Anna L. Ahlers and Gunter Schubert (2013). Strategic Modelling: “Building a New Socialist Countryside” in Three Chinese Counties . The China Quarterly, 216, pp 831-849. doi:10.1017/S0305741013001045.
Models, pilots and experiments are considered distinctive features of the Chinese policy process. However, empirical studies on local modelling practices are rare. This article analyses the ways in which three rural counties in three different provinces engage in strategies of modelling and piloting to implement the central government’s “Building a New Socialist Countryside” (shehuizhuyi xinnongcun jianshe) programme. It explains how county and township governments apply these strategies and to what effect. It also highlights the scope and limitations of local models and pilots as useful mechanisms for spurring national development. The authors plead for a fresh look at local modelling practices, arguing that these can tell us much about the realities of governance in rural China today.
More information at The China Quarterly: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0305741013001045
Farmers enjoying tea at a local teahouse in Yongchuan district (永川区), Chongqing. Photo taken during a field trip to Chongqing in November 2013.
The dual citizenship and property system in China has forged the collective rural identity. Having a rural hukou provides some benefits, especially concerning rural land rights. However, this rural, or farmer’s, identity constitutes a barrier for many migrant workers who have been living in urban areas, some for decades. In many places, the hukou has been relaxed, but in large cities like Beijing or Shanghai restrictions are still in place. There is little doubt that the lack of a local resident permit presents an obstacle for integration and identification with the host city. Migrant workers continue to have a preference for marrying their peers from the country. Very often, one can hear them making plans to go back to their hometowns after they retired. But, what seems more peculiar to an outsider is to learn that many still call or consider themselves farmers. According to the (English) dictionary, a farmer is a person who owns or manages a farm, or cultivates land. However, in China it has a very different meaning: it is a social class. It refers equally to those who engage in the farming industry and those who work in the city but possess a rural residence permit. Actually, the (usual) Chinese name for migrant workers does not contain the word “migrant” but “farmer” (nongmin-gong – 农民工). In fact, it also includes the fellows who joyfully sip at their tea in the photo, but whose industry is alien to the writer.
BEIJING — Once or twice a week, a dozen amateur musicians meet under a highway overpass on the outskirts of Beijing, carting with them drums, cymbals and the collective memory of their destroyed village. They set up quickly, then play music that is almost never heard anymore, not even here, where the steady drone of cars muffles the lyrics of love and betrayal, heroic deeds and kingdoms lost.
The musicians used to live in Lei Family Bridge, a village of about 300 households near the overpass. In 2009, the village was torn down to build a golf course and residents were scattered among several housing projects, some a dozen miles away.
Now, the musicians meet once a week under the bridge. But the distances mean the number of participants is dwindling. Young people, especially, do not have the time.
“I want to keep this going,” said Lei Peng, 27, who inherited leadership of the group from his grandfather. “When we play our music, I think of my grandfather. When we play, he lives.”
Across China, cultural traditions like the Lei family’s music are under threat. Rapid urbanization means village life, the bedrock of Chinese culture, is rapidly disappearing, and with it, traditions and history.
“Chinese culture has traditionally been rural-based,” says Feng Jicai, a well-known author and scholar. “Once the villages are gone, the culture is gone.”