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Unformatted text preview: Book Reviews ”Huge China, under Socéaiism and Refom' A Micro—history, 1048—2003. By Huaiyin Li. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2C09. Pp. xvi-402. $65.00. Yusheng Peng Brooklyn C allege, C UN Y Huaiyin Li’s new book, Village China underSociaiz'm and Reform, pres- ents a detailed and vivid narrative history of peasant political—economic life in an eastern seaboard village in China over the six decades since the Communist Revolution. Yet the volume is more than just another case study of Chinese villages. Li situates the micro history of a village within the macro context of national politics and reconstructs the macro history from the perspective of the ordinary peasants. Through the narratives of the villagers, Li seeks to explain what kind of impact national policies have on the daily lives of the little people and how their struggles and resistance help to constrain the choices and decisions of the national leaders. Li grew up in the village he studies, Qin, which is located in the lower Yangtze River delta, Jiangsu Province, to the north of Shanghai. Eco- nomically the village is slightly better off than the national average, and its story is typical of rice~growing regions in eastern China The villagers welcomed land reform, followed the party’s call to organize mutual aid groups and elementary co-ops, complied with the pressure to join the advanced co-ops, resisted mandatory procurement of grains by the state, and got swept away by the communization campaign and Great Leap Forward frenzy. They ate from the “big rice pots,” suffered from the three year famine of 1959—61, survived the four cleanups and the Cultural Revolution, shirked in team production, shoulder-poled various large- scale irrigation and water control projects, and learned from Dazhai. They embraced decollectivization and household farming during the reform era, engaged in rural industrialization, diversification, and income growth, participated in village elections, and experimean with self-governance. All these political events and national policies were experienced as ev— eryday life and struggies of the ordinary peasants and grassroots cadres. Theoretically, Li attempts to challenge conventional wisdom in three aspects: the state-peasant relationship, the cadre-peasant relationship, and the performance of collective agriculture. First, in terms of the state— peasant relationship, conventional views often depict the party—state as all-powerful and completely dominating the powerless peasantry. Li tries to make the case, less than persuasively, for “the power of the powerless” in shaping the state’s agrarian policies (p. 335). According to Li, the pow er of the peasants is best demonstrated in their covert resistance and open defiance toward the unified purchase and sales of grain and the com— pulsory communization in the [9505, which forced the state to revise its unrealistic procurement policies and to scale back collective farms from 1619 ...
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