A Trip to Fengyang County: Investigating China's New Family Contract System


  • William Hinton




Ecology, History


Editors' Note: The post-Mao regime in China has introduced a major change in the area of agriculture. On the theory that the previous commune system was holding back the growth of farm output at the existing stage of social development, the new leaders recommended that peasants adopt what is variously called the "responsibility" or "contract" system. The essence of this innovation was to have each household become responsible for its own plot of land, therebv stimulating individual initiative. The peasants in each commune were called upon to choose whether to adopt the new system or stay with the former collective operation of the land. Those production brigades that voted to adopt the "responsibility system" then divided the land, with each household getting its own plot. The household peasants do not actually own the plot; the division was made only for farm operation purposes. Each household enters into a contract with the production brigade, in which the family's minimum obligations to the state and brigade are specified. Whatever is produced in excess of these commitments remains the property of the household, and farmers are encouraged to further enrich themselves by engaging in a variety of production activities and in trade. The following article is William Hinton's report of an investigation of the way this new system is working in Fengyang County. Hinton, an American farmer with extensive experience in Chinese agriculture, is the author of the classic Fanshen published by Monthly Review Press.





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