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Unformatted text preview: Village China Under Som and Reform: A Micro-History, 1948–2008. By Huaiyin Li. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2009. 424p. $65.00 cloth. doi:10.1017/S1537592710000630 — Mayling Birney, Princeton University In this illuminating book, historian Huaiyin Li traces the political economy and social dynamics of Qin village in Jiangsu province in China over 60 years, from the start of the Communist era to the present. As he does so, he chal- lenges conventional notions about state-society relations, state power, and economic development in China. Of par- ticular interest to political scientists and economists should behisappreciationofhowsocialfactorsandmultilevelinflu- encesaffecthowformalinstitutionsoperate.Hearguesthat, because these have not been adequately appreciated, schol- ars have often misunderstood the impact of formal institu- tionalshifts;andheputsforthamodifiedportraitofchange and continuity between the sot era (from the 1950s to 1970s) and the subsequent reform era in China. Beyond this overarching point, Li’s book makes several more specific arguments. Some of these might valuably inform comparative political science studies of power rela- tions, participation and governance, predation, and devel- opment in an authoritarian state. On power relations, Li argues against the common view that villagers were sub- servient and powerless under an oppressive sot state, instead showing how they continually resisted the state using traditional and modern forms. Regarding gover- nance, Li portrays the state as encouraging political aware- ness and oversight by the public, but using tools that are often inadequate and/or uninteresting to villagers. Com- plicating a simple view of the state as either predatory or developmental, Li argues that the state excessively extracted from rural areas like Qin village at the same time that it modernized the rural economy. Regarding development, Li argues that rural economic growth in the reform era was driven less by the much-emphasized introduction of market incentives than by the gradual policy shift towards serving, rather than overextracting from, rural areas. The book tells its story in four parts, with the first focusing on grassroots resistance in the 1950s; the next two focusing on political, social and economic relations throughout the sot era; and the last part focusing on the subsequent reform era in China. A challenge for read- ers will be to extract the themes and information of most interest from the rich content. Skimming the insightful conclusion first will assist in this. In Part I, “Deference and Defiance in the 1950s,” Li shows how villagers and the state mutually resisted and accommodated each other during the first decade of the People’s Republic of China. He documents how Qin vil- lagers initially allowed the state to impose small-scale coop- eratives because they were fairly consistent with traditional social arrangements, they did enhance productivity, villag-...
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This note was uploaded on 08/27/2011 for the course HIS 340M taught by Professor Li during the Summer '11 term at University of Texas.
- Summer '11