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Inequality of land tenure and revolutionary outcome: An economic analysis of China's land reform of 1946–1952

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  • Kung, James Kai-sing
  • Wu, Xiaogang
  • Wu, Yuxiao

Abstract

A paradoxical feature of China's land reform of 1946–1952 is that it was conducted far more radically in the north, where land tenure relations were far less unequal, than in the south where inequality of land tenure was distinctly more acute. That landlords could only be identified in south China was attributable to the sharply more active land rental market there, and the “single-cut” policy of defining the landlords narrowly as a rentier class. We attribute the predominance of an active land rental market in south China to three socioeconomic characteristics: 1) a sharply higher inequality in land distribution, 2) an organization of agriculture whose efficiency required the “unsupervised initiatives” of family labor, and 3) a distinctly higher proportion of “absentee landlords”. Our hypothesis of land rentals being the only variable distinguishing the landlords from the rich peasants and only in south China is strongly supported by empirical evidence.

Suggested Citation

  • Kung, James Kai-sing & Wu, Xiaogang & Wu, Yuxiao, 2012. "Inequality of land tenure and revolutionary outcome: An economic analysis of China's land reform of 1946–1952," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 49(4), pages 482-497.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:exehis:v:49:y:2012:i:4:p:482-497
    DOI: 10.1016/j.eeh.2012.07.001
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Gottschang, Thomas R, 1987. "Economic Change, Disasters, and Migration: The Historical Case of Manchuria," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 35(3), pages 461-490, April.
    2. Kenneth L. Sokoloff & Stanley L. Engerman, 2000. "Institutions, Factor Endowments, and Paths of Development in the New World," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(3), pages 217-232, Summer.
    3. Kung, James Kai-sing & Li, Nan, 2011. "Commercialization as exogenous shocks: The effect of the soybean trade and migration in Manchurian villages, 1895–1934," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 48(4), pages 568-589.
    4. Brandt, Loren, 1987. "Farm Household Behavior, Factor Markets, and the Distributive Consequences of Commercialization in Early Twentieth-Century China," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 47(03), pages 711-737, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Lindert, Peter H. & Nafziger, Steven, 2014. "Russian Inequality on the Eve of Revolution," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 74(03), pages 767-798, September.

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