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Open Access Publications from the University of California

One Village, Two Worlds: The Impact of the "New Countryside" Campaign on a Chinese Village

  • Author(s): Liu, Kan
  • Advisor(s): Fan, Cindy C
  • et al.

This paper examines the process of transformation of a traditional village into a "modern" new village in Anhui Province in central China, under the central government-sponsored "Building a New Socialist Countryside" campaign initiated in 2005. By first analyzing the construction and layout of the new village space, the author contrasts the coexistence of two worlds--the modern new rural world and the old traditional village society. These two worlds involve a tension between the non-productive rationalized space of "modern" real estate projects (a theme park and the newly constructed village with perfectly manicured landscaping), and the productive space created by the peasants (small businesses established in private residences and garden plots stealthily incorporated into the landscaping). Instead of assuming that the modernity projects of the "New Countryside" were realized on the ground as they were envisioned and instituted by the central state, the author stresses the important role of local society and strategies employed by local actors, especially non-state actors, such as business entrepreneurs, peasants, and middle-class urban consumers of rural products, who have directly or indirectly negotiated according to each group's own interests and agendas. The negotiation between multiple participating actors is facilitated by a widespread ideological acceptance of paternalist governance and of the idea that the central government is committed to social equity and the balance of rural-urban economic development in today's China.

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