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Strange Rebels: 1979 and the Birth of the 21st Century by Christian Caryl
anti-communist, Ayatollah Khomeini, Berlin Wall, Bretton Woods, British Empire, colonial rule, Deng Xiaoping, financial deregulation, financial independence, friendly fire, full employment, income inequality, industrial robot, Internet Archive, land reform, land tenure, liberal capitalism, liberation theology, Mahatma Gandhi, means of production, Mikhail Gorbachev, Mohammed Bouazizi, Mont Pelerin Society, Neil Kinnock, new economy, New Urbanism, oil shock, open borders, open economy, Pearl River Delta, Plutocrats, plutocrats, price stability, rent control, road to serfdom, Ronald Reagan, single-payer health, special economic zone, The Chicago School, union organizing, upwardly mobile, Winter of Discontent, Xiaogang Anhui farmers, Yom Kippur War
The villagers had vivid memories of what had happened to other families who had acted against state policy, so they also agreed that they would raise the children (until the age of eighteen) of any village leaders who were arrested or shot as a result of the agreement. The Xiaogang villagers had no way of knowing that farmers all around China were trying to get away with similar plans. But Anhui Province was a bit different. The food situation there was so dire that some officials were willing to turn a blind eye to what the farmers were doing17—even while others persisted with obstruction, denying fertilizers to the experimenters.18 The new party chief in Anhui, another victim of the Cultural Revolution, had his own ideas. Wan Li had assumed the leadership of the province in 1977, just before Deng’s comeback, and he soon realized that the comeback of household contracting was the only way to make sure that people avoided starvation. He gave his official blessing to the Xiaogang experiment, as well as allowing other places to try out similar measures (always under the proviso that the peasants involved were in particularly desperate straits).
There were a few communities where both farmers and officials were quietly testing the limits of the possible. One of the most intriguing was the village of Xiaogang, in a part of Anhui Province that had been hit especially hard by Great Leap starvation. Fengyang County had lost ninety thousand people—a quarter of its population—between 1958 and 1960.13 In the 1950s, Xiaogang village had thirty-four households; by 1979, migration and starvation had reduced the number to eighteen.14 In bad years, due to drought or mismanagement from above, the villagers had to sell possessions for food or borrow money for seed. The year 1978 was a bad one. Some of the families in the village were boiling poplar leaves and eating them with salt; others roasted tree bark and ground it to make flour15 The peasants of Xiaogang were locked into the commune system, which forced them to cultivate collectively owned farmland.
He gave his official blessing to the Xiaogang experiment, as well as allowing other places to try out similar measures (always under the proviso that the peasants involved were in particularly desperate straits). Farmers were allowed to divide up the land of the commune into household plots. They were required to provide a set quota of grain to the state. The rest could be sold off in private markets. The effects were dramatic. Grain output in Xiaogang rose sixfold in the course of the year. The per capita income of the villages went from twenty-two yuan to four hundred.19 This was a trend that would be exceedingly hard to stop. “Baochan daohu [“contracting by the household”] is like a chicken pest,” one peasant said. “When one family’s chicken catches the disease, the whole village catches it. When one village has it, the whole country will be infected.”20 In 1979, by one estimate, 10 percent of Anhui Province was practicing the household-responsibility system.
Reinventing the Bazaar: A Natural History of Markets by John McMillan
accounting loophole / creative accounting, Albert Einstein, Alvin Roth, Andrei Shleifer, Anton Chekhov, Asian financial crisis, congestion charging, corporate governance, corporate raider, crony capitalism, Dava Sobel, Deng Xiaoping, experimental economics, experimental subject, fear of failure, first-price auction, frictionless, frictionless market, George Akerlof, George Gilder, global village, Hernando de Soto, I think there is a world market for maybe five computers, income inequality, income per capita, informal economy, information asymmetry, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, job-hopping, John Harrison: Longitude, John von Neumann, Kenneth Arrow, land reform, lone genius, manufacturing employment, market clearing, market design, market friction, market microstructure, means of production, Network effects, new economy, offshore financial centre, ought to be enough for anybody, pez dispenser, pre–internet, price mechanism, profit maximization, profit motive, proxy bid, purchasing power parity, Ronald Coase, Ronald Reagan, sealed-bid auction, second-price auction, Silicon Valley, spectrum auction, Stewart Brand, The Market for Lemons, The Nature of the Firm, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, trade liberalization, transaction costs, War on Poverty, Xiaogang Anhui farmers, yield management
China’s agriculture switched from collective to individual production in the late 1970s. This change gives us a reasonably clear-cut experiment in the force of property rights. Food production boomed with the farmers’ new individual incentives. The marketization of agriculture lifted hundreds of millions of Chinese out of dire poverty. It was the biggest antipoverty program the world has ever seen. A tiny beginning sparked this massive reform: a clandestine meeting of the householders in a small rural village. Desperation had hit the farmers of Xiaogang village in China’s Anhui province by 1978. The commune on which they worked collectively was dysfunctional. Known as the granary of China, Anhui contains some of the nation’s most fertile land. But Xiaogang’s twenty families were not producing enough rice to feed themselves. They had been reduced to relying on begging in other regions.
They signed the pact with their thumbprints. A rapid turnaround followed. The farmers of Xiaogang immediately became more productive. “Now is different from the past,” one said. “We work for ourselves.” Working their own plots of land, they could see a direct link between their effort and their rewards. Any of their output beyond what they owed the state they now retained to use for themselves or to sell. The amount of land planted in rice nearly doubled in one year, and the village began producing a rice surplus. As a farmer said, “You can’t be lazy when you work for your family and yourself.” Word got out, despite their oath of secrecy. No one understood the inefficiencies of communal farming better than the farmers themselves. All over China, farmers were ready to change. With wildcat breakups of communes in other villages, the movement quickly proliferated.
Not only was commune members’ pay unrelated to their own performance but, to make matters worse, it was cruelly inadequate. The state deliberately set the price of rice artificially low. The old Eastern European lament applied also in China: “We pretend to work, they pretend to pay us.” The upshot was that the farmers in the communes had little incentive to exert effort. It made little difference whether a farmer worked himself to exhaustion or dozed all day under a tree. Either way, the amount he took home to feed his family was much the same. “The enthusiasm of the farmers was frustrated,” said Yan Junchang, a Xiaogang village leader. “No matter how hard I rang the bell or blew the whistle, I couldn’t get anyone to go into the fields.” The missing incentives translated into low output. Agricultural productivity was actually lower in 1978 than it had been in 1949, when the communists took over.
conceptual framework, crony capitalism, currency manipulation / currency intervention, David Brooks, Deng Xiaoping, East Village, financial independence, Gini coefficient, income inequality, indoor plumbing, information asymmetry, land reform, Lao Tzu, low skilled workers, market fundamentalism, Mohammed Bouazizi, Plutocrats, plutocrats, rolodex, Silicon Valley, South China Sea, sovereign wealth fund, special economic zone, Steve Jobs, transcontinental railway, Washington Consensus, Xiaogang Anhui farmers, young professional
The previous winter, in the inland village of Xiaogang, the local farmers had been so impoverished by Mao’s economic vision that they had stopped tilling their communal land and had resorted to begging. In desperation, eighteen farmers divided up the land and began to farm it separately; they set their own schedules, and whatever they sold beyond the quota required by the state, they sold at the market and reaped the profits. They signed a secret pact to protect one another’s families in the event of arrest. By the following year, they were earning nearly twenty times as much income as before. When the experiment was discovered, some apparatchiks accused them of “digging up the cornerstone of socialism,” but wiser leaders allowed their scheme to continue, and eventually expanded it to eight hundred million farmers around the country.
When their first exhibition was excluded from the national museum in 1979, they hung their work on the fence outside and staged a march beneath the slogan “We Demand Political Democracy and Artistic Freedom.” For much of the nineties, authorities arrested performance artists for appearing in the nude, shut down experimental shows, and bulldozed underground artists’ villages. But the influx of money transformed the relationship between artists and the government. By 2006, Chinese painters such as Zhang Xiaogang were selling pieces for close to a million dollars, and a younger generation of artists, raised in the boom years, let it be known that they were tired of addressing authoritarianism and politics. Like artists elsewhere, they trained their sights on consumerism, culture, and sex, and they encountered a new generation of speculators and collectors. Li Suqiao, a curator and collector in Beijing, told me, “I say to my friends, ‘Instead of gambling four thousand dollars on a round of golf, you can get a work of art.’”
This describes the fact that the most successful film ever made about two of China’s national symbols, kung fu and pandas, had to be made by a foreign studio (DreamWorks), because no Chinese filmmaker would ever have been allowed to have fun with such solemn subjects. The censors at the State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television had always worked in secrecy; they never publicized their orders, but now directors were taking their complaints to the public. In April 2013 the filmmaker Feng Xiaogang was giving a mundane acceptance speech for the Director of the Year award when he seized the chance to make a bold statement; he cut short his list of thank-yous and said, “For the last twenty years, every director in China has faced a kind of tremendous torment, and that torment is censorship.” Feng was no dissident; he’d made a bare-handed fortune on romantic comedies and big-budget epics, but the decades of compromises and concessions were rubbing a raw spot on his professional pride.
Progress: Ten Reasons to Look Forward to the Future by Johan Norberg
agricultural Revolution, anti-communist, availability heuristic, Bartolomé de las Casas, Berlin Wall, British Empire, business climate, clean water, continuation of politics by other means, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, demographic transition, desegregation, Donald Trump, Flynn Effect, germ theory of disease, Gini coefficient, Gunnar Myrdal, Haber-Bosch Process, Hans Island, Hans Rosling, Ignaz Semmelweis: hand washing, income inequality, income per capita, indoor plumbing, Isaac Newton, Jane Jacobs, John Snow's cholera map, Kibera, Louis Pasteur, Mahatma Gandhi, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Mikhail Gorbachev, more computing power than Apollo, moveable type in China, Naomi Klein, open economy, place-making, Rosa Parks, sexual politics, special economic zone, Steven Pinker, telerobotics, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, transatlantic slave trade, very high income, working poor, Xiaogang Anhui farmers, zero-sum game
As a result, around forty million people are estimated to have starved to death, and life expectancy collapsed by twenty years. Even after this disaster, food was scarce in China because the collective farms stifled work and innovation. No one could make more by working harder or investing in better methods. Today, China’s leaders are proud of its productive agricultural sector, but it did not change because of a top-down decision. It was started by a few brave peasants in the Xiaogang village in Anhui province in December 1978. The eighteen families of the village were desperate. The communist system did not supply them or their children with enough to eat. Some families had to boil poplar leaves and eat them with salt; others ground roasted tree bark to use as flour. So they met in secret late one night and agreed to parcel out the communal land among themselves. Every family would make its own decisions on what and how to farm and how much to work, and each family would be allowed to sell what they produced themselves, after the government took the share it demanded.
The villagers agreed that if word got out and any of them were jailed or executed, the others would raise their children. The farmer who had drawn up the contract hid it inside a piece of bamboo in the roof of his house, and hoped that the officials would never find it. In the end, word of this secret privatization got out. The result was just too good to keep a secret. The farmers did not start the workday when the village whistle blew any longer – they went out much earlier and worked much harder. There was a dramatic surge in production. Grain output in 1979 was six times higher than the year before. Other villages could see that Xiaogang did better, and that people there were better fed, and tried to find out what they had done differently. Individual farming spread ‘like a chicken pest’, as one farmer put it. ‘When one village has it, the whole country will be infected.’39 The communist party was hostile to individual initiative and should have punished the farmers.
‘When one village has it, the whole country will be infected.’39 The communist party was hostile to individual initiative and should have punished the farmers. But the grassroots reforms were incredibly popular and the party realized this was the only way to put an end to hunger and inefficiency. In 1982, in an unprecedented about-turn, the party endorsed the reforms, and allowed other villages to do the same. Two years later, there were no communes left in China. A country that experienced one of the worst famines in history just two decades earlier now produced a surplus of food for the world markets. Guan Youjiang, one of the original signatories of the Xiaogang agreement, remembers that people used to die of hunger in his village. He used to roam the countryside begging. The freedom to choose one’s work, and to reap the rewards, made all the difference. ‘Before, farmers were happy if they had a meal a day.
airport security, anti-communist, Asian financial crisis, bank run, banking crisis, Bob Geldof, Bretton Woods, British Empire, call centre, clean water, colonial exploitation, colonial rule, Edward Glaeser, end world poverty, European colonialism, failed state, farmers can use mobile phones to check market prices, George Akerlof, Gunnar Myrdal, Hernando de Soto, income inequality, income per capita, Indoor air pollution, invisible hand, Kenneth Rogoff, laissez-faire capitalism, land reform, land tenure, Live Aid, microcredit, moral hazard, Naomi Klein, publication bias, purchasing power parity, randomized controlled trial, Ronald Reagan, Scramble for Africa, structural adjustment programs, The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, transaction costs, War on Poverty, Xiaogang Anhui farmers
Still, the dynamism of the poor at the bottom can sometimes lead to emergence out of stagnation of the wider society. Miracle in Xiaogang In the tiny village of Xiaogang, Anhui province—the heart of China’s rice-growing region—twenty families held a secret meeting in 1978. The villagers were desperate because they were starving. As Stanford economist John McMillan tells the story, the commune system that the Communists had in place all over China was leading to a breakdown in food production. Under this system, everybody was collectively responsible for tilling the land, and everybody had a share in the land’s output. You got your rice share whether you worked hard or not, and as a result people hardly worked. The villagers of Xiaogang reached an agreement: they would divide up the land and farm it individually, with each person keeping the output of his own land.
The villagers of Xiaogang reached an agreement: they would divide up the land and farm it individually, with each person keeping the output of his own land. They kept their agreement a secret out of fear of the Communist authorities. Rice production in Xiaogang shot up. The results were too spectacular to stay secret for long. Neighboring villages wanted to know how Xiaogang had increased its rice production so much. Other villages also put into place individual farming. Before long, the Communist authorities got wind of the spontaneous outbreak of property rights in the countryside. The news arrived at a propitious moment, when reformers in the party were seeking to get rid of the doctrinaire Maoists. Confronted with the evidence that food production increased dramatically with individual farming, the provincial Communist Party officials gave their blessing and reported the developments to authorities in Beijing.
Less anecdotally, China now accounts for 63 percent of American imports of women’s shoes.22 Not that China just exports shoes. I do a quick survey of my apartment. My New York Yankees baseball cap—made in China. My clock radio—made in China. My USB FlashDrive for my computer—made in China. The laptop computer itself—made in China. The exploration of free markets that started with the end of agriculture communes in Xiaogang in 1978, as told in a previous chapter, spread to industrial as well as agricultural enterprises. On December 24, 2004, the New York Times did a story on China’s textile enclaves. Datang is China’s Socks City, producing nine billion pairs of socks a year, a third of the world’s output. As recently as the late 1970s, Datang was a sleepy rice-growing village of less than a thousand people. People sewed socks in their spare time and sold them by the road in baskets.
Lonely Planet China (Travel Guide) by Lonely Planet, Shawn Low
Albert Einstein, anti-communist, bike sharing scheme, call centre, carbon footprint, clean water, colonial rule, credit crunch, Deng Xiaoping, haute couture, haute cuisine, income inequality, indoor plumbing, land reform, mass immigration, Pearl River Delta, place-making, Rubik’s Cube, Skype, South China Sea, special economic zone, sustainable-tourism, trade route, upwardly mobile, urban planning, urban renewal, urban sprawl, women in the workforce, Xiaogang Anhui farmers, young professional
Getting There & Away Mizhi makes an easy day trip from Yulin or you could stop here to/from Yan’an. Frequent buses (¥20, two hours) run from Yulin’s main (south) bus station. Ask to get off at Jiulong Bridge (jiulong qiao), which is a little closer to the palace. Buses from Mizhi to Yan’an (¥53.50, 3½ hours, three daily) depart at 7.40am, 8.20am and 1.30pm. Anhui Anhui Highlights Tunxi Around Tunxi Huizhou Villages Huangshan Jiuhua Shan Hefei Anhui Pop 64.1 million Why Go? Well-preserved villages and fantastical mountain scapes are the principal draw for visitors to Anhui. The main attraction of this southern Huizhou region is unquestionably Huangshan, a jumble of sheer granite cliffs wrapped in cottony clouds that inspired an entire school of ink painting during the 17th and 18th centuries. But the often overlooked peaks of nearby Jiuhua Shan, where Buddhists bless the souls of the recently departed, are much quieter, with a hallowed aura that offers a strong contrast to Huangshan’s stunning natural scenery.
Over 1.2 million tons of transparent plastic sheeting is used annually by China's farmers to reduce water loss from evaporation, but much of the plastic is later ploughed into the earth, polluting the soil and decreasing crop yields. Mountains China has a largely mountainous and hilly topography, commencing in precipitous fashion in the vast and sparsely populated Qinghai–Tibetan plateau in the west and levelling out gradually towards the fertile, well-watered, populous and wealthy provinces of eastern China. This mountainous disposition sculpts so many of China’s scenic highlights, from the glittering Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces of Guangxi to the incomparable stature of Mt Everest, the stunning beauty of Jiuzhaigou National Park in Sichuan, the ethereal peaks of misty Huangshan in Anhui, the vertiginous inclines of Hua Shan in Shaanxi (Shanxi), the sublime karst geology of Yangshuo in Guangxi and the volcanic drama of Heaven Lake in Jilin.
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Admiral Zheng, Asian financial crisis, Berlin Wall, Bob Geldof, Bretton Woods, BRICs, British Empire, credit crunch, Dava Sobel, deindustrialization, Deng Xiaoping, deskilling, discovery of the americas, Doha Development Round, energy security, European colonialism, failed state, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, global reserve currency, global supply chain, illegal immigration, income per capita, invention of gunpowder, James Watt: steam engine, joint-stock company, Kenneth Rogoff, land reform, land tenure, Malacca Straits, Martin Wolf, Naomi Klein, new economy, New Urbanism, one-China policy, open economy, Pearl River Delta, pension reform, price stability, purchasing power parity, reserve currency, rising living standards, Ronald Reagan, Scramble for Africa, Silicon Valley, South China Sea, sovereign wealth fund, special drawing rights, special economic zone, spinning jenny, Spread Networks laid a new fibre optics cable between New York and Chicago, the scientific method, Thomas L Friedman, trade liberalization, urban planning, Washington Consensus, Westphalian system, Xiaogang Anhui farmers, zero-sum game
In 2006 Sotheby’s and Christie’s, the world’s biggest auction houses, sold $190 million worth of contemporary Asian art, most of it Chinese, in a series of record-breaking auctions in New York, London and Hong Kong. At the end of that year a painting by contemporary artist Liu Xiaodong was sold to a Chinese entrepreneur for $2.7 million at a Beijing auction, the highest price ever paid for a piece by a Chinese artist. With auction sales of $23.6 million in 2006, Zhang Xiaogang was second only narrowly to Jean-Michel Basquiat in the ArtPrice ranking of the 100 top-selling artists in the world: altogether there were twenty-four Chinese artists in the list, up from barely any five years ago. These changes reflect the growing global influence of Chinese art and artists.90 China, however, still lags hugely behind the West when it comes to the international media. Recently the Chinese government has attempted to expand their international reach, upgrading Xinhua, the state news agency, creating new overseas editions of the People’s Daily and an English-language edition of the Global Times, professionalizing the international broadcasting of CCTV, and enabling satellite subscribers in Asia to receive a package of Chinese channels.91 Compared with the international audiences achieved by Western media like CNN and the BBC, the Chinese media have barely begun to scratch the surface, but the success of Al-Jazeera suggests that mounting a serious challenge to the Western media is not as difficult as it once seemed.
Rogoff, Kenneth Rudd, Kevin rule of law rural migrant workers rural reform Russia samurai San Francisco Sarkozy, Nicolas Saudi Arabia science and technology scientific publications Senkaku/Diaoyu islands sense of guilt Shambaugh, David Shandong province Shanghai Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Shanghai Electric Shanghai Five Shenzhen Shi Yinhong Shimonoseki, Treaty of Shintaro, Ishihara ships Sichuan province Singapore Sino-Japanese War Sinocentrism see Middle Kingdom mentality skin colour Smith, Adam Song dynasty (AD 960-1279) South Asia South China Sea South-East Asia see also ASEAN South Korea farming population identity Mandarin learning Students in China urban population sovereign wealth funds Soviet Union special economic zones sports Spratly and Paracel islands state enterprises state sovereignty Steel, Valerie steppe nomads Su Xiaokang suffrage Sugihara, Kaoru suicide Sun Yat-sen Sun Zi superstitious customs surveillance system sustainability, of growth Taipei Taiping Uprising Taiwan China’s attitude to farming population modernity public opinion superstitious customs Taiwanese identity urban population Tang, David Tang dynasty (618-907) Tang Shiping Taoism Tata Nano tax reforms TCL tea culture technocratic class technology transfer Temasek Holdings tennis Terracotta Army territorial expansion terrorism Thailand Therborn, Göran Tianjin, Treaty of Tibet ‘time-compression societies’ Tokugawa era Tokyo (former Edo) tolerance tourism trade unions Treaty of Nanjing tributary system Tu Wei-ming Tung Chee-hwa UN peacekeeping operations, Chinese troops unequal treaties United Kingdom and China colonization decline of industrial employment Industrial Revolution Mandarin teaching overseas Chinese racism share of world population urban population United States and Africa and Australia and China colonized/colonies decline and East Asia economic strength and Europe foreign policies hegemony human rights debate importation of investment and India industrial employment insularity and the international system and Japan Mandarin teaching and Middle East overseas Chinese population rise of self perception understanding of universities United States Africa Command unity universalism universities urban population urbanization US dollar US National Intelligence Council report US Treasury bonds values Veriah, Harinder Vietnam Vietnamese (language) village election Wang Gungwu Wang Xiaodong war on terror waterway systems Wen Jiabao Wen Yudio the West concept of decline of and the developing world share of world population view on Asia modernity view on China Westernization food language physical appearance politics and power Westphalian system wet rice farming Wolferen, Karel van Wong Bin workplace World Bank world history writing system WTO Xinjiang Xu Zongheng Xuchang Man Yan Xuetong Yang Qingqing Yangzi Delta Yangzi river Yasukuni Shrine Yellow Emperor (Huang Di) yellow races Yoshino, Kosaku Yu Yongding Yuan dynasty (1279-1368) Yuan Shih-kai Yukichi, Fukuzawa Zambia Zhang Qingli Zhang Taiyan Zhang Wei-Wei Zhang Xiaogang Zhang Yimou Zhang Yin Zhang Yunling Zhang Zhidong Zhao Suisheng Zhao Ziyang Zheng He zhongguo Zhou dynasty (1100-256 BC) Zhou Enlai Zhu Feng Zhu Rongji Zi Zhongyun Zimbabwe
Since ingredients are not the same everywhere, Chinese food acquired an indigenous character simply by virtue of those used.84 Given the country’s size and population, there are, not surprisingly, huge regional variations in the character of Chinese food; indeed, it is more appropriate to speak of Chinese cuisines rather than a single tradition, with four schools often identified, namely Shandong, Sichuan, Jiangsu and Guangdong; and sometimes eight, with the addition of Hunan, Fujian, Anhui and Zhejiang; or even ten, with the further addition of Beijing and Shanghai.85 From very early on, Chinese cuisine incorporated foreign foodstuffs - for example, wheat, sheep and goat from Western Asia in the earliest times, Indonesian spices in the fifth century, and maize and sweet potato from North America from the early seventeenth century - all of which helped to shape the food tradition.86 The preparation of Chinese food involves, at its heart, a fundamental division between fan - grains and other starch foods - and ts’ai - vegetable and meat dishes.