Government Failure, Poverty of Social Capital, and the Atomization of China’s Rural Villages





Published date: 

December, 2015


Juei-chi Wang


  Since the beginning of the new century, with the implementation of the policy of developing new socialist rural areas, the Chinese peasants’ narrow-mindedness, passiveness and reluctance to collaborate have become one of the most often discussed issues in China concerning the backwardness of rural villages.  These features, regarded by many Chinese scholars as the syndrome of rural village atomization, have been designated as the major factors contributing to the slow development of peasants’ organizations since 2005, as well as the basis for the rationale to strengthen state intervention and promote the further development of rural enterprises in rural areas.  The study points out that the atomization of rural villages is closely connected to social capital.  In other words, it is about the fragmentation of social ties within the villages, i.e., the alienation of peasants from the society and state.  Given that social ties hinge on social interactions and participation, and that the development of China’s rural farms has been for long under state control, this paper starts with an analysis of the institutional changes in which rural villages have been embedded in order to find out which factors have accounted for their atomization. Then, by means of comparative studies on the social interactions within ten of China’s inland villages, it assesses the contribution of peasants’ organizations to their revitalization.