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Chinese Culture >> Chinese Society Traditions >> Chinese Socialist Revolution

Society During Chinese Socialist Revolution

By: Aron Scwartz

During the previous century the Chinese state system, economy, culture and society have undergone a lot of significant changes. There were different shifts in policy, and it naturally had an influence upon all spheres of life in China. The book by Edward Friedman, Paul G. Pickowicz, and Mark Sheldon named Chinese Village, Socialist State is dedicated to studying how the changes in state policy affected social life in rural areas of China during the early socialist transition.

The book gives a very detailed analysis of the developments in rural Chinese society over a period of massive upheaval and provides a valuable insight into the social mechanisms at play, and the interplay of contemporary political movements with the traditional power structures in rural China. There have been shown the interactions between policy-directed, centrally planned development and the way society responds to it. The book by Friedman, Pickowicz and Sheldon tells us a story about the drama of those ages, which is still going on in the 21st century and is a matter of deep consideration to everyone.

The authors explored how the villagers in China were trying to oppose the new regime. They found out that there were “deeper continuities of culture in relation to rapid changes in other realms” . The authors of the book gained the permission to make a field study of a poor village situated in 20 miles from Peking. This fact in itself was a big achievement because they were the first American social scientists to win such permission. Friedman, Pickowicz and Sheldon made about 18 visits to the country during 10 years and have composed a significant book on the impact of the Chinese Communist Party on peasant life.

During their research on Raoyang villages on the North China plain, the authors tried to “look for the invisible and fill in the picture obscured by official categories”. The idea of socialism and the way that state started to provide it promised benefits for rural population. It was the so-called “honeymoon” period when the changes in culture and society were done by small steps and there was practically no conflict between the state and the society. The powers seemed to understand their nation s needs, but this period appeared to be rather short. There exists an easy explanation to the fact: the socialist party s main aim was still to lead the society to communist ideals and way of life. However this is rather hard to realize within any social system, and particularly within China, where the cultural and traditional ties are historically determined and represent a strong power.

The authors of the book develop this idea and stress that despite the revolutionary policy which followed the honeymoon period (we may also call it, according to the authors, unmitigated disaster ) the society didn't  change much - significant changes didn't take place even in urban areas, and therefore the revolution had even less effect in rural areas. The book supports the idea that society in itself that maintains its own culture despite radical external changes. The period of honeymoon and the later periods introduced village-oriented policy. However, the changes that were to take place appeared to be alien to the current system of management and village-oriented actions appeared to give poor result for the rural population. During the honeymoon time in the middle of the XX century the ruling clique in China gained the support of the peasants and their policy was rather successful.

At that time the state policy was to encourage villagers to improve the economical state with their own efforts, which sounded and practically was rather effective for the economic situation and coincided with traditional life routine and views. The government proclaimed the policy of adjustment to the inequality of social status and most of all wealth, and it guaranteed the communists people s support. The ideas of socialism and communism were effective and the changes took place step-by-step, coinciding with slow changes in people s realization. Chinese peasants were allowed to make a choice: they were free to choose whether to participate in the new policy or not, they were free in their contact with the state and the ruling party. From that we can conclude that the connection between state and society was double-sided. According to Friedman, Pickowicz and Sheldon the main term characterizing the relations between state and society at that time is vicissitudes ; the vicissitudes of the relations between the society and state with its directions.

Nevertheless, the incompetence, venality and corruptibility of the Communist party s membership mislead the effective start. The state-society relationship after all turned to be a one-sided directive interaction, and the policy which originally was village-oriented, turned out to bring suffering to people. There was the terrible famine which accompanied the Great Leap Forward Communist Party. People in the higher structures almost didn't feel it (though as usual during such revolutionary situations) but the rural population was starving and there were even cases when people started digging up the dead for food. The authors describe it as “following the practice of traditional cannibalism in time of famine”. Who knows, maybe rural life may have been better under the rule of Chiang Kaishek!

About the Author:

Aaron is a professional freelance writer at custom essays writing service: He is also a technical writer, advertising copywriter, & website copywriter for Custom Essay Writing Service