Red China's Green Revolution: Technological Innovation, Institutional Change, and Economic Development Under the Commune.

AuthorPieragastini, Steven

Eisenman, Joshua. Red China's Green Revolution: Technological Innovation, Institutional Change, and Economic Development Under the Commune. New York: Columbia University Press, 2018.

Informative and thought-provoking, Joshua Eisenman's Red Chinas Green Revolution pairs well with Sigrid Schmalzer's Red Revolution, Green Revolution: Scientific Farming in Socialist China (2016) and other recent research as part of an ongoing shift in perceptions about the 1970s in China. The main argument of Red China's Green Revolution is that the commune system built up in the Maoist era (1949-1976) was more productive than has been recognized by previous scholars. Therefore, the unwinding of the communes and the creation of the Household Responsibility System (HRS, between 1978 and 1983) was not primarily about improving productivity (its ostensible aim), nor was it due to grassroots pressure from farmers dissatisfied with the commune system (per the Party line), as much as it was about discrediting the rump Maoist wing of the Party and consolidating the power of Deng Xiaoping and his reformminded proteges. In sum, following the disasters of the Great Leap Forward (1958-1962), reforms were adopted in the commune system (including allowing farmers to maintain private plots) that allowed it to regularly increase production on an annual basis. Afterward, gradual adjustments were made to the communes, especially beginning in the early 1970s, what Eisenman calls the "Green Revolution Commune." Incentives were devised to extract greater amounts of labor through the workpoint system, while also increasing savings, which were then dedicated to improving technological inputs normally associated with the Green Revolution (such as chemical fertilizers and hybrid seed varieties). This model of agricultural modernization (the core of Eisenman's argument, covered in chapters 3 and 4) was aided by a variety of initiatives in the countryside, including the proliferation of local research institutions and enterprises that spurred innovation and efficiency, extensive land reclamation, and an increased supply of skilled and semi-skilled labor (both "sent down" urbanites and rural residents who had become literate and received vocational training). Eisenman is clear to point out that the productivity of the people's commune was only possible with relentless coercive political pressure, including from the people's militia, competition and social shaming around the allocation of...

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