Home Institution

New York University

Publication Date

Spring 2010

Program Name

China: Chinese Culture and Ethnic Minorities


In his analysis of post-Mao China, historian Maurice Meisner writes, “it was the countryside where the majority of the Chinese people live and work, that was first to feel fully both the economic dynamism and the social destructiveness of a market economy” (Meisner 460). Meisner’s statement underscores how the commercialization of the rural economy changed rural society. Deng Xiaoping’s ascension to power in 1978 marked a re-articulation of state orthodoxy that prioritized economic development. The era of ‘reform’ was launched in the countryside with the break up of the communes and the introduction of the household responsibility system. What are the consequences of utopian marketization on rural society? Why do rural laborers harbor such deep hostility toward the restructuring of rural society? Below, I engage these questions by placing my discussion in the time-space of an ethnically Bai village in Yunnan province. With data collected through interviewing local residents and government officials, living with a local family, and surveying the local population, I have a relatively thorough understanding of the costs of Sideng’s restructuring process. The problems of Sideng’s restructuring are in certain ways representative of nationwide patterns so I hope that this paper will reveal problems that are universal to the marketization of China’s rural communities. The marketization of village of Sideng has led to the attenuation of social relationships, the transformation of values, and the emergence of a new kind of existential uncertainty.


Policy Design, Analysis, and Evaluation | Social and Cultural Anthropology


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