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Date of Award


Access Type

Campus Access

Document type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


First Advisor

David Kotz

Second Advisor

Mwangi wa Gĩthĩnji

Third Advisor

Deepankar Basu

Subject Categories

Asian Studies | Economics


The 20th Century saw dramatic agrarian changes among third world countries. In many countries, the agrarian relations tended to be peasant-oriented at first, and then started favoring capital and landlord in the recent decades. In this dissertation, I explored the historical conditions and consequences of these profound changes, in particular focusing on the history of rural collectives and decollectivization in China.

My findings differ from the existing literature in the following aspects. First, the literature argues that the Chinese rural collectives suffered from inefficiency and the decollectivization reform greatly improved agricultural productivity. My research shows that the previous studies suffer from a number of serious logical and/or methodological problems. After adjusting some data misusage, my results suggest that decollectivization did not increase productivity. I also construct an index of the legacy from the commune era to evaluate the long run impacts from the socialist period on agricultural productivity. The empirical results suggest that the provinces with higher socialist legacy tend to have higher agricultural productivity growth rates even after decollectivization.

Second, the mainstream history suggests that due to their dissatisfaction with the rural regime, the peasants spontaneously organized and collectively dismantled the collective system. My research shows that the government was enthusiastic rather than passive in promoting the household model. The cadres who did not follow the orders from the central leadership would face immense political pressure. The mainstream view holds that those people who opposed decollectivization were local cadres who were afraid of losing control. But my research suggests that the cadres and a small part of peasants implemented and benefitted from the reform while the normal peasants were not enthusiastic and even opposed decollectivization in some cases.

Moreover, my fieldwork suggests that many rural collectives experienced work avoidance and inefficiency, not because of egalitarianism but stratification (which basically means a cadre-peasant/manger-worker divide). The demise of rural collectives was mostly due to political pressure from the government. But the stratification contributed to peasants' passiveness in resisting the institutional change.