Debating the rural cooperative movement in China, the past and the present

Yan Hairong, Chen Yiyuan

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

67 Citations (Scopus)


Rural cooperatives appear to be flourishing in China. Yet this blossom has been controversial. Some contest whether specialized farmer cooperatives should be promoted. They are opposed to the implications and consequences that derive from the growth of such cooperatives. Many criticize that most of the cooperatives thus far developed are 'fake' cooperatives. Some propose comprehensive peasant associations in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan as a model for emulation. These contestations are about rural cooperatives, but also go quite beyond them. For those passionately involved in the support and critique of rural cooperatives, what is at stake is both rural sustainability and the possibility of China pursuing a third-way development. In the 1930s, rural cooperatives also blossomed in China, and it was accompanied by heated intellectual debates about the future of China. This paper will examine intellectual perspectives and debates both in the past and at present about rural cooperative development in China. Not only are there some remarkable intellectual parallels between the two, but also both movements have their own structural difficulties. In the face of the rapid agrarian change in China, the 1930s debate might still shed a light on today's conundrum.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)955-981
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Peasant Studies
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 30 Dec 2013


  • cooperatives
  • rural sustainability
  • third way

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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