away from collectivism and toward free markets. By 1982, more than 90 percent of rural people were engaged in the household production system and by the end of 1983, most of the communes disappeared, which had major social, economic, and political significance for China. 

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