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Farmers’ Fate: Old and New


Zhao Shukai, Development Research Center of the State Council

China’s farmers are walking out of the identity bias and constraints imposed on them by the old system. Chinese farmers in the traditional sense (hereinafter referred to as traditional farmers) are experiencing such a period of “new fate enveloped in the old system”. The transformation of traditional farmers into new farmers with the attainment of civil rights is not only a result of change in the modern market and society but more importantly closely associated with a modern nation construction. 1. Historical conditions and farmers’ fate. The fate of farmers is a historical proposition formed in the course of specific historical conditions. While receiving established political order, famers attempted to change their fate via participation in political movement. Viewing from the history of China’s revolutions in modern times, the role of farmers in wartime was prominent. Their involvement became the decisive factor to win the war and helped to establish the new regime. 2. From the perspective of upper-level governments, farmers were “passively participated in” or “forced to participate in political movement. The transformation of farmers from rural residents to rural migrant workers and from rural areas to urban areas is fundamentally due to farmers’ resistance against or challenge to the old system. 3. Rights and political process: farmers’ rationality. For farmers, the freedom of choice is very important. They hope to grope their way through ceaseless explorations to correct their mistakes. 4. People first: leaders and system. It is imperative to build a system based on the relationship between farmers and politics on a coordinated and effective one for expression and protection of interests. 5. The termination of the old fate of traditional farmers and the emergence of rural migrant workers. The emergence of rural migrant workers is a concentrated expression of the termination of the old fate of traditional farmers. 6. The new fate of farmers: citizenization. Either change in rural migrant workers or in rural farmers points to the change of such a social group, indicating the generation of new citizens. 7. Citizenship: from civil rights to political rights. Striving for and maintaining political rights and thus ensuring civil rights and social rights will be the development trend of farmers. The study on the evolvement of politics and policies should focus mainly on the power of farmers. When we observe the driving force for social changes and institutional progress of China’s rural areas, we must look at the farmers and get answers from them. Farmers could not mouth those fine political terms, but this does not mean that they do not have their own political attitude and understanding or that they do not have their own demands for political rights. We should be mainly concerned about and make research on the performance of the new generation of farmers and related political consequences therefrom. The resolution of farmer-related issues would be the termination of the old fate of China’s traditional farmers and the initiation of the new fate of China’s farmers.

Farmers’ Fate: Old and New