Tilling another's land: Migrant farming under rural industrialization and urbanization in China

Karita Kan, Xi Chen

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Studies of labour migration in China usually focus on rural residents seeking wage employment in the urban industrial or service sector. This article provides an account of migrant farmers who have moved from the impoverished countryside to peri-urban villages in more developed areas to engage in substitute agricultural production. They took over fields abandoned by local villagers and lived and worked among them as tenants. This article situates the analysis of migrant farming within the changing regimes of rural accumulation in post-socialist China. It shows how migrant farming subsidized rural industrialization by providing low-cost substitute labour, which facilitated the incorporation of local villagers into the industrial workforce as semi-proletarianized workers. Into the 2000s, the transition towards land-based accumulation incorporated local villagers into proprietorship while dispossessing migrant farmers. The amplification of inequalities reveals how the shifting regimes of accumulation constitute an important source of differentiation in Chinese villages today.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)299-316
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Agrarian Change
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022


  • accumulation regime
  • agriculture
  • China
  • land expropriation
  • migrant farming
  • rural industrialization
  • rural migrants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Archaeology
  • Anthropology
  • Archaeology


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