“In Accordance with Local Conditions”: Policy Design and Implementation of Agrarian Change Policies in Rural China

René Trappel


An important part of Beijing’s strategy to reduce the welfare gap between urban and rural parts of China has been the promotion of urbanisation. Replacing peasant agriculture with commercial operations of scale is an integral part of this endeavour. This article analyses the implementation of policies meant to transform the structure of Chinese agriculture. It argues that the central government is using a set of very flexible policies, project-based implementation and adaption to local conditions to guide and support an existing dynamic of structural transformation in agriculture. Local governments, in turn, appreciate the flexibility, the political predictability, the potential revenue improvements and the cognitive framework inherent in these programmes. The article is primarily based on interviews with leading cadres at the township and county levels in the provinces of Shandong, Sichuan and Guizhou between 2008 and 2010.

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