Collectivism, Contractualism and Crisis in the Chinese Countryside
In its heyday, from the mid-1950s through to the late 1970s, collective agriculture was widely regarded as one of China’s success stories. A growing population was being fed, a great deal of infrastructure was built to combat the effects of flood and drought that have historically plagued the country, and breakthroughs were being made in rural industrialisation and the mechanisation and modernisation of agriculture. In social terms, large gains were made in increasing the equality of income distribution, and the communes had a major role in broadening health care and education. Politically, the countryside was freed from the corruption and suffering of imperial and republican days, and new institutions were built that involved a modicum of popular participation and a degree of political stability great enough to avoid the worst depredations wrought by the Cultural Revolution in the cities.
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