We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Monday, August 24, 2015

The capitalist transformation of rural China: Evidence from “Agrarian Change in Contemporary China”

Click here to access article from Chuǎng

Because I have posted articles by Jeff Brown who is an American living in China and whose articles are very favorable toward the Chinese government and their control of capitalist operations (for example, see this), I am also looking for other perspectives on what is happening in China. While trying to discern where the authors were coming from I learned from the "About" section that the authors could be contacted at chuangcn@riseup.net. Riseup.net is an anarchist collective based in Seattle, but has participating members elsewhere. So, this suggests that the article takes an anarchist perspective. I've only had time to superficially scan the summaries of articles he writes about from the Journal of Agrarian Change which appears to be an international academic journal devoted to agricultural issues (see this and this).  
Despite so much attention being spent on the woes of the Chinese stock market and currency wars, in other fields the Chinese state continues its liberalizing reforms. Over the last few years the state has pushed forward with its attempt to scale-up and capitalize agriculture, and Li Keqiang recently argued for the need to “industrialize agriculture.”1 This has led to a debate concerning the character of rural social and production relations. Some continue to claim China is not a capitalist social formation, and rural China and its land system are taken as major pieces of evidence. But this stance can no longer be maintained. Chinese agriculture is undergoing a rapid transformation as it is subsumed by capitalism. In order to understand rural China and contemporary peasant conflicts, therefore, we need to focus our attention on the processes of agrarian change and class differentiation that capitalism brings to the rural sphere.
A recent special issue of the Journal of Agrarian Change (volume 15, issue 3, July 2015) makes this clear. The issue deals with “agrarian change” in China since the late 1970s and especially focuses on the increasing capitalist transformation of agriculture and rural society over the past decade. The eight articles offer new insights into the changing terrain of social and environmental antagonisms in China today, which have implications for how we conceive of anti-capitalist intervention there and elsewhere. Below we summarize points of interest from each article. In the forthcoming first issue of the Chuang journal, we elaborate on points raised here and relate them to other debates to draw out their political implications.