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«Juanwen Yuan Thesis committee Thesis supervisor Prof. dr. A. Niehof Professor of Sociology of Consumers and Households Wageningen University Thesis ...»

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particularly the division of labour between household members. Chen (1996) found that the women make more decisions on agricultural production when their husbands are not around. Yet, (Entwisle et al. (1995) argue that even if women do more after the introduction of the HRS and other economic reforms, it did little to increase their decision-making power.

2.3 Transition to a market economy In 1978, China started to move from a planned economy to a market economy. In the planned economy, the government controlled agricultural production. It provided all agricultural production materials, such as fertilizers, seeds, pesticide, and agricultural machines. The rural households had no autonomy to manage agricultural production. Now, the rural households have to manage their own agricultural production and they have to buy all the materials they need in the market. The government does not fix the prices of agricultural production materials anymore. Companies emerge that sell seeds, fertilizer and other agricultural materials, run by either the government or the private sector. The government has some privileges to protect agricultural production, but its role is decreasing. The villagers were stimulated to do business in the urban areas and prices became market-oriented. The agricultural production structure is changing and the products are more diversified. At the same time, the input of the government in the agricultural infrastructure, such as irrigation systems, is decreasing (Xu et al., 2008). The government is promoting high-yielding crops and is trying to improve agricultural production efficiency. Villagers’ adoption of hybrid rice is mainly for making profit (Lin, 1991). Cash crop production and animal husbandry are also much promoted by the government.

Due to the liberalization of the market in 1978, an increasing number of private and small enterprises emerged. These enterprises need many labourers. A large number of villagers migrate to these enterprises to earn a better income than in rural areas. Especially the younger generation increasingly migrates to earn wages, while the elderly, women, and children are left at home. Governments in poor places promote migration because it is recognized that migration is an effective way to increase rural people’s cash income, reducing pressure on local governments to alleviate poverty. These local governments support migration by providing information and training as well. Ultimately, geographical and occupational mobility are increasing (Chen, 1996).

2.4 Migration In China, the mobility of rural households and household members is growing. It consists of both permanent and non-permanent migration. Mallee (1997) uses two concepts of mobility: migration and circulation. He also uses the concept of community and says that migration involves a permanent move from one community to another. Circulation implies an ultimate return to the place where the move started; as such, it is temporary and multidirectional. Circulation includes commuting, seasonal migration, and more long-term forms. Migration is a

15Historical and social context

household strategy and not just an individual choice. According to Mallee (1997), an individual moves in the interest of himself and the welfare of the household; the decision is made by the individual and the household head, while other household members may join in the decision-making.

Migration influences rural farming life, through its impacts on the division

of labour in the farming household (Mallee, 1997; Vermeer, 2006). Murphy (2002:

25) says that “diversified households pursuing flexible migration strategies are a permanent part of a changing countryside. The concept of rural livelihood diversification is compatible with the insights derived from understanding rural petty commodity households as resilient, adaptable, innovative, and endowed with resources – rather than as transitional, backward, traditional, and devoid of resources.” The motivations and situation of migrants are discussed below.

2.4.1 Reasons for migration There may be different reasons for migration at the levels of the individual, the household, the community, the region and at the national level. Murphy (2002) and Fan (2003) see migration as mainly motivated by economic goals. Murphy (2002:21) states, however, that “migration strategies are not simply opportunistic and immediate responses to push and pull stimuli; they are also the products of values and life goals inculcated through longer-term socialization and life experiences.” Migration occurs because of the shortage of farmland, the abundance of household labour (Zhao, 1999) and free markets for commodities (Christiansen, 1990).

At the same time, some people migrate back. According to Murphy (2002), a push-pull perspective can explain return migration. ‘Push’ factors would include job insecurity, poor living conditions, social discrimination, and legal restrictions in urban areas. The household registration system (hukou), for example, restricted freedom of movement from rural to urban areas (Fang, 2000). Successful entrepreneurs who benefitted from migration are a main ‘pull’ factor. Murphy (2000) also found that seasonal migration of only one family member cannot lift the household income; at least two members are needed to make a difference. Mallee (1997) observes that the villagers have a preference for circular migration and returning home regularly, which reinforces the links of migrants with their rural homes.





Rural labour migrants are likely to be male, young, and single, and migration depends on a household’s composition and life cycle. During the younger stages in the household’s life course, little mobility is found, but from the moment the wife turns 40, there is a steep increase (Mallee, 1997).

2.4.2 Impacts of migration Migration can have many impacts on the household and household livelihood.

According to Murphy (2000:982), migration “is not a substitute for improving local opportunities for income diversification and providing social welfare support.” It also will generate impacts on gender roles, agricultural production, rural life, and so on. Davin (1998) states that because migration generates more money, it leads to higher levels of material consumption. The younger generation is attracted by the

16 Chapter 2

promise of higher cash incomes and they are the potential to migrants (Lou et al., 2004).

From a gender perspective, Mallee (1997: 213) notes that “men are more likely to engage in labour mobility because this will raise their status compared to women”. As a result, a large number of women have become head of their household. Women have also been provided with some opportunities to replace men in village positions. This situation may be viewed partly as advantageous to women, in terms of enhanced rural opportunities, although it may be at the cost of a disrupted family life (Judd, 1990). Given that migration leads to agricultural feminization, the question is whether this has negative impacts on women, their families and agricultural productivity (De Brauw et al., 2006).

2.4.3 The significance of the social network Social network resources are very important for farming households to improve their livelihood. The social network, called guanxi in classical Chinese society, is the personal or group relationship and network. Guanxi may be established by different relationships, for example those among kin and neighbours, or through marital alliance (Christiansen, 1990). People get more benefits if they have more guanxi resources and they can use these resources well. Guanxi is regarded by the villagers as the social capital needed to reach their social and economic goals (Cai, 2005; Cai and Zhu, 2005). Households that receive remittances and also have family members with positions in local administration are among the richest households (Murphy, 2000). The main mechanisms for reducing the risks attached to migration are the traditional bonds of kinship and native place ties (Mallee, 1997).

2.5 Agricultural change During the collective era before the HRS, China had established a top-down agricultural technology extension system. In the early HRS period in the 1980s the system proved to be successful in increasing the farmland productivity (Xia, 2009).

The grain output grew by 4.8 percent per year ((Lin, 1989), and improved farming technology contributed to around 47 percent of overall productivity increments in China (Lin, 1992a). With only 8 percent of the global arable farmland, China could feed 21 percent of the global population.

Along with increasing of liberation of rural labour, freedom of rural economic activities, industrialization and seasonal and permanent migration from rural to urban areas, Chinese rural society transformed into a more dynamic and complex society in terms of economic and social development. Rural households became more diverse with regard to human capital, physical resources, natural resources and social capital.

After 1990, China experienced two periods of decline in grain production.

The first one, in early the 1990s, gave rise to a global concern: who would feed China’s population? The second one, in the early 2000s, resulted in severe inflation and increased social tensions because of the negative impacts on the low-income population of increased food prices. As a reflection of these agricultural setbacks, the agricultural technology extension system was blamed as an important 17 Historical and social context contributing factor, and reform of the system was made a priority. Even though no clear consensus was reached in terms of strategic orientation, institutional arrangements, and incentive policies, officials and academics realized that the topdown extension system needed reform to meet farmers’ agricultural extension needs (Gao, 1995; He, 1993; Hu and Huang, 2001; Li and Yang, 2005; Lin, 1991; Xia, 2009). China’s agricultural technological extension system faces many additional challenges, including heterogeneity of regions and households,and feminization of agriculture (Hu and Huang, 2001; Mallee, 1997; Song, 1998).

Agricultural production and technology adoption underwent many changes after the HRS was introduced. Mallee (1997) found that there is feminization in farm work, although this trend should not be exaggerated.

Agriculture is not so important in areas with a lot of migrants. It became a weekend activity with little significance in the developed province of Jiangsu (Christiansen, 1990). At the same time, a high level of migration does not necessarily have a negative impact on agricultural production because the remittances can solve the problem of labour shortage. Murphy (2000) states that migration has implications for the distribution of income associated with land.

Large households are able to combine the advantages of their labour potential and more land, so that more household members can migrate to earn wages. These households can also produce for the market and rent the land of the absentees.

In rural China, the farmer’s adoption of technology is changing after the implementation of the HRS. People adopt agricultural technology mainly because of its high economic profitability. In the collective system farmers only obtained a small share of the marginal product of his additional effort, but since the HRS, they are the residual claimants, and thus obtain the full benefit of their efforts (Lin, 1991). Therefore, the incentive to adopt a new technology should be higher in the HRS than in the collective system. The HRS disrupted the traditional extension network because the farmers can adopt technologies according to their own choice.

The diversity of circumstances of small farms and the variation in farming systems result in heterogeneous needs for technologies (Song, 1998). The agricultural technology extension, however, still employs the traditional approach of the planning system. As a result, it has been unable to meet the diversified needs very well. At the same time, the government’s investment has decreased (Lin, 1991). The scope of the training programmes available in rural areas was limited, and they were not very relevant to women either (ACWF, 1991). The extension services organizations are trying to meet the diversified needs but still do not really manage to do so. Farming households are still regarded as homogeneous in agricultural production, by extension workers and in policies (Lin, 1991). When the government makes policies, they face difficulties in the implementation process because it neglects the social differentiation in rural areas (Hu, 2005). Conventional policies and research have often discounted the role of local people in the design and implementation of measures, projects and programmes, and are often blind to social differentiation (Vernooy, 2006). The institutional framework must change because the technological needs have changed (Fan, 1991).

18 Chapter 2

2.6 Development in rural areas Since the HRS, the Chinese government initiated many development plans and programmes for rural areas. From 1984 to 1988, there have been five “Documents No. 1” issued to promote rural development (see above). The urban-rural average household income ratios were 1.86, 3.10 and 3.33 in 1985, 2002 and 2007, respectively (CSB, 2008). Yet, between 1988 and 2004, rural development slowed and the rural-urban difference increased. From 2004 onwards, seven7 more “Documents No. 1” were issued to emphasize and promote rural development, but the urban-rural average household income ratios were still very high. These seven “Documents No.1” issued in succession show that the government attaches a high priority to agriculture and rural development. The agricultural taxes were abolished, the agricultural products tax, the pasture tax, the agricultural land tax, and the slaughter tax included. The average tax decrease for farmers was 1335 yuan compared to the 1999 (XNA, 2008).

In 1999, the Chinese government began to implement the Western Region Development Programme. This region is the poorest in China. Twelve provinces, including Guizhou in western China, are included in this programme, which targets infrastructure construction and ecological and environmental development.

The programme uses a multi-sectoral approach, involving the ministries of agriculture, forestry, education, health and sanitation, and many other ministries.



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