City Versus Countryside in Mao’s China: Negotiating the Divide


Jeremy Brown (2012). City Versus Countryside in Mao’s China: 
Negotiating the Divide. Cambridge University Press. ISBN: 9781107424548.

The gap between those living in the city and those in the countryside remains one of China’s most intractable problems. As this powerful work of grassroots history argues, the origins of China’s rural-urban divide can be traced back to the Mao Zedong era. While Mao pledged to remove the gap between the city worker and the peasant, his revolutionary policies misfired and ended up provoking still greater discrepancies between town and country, usually to the disadvantage of villagers. Through archival sources, personal diaries, untapped government dossiers, and interviews with people from cities and villages in northern China, the book recounts their personal experiences, showing how they retaliated against the daily restrictions imposed on their activities while traversing between the city and the countryside. Vivid and harrowing accounts of forced and illicit migration, the staggering inequity of the Great Leap Famine, and political exile and deportation during the Cultural Revolution reveal how Chinese people fought back against policies that pitted city dwellers against villagers.

For more information about this book:

Link to book review by Yixin Chen (2013) at The China Quarterly, Volume 214, June 2013 pp 479-480:

Cite this blog post
Miguel Elosua (2014, September 12). City Versus Countryside in Mao’s China: Negotiating the Divide. URBACHINA. Retrieved April 19, 2024, from

Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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