Yu Jianrong: On a Survey of Forty "Out of Control" Villages in Hunan (story in Chinese)

November 12, 2004


Recent incidents of rural unrest in Henan and Sichuan raise questions about whether Chinese leaders will be able to maintain stability in this period of hurtling economic change and widening economic disparity. Field research in rural China is crucial to understanding the roots of the unrest and evaluating how China hopes to resolve it.

Yu Jianrong, a research fellow in the Rural Development Research Institute at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, is one of a few scholars who have done long-term, careful field research in the most restive villages of central China. Some of his work is listed on a page devoted to him in Li Jianhong's website,Collected Works by Yu Jianrong. Four of these articles discuss farmers' use of the law to resist abuses , farmers' lost property rights , and the transition to democracy.

In this article, Yu examines 40 villages in Hunan which are "out of control" from the point of view of the central administration. He attributes the loss of control to the intrusion of corrupt elements into the basic levels of village government. He sees a pattern in which local officials "invite the wolves in," by trying to use criminals to establish control; factions unfairly dominate local elections; the rich seduce local officials to buy power; or cadres "change their red coat for a black one," exchanging Party authority for corrupt self enrichment.

Yu concludes that revitalization of local government will not be accomplished in a day.