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Beyond the ownership question: who will till the land? The new debate on China’s agricultural production

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  • Hayward, Jane

Abstract

A high-profile debate is taking place in China concerning the organization of agricultural land and production, with profound implications for China’s countryside. This debate is between those advocating for agricultural production to be taken over by large-scale agribusinesses, and those against this. Proponents regard agribusinesses as embodying modernity and progress, while those against forewarn of the channeling of profits out of peasant hands, the loss of peasants’ autonomy over labor and land, and the destruction of rural life. Recent English language publications on China’s agrarian change highlight the growing power of agribusiness and related processes of depeasantization, implying the Chinese debate on “who will till the land?” is futile. But this view obscures efforts by Chinese scholars and policymakers to promote forms of agricultural organization conducive to maintaining peasant livelihoods. By examining the Chinese debates on agribusinesses, family farms, and cooperatives, this article highlights points of contestation among policymakers and alternative possibilities, which may yet shape the course of China’s agrarian change. This article contributes to scholarship on China’s agrarian change, broader questions concerning depeasantization, and developmental possibilities under collective ownership.

Suggested Citation

  • Hayward, Jane, 2017. "Beyond the ownership question: who will till the land? The new debate on China’s agricultural production," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 87081, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:87081
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    File URL: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/87081/
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    Keywords

    China; peasants; land reform; agrarian change; privatization;

    JEL classification:

    • Q15 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Land Ownership and Tenure; Land Reform; Land Use; Irrigation; Agriculture and Environment

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