The period from the arrest of the “gang of four” in October 1976 to the final step in the removal of Hua Guofeng in mid-1981 saw CCP rural policy go through a number of phases. The initial emphasis on a moderate version of the Dazhai model gave way to “traditional policies” (luoshi zhengce) by mid-1978; these policies were supplemented in 1979 by “responsibility systems,” the most radical of which, household contracting (baochan daohu), became a sharply divisive issue in 1980, but still not the main aspect of agricultural policy. The tide was moving strongly toward household contracting by mid-1981, but had not yet achieved unambiguous endorsement as the Party policy.
A number of inadequate approaches have dominated the literature, notably 1) a power/policy struggle between Hua Guofeng's neo-Maoists and Deng Xiaoping's reform coalition; 2) the power of the peasants; and 3) the leading role of provincial reformers. The first has no validity, the second and third must be viewed through more complex lenses. The talk will explicate the key factors and present an alternative explanation of the success of rural reform.
Frederick C. Teiwes is Emeritus Professor of Chinese Politics at the University of Sydney. He received his B.A. from Amherst College and his Ph.D. in political science from Columbia University. He is the author of various books on Chinese elite politics including Politics and Purges in China (1979, 1993), Leadership, Legitimacy, and Conflict in China (1984), and Politics at Mao's Court (1990). Some of his most important work has been jointly authored with Warren Sun including The Politics of Agricultural Cooperativization: Mao, Deng Zihui, and the "High Tide" of 1955 (1993), The Tragedy of Lin Biao: Riding the Tiger during the Cultural Revolution, 1966-1971 (1996), China’s Road to Disaster: Mao, Central Politicians and Provincial Leaders in the Emergence of the Great Leap Forward, 1955-1959 (1999), and The End of the Maoist Era: Chinese Politics during the Twilight of the Cultural Revolution, 1972-1976 (2007).