Prologue to Agents and Victims in South China
I was initially concerned with a central theme in China’s development strategy: rural industrialization. Since late 1958, the regime had promoted small-scale enterprises at the commune and brigade levels of administration. These were to provide the communities with income, employment, services for agriculture, and industrial skills. By mobilizing local initiative for self-reliant development, the regime hoped to avoid an exodus from the villages to cities, the social and political consequences of which have continued to plague many agrarian societies in the transition to a modern economy. My political attitudes at the time made me eager to learn how the development of these enterprises facilitated what I believed to be a gradual, benign integration of the vast countryside into a modern socialist state, and how parochial concerns of family and community might eventually be transformed to identifications with party and nation. The Chinese road to socialism, I thought, might become a model for agrarian societies undergoing the pains of modern development.
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