Land reform in China makes for a fascinating topic of research, considering that
history is unfolding before our very eyes.
The reform process in China is far from
complete, yet it is rather astounding when one considers how many changes have
occurred in just the last fifty years.
For a large, rural country like China, land reforms have an enormous effect on the
population in general.
When Mao Zedong proclaimed the birth of the Chinese People’s
Republic in 1949, one of the goals pursued was redistribution of land to individual
households in preparation for collectivization.
Prior to the change in power, warlords
held authority over peasants in a feudal system.
Contributing to the binding nature of
feudalism were Confucian values, values that came into conflict with the revolutionary
ideas of the early 1950s.
Recognizing feudalism as the central obstacle to China’s
revitalization, Mao sought to dismantle the system immediately.
In fact, the Chinese
Communist Party won millions of supporters among the poor when the land and other
property of landlords were redistributed so that each household in a rural village would
have a comparable holding, creating a stratum of private smallholders and eliminating the
As the Communist Party took control of regions, it taught the peasants
in those areas that social and economic inequalities were not natural and that
redistribution of property was the first step in creating a new communal order where all
would work together unselfishly for common goals.
For this purpose, the Party would
send a small team of party administrators and students to a village to cultivate relations
with the poor, organize a peasant association, identify potential leaders, and organize
Eventually the inhabitants would be classified into five categories:
landlords, rich peasants, middle peasants, poor peasants, and hired hands.
government would then confiscate the holdings of landowners, and sometimes land
owned by rich and middle peasants, and redistribute it more evenly.
It should be noted
that such collectivization was mandatory and imposed by the Communist government,
although it must have seemed a great thing to the poorest of peasants.
A second land reform in the mid-1950s strengthened the idea of collectivization
with the introduction of People’s Communes.
More specifically, in 1953, the Chinese
Chen and Davis
Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia