Philip C. C. Huang
Law School, Renmin University of China
History, University of California, Los Angeles
This article attempts to provide a broad overview response to the question: Whence and whither Chinese agriculture? The point of departure is a summary and discussion of the ten articles of this symposium, five empirical and theoretical discussions from economic historians, two from scholars doing solid and illuminating research on the “new agriculture,” and finally three that explore the issue of what road Chinese agriculture should adopt for the future. The article places the agricultural and rural history of the People’s Republic into the broad perspective of changes since the eighteenth century. It distinguishes between cooperativization, collectivization, and the people’s communes, and between the open-field “old” grain agriculture and the high-value-added “new agriculture.” It examines the differences between the New World’s “lots of land and few people” and the East Asian “lots of people and little land” agricultures, and the former’s land-and-capital-dual-intensifying and the latter’s labor-and-capital-dual-intensifying paths of modern change. From that perspective, it examines the successes and failures of the people’s communes vs. cooperativization–collectivization, of dragon-head enterprises vs. small peasants, and of the American specialty co-ops vs. the East Asian integrated co-ops.
cooperativization vs. collectivization vs. the people’s communes, open-field “old” agriculture vs. high value-added “new agriculture,” New World American model vs. the East Asian model of agricultural modernization, land-and-capital-dual intensifying agriculture vs. labor-and-capital-dual-intensifying agriculture, specialty co-ops vs. East Asian integrated co-ops
本文试图对中国的农业从哪里来、到哪里去的问题做一个总体性的讨论。文章从对本专辑的十篇论文的总结和讨论出发。首先是五篇经验和理论探索的经济史论文，而后是两篇扎实和充满阐释性的关于近三十多年来兴起的“新农业”的研究，最后是三篇关于当前的农业与农村发展道路的探索。文章从18世纪以来的社会经济史视角来检视人民共和国农业发展的历史，区别合作化、集体化、人民公社化，以及“旧”大田（谷物）农业与高附加值“新农业”。文章论述地多人少的“新大陆”农业与人多地少的东亚农业，区别前者的土地与资本双密集化和后者的劳动与资本双密集化的不同现代演变道路，据此来检视人民公社VS、合作化-集体化，“龙头企业”VS. 小农经济，以及美国“专业合作社” VS.东亚综合农协模式的得失。
This introduction will attempt to summarize, discuss, and place the articles of our symposium into a larger social-economic history framework, beginning with five articles that look at the history and theory of Chinese agriculture, then two solid and illustrative examples of the “new agriculture” of the past thirty-five years and, finally, three articles that consider the different developmental paths for Chinese agriculture in the future.
It is a distinctive feature of this symposium that we have gathered together some of the best economic historians in our field to bring their perspectives to bear on our question of “Whither Chinese agriculture?”
Xiaolu Wang and Sidong Jiang (Wang and Jiang, 2017) lay out, first of all, a broad historical overview of grain production since 1949, mainly in terms of total output by weight of “staple foodcrops” 粮食, a statistical category that includes grain-substitutes such as beans and potatoes (to be distinguished from just foodgrains 谷物). Economic historians working on the Ming-Qing and Republican periods generally have to rely on fragmented output data in conjunction with population data and postulates about probable per capita consumption to arrive at gross output figures, which are then put together with the more complete data from the contemporary period (e.g., Perkins, 1969). For the post-1949 period, however, there are fairly systematic data on actual output by weight of foodgrains and/or staple foodcrops. Wang and Jiang in their narrative summary consider a broad range of factors, and arrive at conclusions that are generally judicious and to the point, with which most of us would agree.
But on one important point, they show a significant difference from some of our other articles. They spotlight in their narrative and analysis especially the differences and contrasts between collective agriculture and family farming, suggesting (as most mainstream scholars have) that incentives were the crucial problem: inadequate incentives in collective agriculture, but stronger incentives in family farming. According to them, the Reform era has seen great improvements in that regard. This is a question we will return to.
But, they also go on to point out, that path has finite limits. After the initial 1978–1985 period, the effects of the superior incentives (and, we should add, higher purchase prices set by the state) were pretty much exhausted, and thereafter much came to depend on the relative prices of inputs vs. (state) purchase prices of grain. Where grain prices lagged behind input prices, production suffered. With appropriate adjustments, production advanced again. However, in recent years, the finite limits of grain output growth are evident, with rapidly diminishing returns to additional inputs, and future developments will need to look to higher-value products and new institutional forms.
The path of big American-style capitalist farms (including family enterprises), on the order of thousands of mu or more, favored under current policies, they suggest, might not be the correct way. China, even if its urbanization rate were to increase from the present 56 percent to 78 percent, would still have a farming population of 160 million, with an average of just 12 mu of farmland per person, or 7 acres or so per household. The East Asian experience, especially the community-based integrated co-ops of Japan-Korea-Taiwan, on the scale of just dozens of mu per farm as in China, is the more suitable approach than the American or European models. We will return to some of these views on co-ops later in the last part of this introduction.
Yuan Gao’s article (Gao, 2017) argues for a significant modification of Wang–Jiang’s analysis on the relative merits of individualized vs. cooperative vs. collective farming. Gao’s article points first to a major distinction between the 1950s period and the 1963–1978 period in the role played by the state, most especially with regard to the relationship between industry and agriculture. The former period was characterized mainly by state extractions from agriculture for industrial development, with very little contribution from industry to agriculture; in the latter period, however, industry made significant contributions to agriculture. The difference was a great increase in state investments in industries that supported agriculture—from a measly 2.9 percent of total industrial investment (in the period 1953–1957) to 9 percent by (1963–1965) and after, a change reflected most especially in the increasing supply of chemical fertilizers in the years after 1962, something also supported by Wang–Jiang’s narrative and data.
Further, from the point of view of institutions, Gao Yuan differentiates between co-ops (including mutual aid) and relatively small- and medium-sized co-ops/collectives (1955–1957), and both of those from the extremes of the Great Leap Forward (1958–1961), showing that under the co-ops and smaller-medium sized collectives of the former period, down through 1957, agricultural production continued to advance, despite the lack of state investments and inputs from industry. Sharp declines were mainly in the Great Leap Forward years of 1958/59–1961. The post Great Leap 1962–1978 period, by contrast, saw a relatively stable institutional arrangement under the “three-levels of ownership system” (production team, brigade, and commune), based on small production teams averaging about thirty households each.Those teams were linked closely to direct peasant interests both in production and in distribution and, augmented with increased chemical fertilizer, led to a fairly impressive record of advances, not to be dismissed along with the Great Leap Forward simply as unproductive collectives lacking in incentives.
The fundamental issue, in other words, is not simply a question of collective vs. individualized farming, but rather of industry-agriculture relations as well as whether genuine peasant interests were served by the different institutional forms. Small-scale mutual aid, co-ops, or collectives that helped peasants who suffered from inadequate factors of production (whether land or labor, farm implements, or farm animals) helped advance production significantly, as they did down to 1957 and then again from 1962 to 1978. (That was also the true legacy of co-ops in the revolutionary base areas. Of course, as Gao Yuan points out, that was also true of the Land Reform of 1949–1952.) In economics jargon, it was about overcoming “distortions of inputs allocation” or “input mismatch”—a way to improve farming under involuted, preindustrial conditions (Gao, 2017). They need to be distinguished from over-sized communes imposed from above and detached from peasant interests, such as those under the Great Leap Forward.
Gang Lin’s article (Lin, 2017) provides important earlier historical background for Gao Yuan’s emphasis on industry-agriculture relations. Lin shows convincingly that the coming of machine-spun yarn in the early twentieth century, which came to replace traditional handspun yarn to a great extent, was not just, as is commonly argued, simply a disruption and destruction of that old rural handicraft industry, but ratheralso a powerful stimulus for the development of new forms of rural production, most especially the production of native cloth. That development was accompanied by the invention and spread of the new iron-wheeled looms that came to dominate native cloth production in major centers like Baodi and Gaoyang in Hebei and Weixian in Shandong. Machine-spun yarn provided the impetus also for related industrial development, of new yarn spinning factories (e.g., Dasheng Yarn Factory 大生纱厂, the earliest and most successful Chinese yarn factory) throughout the Yangzi Delta area, which in turn brought developments of new ginning and spinning machinery, new knitting machines (for producing towels and socks), and also a range of modern farming and processing machinery. Those new yarn factories became the largest and most important part of China’s modern textile industry, indeed of all modern Chinese industries. They were also major users of electrical power and iron and steel, which helped to stimulate development in those sectors as well.
From the above empirical basis,Lin emphasizes the critical importance of a mutually stimulative relationship between industry and agriculture, each promoting development in the other, to be distinguished from isolated changes in just one or another (e.g., machine-polished wheat flour, mainly for urban consumption, or machineweaving of cloth, also largely limited to urban consumption). Due to the central importance of the small peasant economy to all of Chinese history, indeed Chinese civilization itself, and due to the fact that China historically had to be largely self-sufficient (largely land-bound, without the kinds of access to international trade comparable to, say, the Mediterranean countries), rural-urban relations were central to the entire issue of Chinese development: there can be no developed China without a developed Chinese countryside, as Lin Gang argues passionately and convincingly.
We might note, in addition, that premodern Chinese rural-urban trade was mainly unidirectional, with the countryside supplying the cities with grain and other agricultural products, plus luxury items (like fine yarn and cloth, and silk), with very little flow of goods in the reverse direction, this to be distinguished from what Adam Smith observed in the way of spiraling two-way rural-urban trade in eighteenth-century England. Urban-rural relations were more extractive than mutually stimulative, the neoliberal abstraction of a universally applicable model of the purely competitive and integrated market notwithstanding. (For a more detailed discussion, see Huang, 2016a: esp. 134–47.) Agricultural development, in other words, is no mere matter of just free markets cum private property rights driving the optimal allocation of resources, the theoretical premise of so much of modern Western economic theory.
Lin’s work helps to reinforce Yuan Gao’s emphasis on rural-urban economic relations. Just as machine-spun yarn was an impetus for rural production in the first half of the twentieth century, the provision of chemical fertilizer in the 1960s and 1970s and beyond is a good illustration of the critical importance of mutually stimulative industry-agriculture relations for the development of agriculture and industry (especially the petroleum industry and other related sectors). From the 1990s on, we might add, the big change to come has been in farm machinery (also labor-saving chemicals like weed killers) (see Huang and Gao, 2013; cf. the data in Wang and Jiang, 2017), and also in industrial processing of agricultural products, similarly mutually promoting of development in both agriculture and industry.
The biggest example of such mutually stimulative development, perhaps, has been the general rise in incomes in China over the last three decades as a result of rapid economic development, which has altered Chinese food consumption patterns from the old 8:1:1 ratio of food-grains:vegetables:meats, toward a 4:3:3 pattern, typical of the developed East Asian economies (Japan, Korea, Taiwan), and of the Chinese urban middle classes (and increasingly also of other urban groups and of the rural people) today. That, in turn, has profoundly restructured Chinese agriculture, from predominantly grain to more and more higher-value products of (higher end) vegetables-fruits and meat-poultry-fish, what I have termed the “new agriculture” (Huang Zongzhi and Peng, 2007; see also Huang Zongzhi, 2010, 2014a: 3; Huang, 2016c).
Aimin Guo’s article (Guo, 2017) adds the perspective, as well as the method and data, focused on labor productivity in agriculture. Rising labor productivity, after all, is the final determinant of the income level and standard of living of people, the truly crucial meaning of “modernization.” Guo employs the method of measuring the number of nonagricultural people an agricultural labor unit supports as the key indicator of labor productivity. He does so, first, by converting the output of different kinds of staple food crops to a single measure of caloric equivalents. He also separates out rural population figures from agricultural labor units and then, for the later period (as more and more rural people came to be employed in occupations other than farming), nonagricultural pursuits from agricultural employment. Further, he takes into account changing consumption patterns in the countryside, including increases at first in the per capita consumption of staple food crops as production went up, and then, later, declining consumption per capita of such crops as consumption of meats (fish and poultry), vegetables and fruits, and milk and eggs went up. All these data are handled with care and rigor. Finally, with the above figures, he is able to provide convincing quantitative evidence (as well as recent qualitative evidence from field research in Hebei, Shandong, and Tianjin—where, for example, corn has come to be used almost entirely as animal feed, no longer consumed by humans) to contrast the earlier and later periods in terms of advancing productivity per agricultural labor unit, of how many people each agricultural labor unit is able to support, in grain. That forms the core of his understanding of agricultural modernization.
Guo’s figures demonstrate convincingly that the major advances have come in this regard in China from the 1990s on. That finding, we might note, is of course consistent with the increased use of labor-saving mechanical power, especially in grain production. By contrast, the advances in the earlier period, relying mainly on chemical fertilizers, improved land productivity more than labor productivity.
As might be expected, such figures demonstrate striking contrasts between New World farming characterized by “lots of land and few people” in terms of resource endowment, and hence reliance mainly on machinery to save labor in its agricultural modernization, and China’s of “lots of people and little land” resource endowment, with much more reliance on land-productivity-enhancing chemical fertilizers than on labor-productivity-enhancing mechanical power, a contrast that persists even today (Huang, 2014: esp. 191–97). According to Guo’s figures, in 2010, for example, each farm person in the U.S. supported no fewer than 873 people in grain, compared to just 10 in China (Guo, 2017: tables6 and 12).
Guo’s article attempts also to take into account distortions of his measurements as a result of massive importations of grain in the cases of Japan and Korea. We should point out here that import dependence for grain is often misunderstood as problems or mistakes, seen through the lens of China’s own long-standing concern for “grain security,” traceable to repeated subsistence crises since the eighteenth century from population pressures as well as a modern revolutionary history of encirclement and blockades by the enemy 围剿. We need to see that Japan’s and Korea’s high dependence on imported grain during the course of their agricultural modernization actually tells more about a deliberate strategy of trade-offs between more domestic production of higher-value agricultural products, of labor-and-capital-dual-intensifying production of fruits and (higher end) vegetables and meats and fish, in exchange for imports of lower-value and land-intensive grain from abroad. That is a course that China has also embarked upon more and more in recent years, most especially in soybeans (now 80 percent imported), by imports from land-abundant countries like the United States, Brazil, and Argentina. Were China to produce all of its own needs for soybeans today (especially important for animal feed), it would have to place another fifth of its total cultivated land under lower-value soybeans, something simply unthinkable. China does better by using that land for the production of higher-value new agriculture goods for export instead (Huang Zongzhi, 2014c).
A good measure of such differences and their implications is agricultural labor productivity measured in terms of output value, rather than output by weight or calories. Nevertheless, Guo’s article seems to me a worthy and convincing effort to tell about the core differences between Chinese agriculture and WestEuropean and American agriculture. It is most useful for understanding the differences in their preindustrial agricultural economies and their different transitions to a modern agriculture, less so for understanding high-income industrial economies, and still less for what might be termed postindustrial agriculture. For the latter two, “productivity” needs to be measured more in terms of the quality (taste, relative scarcity, health benefits, and so on) of the calories consumed, better measured by output value than merely numbers of calories.
Xiaolin Pei’s article (Pei, 2017) both augments and extends Guo’s line of analysis. What is lacking in many studies of agriculture, Pei points out, is arecognitionof the very great differences between agriculture and industry, between production that confronts a finite natural limit (both in terms of land productivity and in terms of human and human cum animal energy) as opposed to the much greater inflatability of industrial production based on inorganic sources of energy (“mineral-based energy”—especially coal, as per E. Anthony Wrigley, 1988). The failure to grasp that difference leads to multiple misapplications of concepts and theories appropriate only for industrial economy to agricultural economy. Especially important is the failure to appreciate the crucial distinction in resource endowment between China’s “lots of people and little land” and (the New World’s) “lots of land and few people.” Given what Pei emphasizes as the law of the “absolute limits of land productivity,” which imposes finite natural limits on land productivity under each different kind of technology, forcing diminishing returns to increased labor input (borrowing a table from the work of Richard T. Ely, erstwhile president of the American Economic Association to illustrate the concept). In China, land productivity had long since been pushed close to its finite limit (with diminishing productivity past a certain point); in the New World countries, the situation was quite the opposite (see also Huang, 2014).
In particular, Pei challenges the Douglass North (and Ronald Coase) theory that elevates secure private property rights above all other factors as the absolute key—incentive mechanism and ultimate motive force—to all economic development. Such a view, Pei argues, ignores differences between different types and stages of economic history, most especially between preindustrial and industrial development, and land-scarce and land-abundant agriculture. It ignores the sharp differences between agricultural economies that operate with relatively low land productivity, as opposed to those that have pushed land productivity very close to its finite limits. Calling again on Richard T. Ely, Pei argues that in a land-abundant economy, private property rights might arguably enhance the general welfare of society; but in a land-scarce economy, different institutional arrangements are needed. Indeed, the general welfare of society might well depend critically upon limitations of private property rights.
To illustrate further the differences between the two types of agricultural economies, Pei takes English agricultural history as an example. On the basis of the latest and best data on English agricultural history (from Alexander Apostolides et al.), Pei shows how the Black Death (1348–1349) reduced the English population by almost half (46.5 percent), such that population did not recover to the 1300 level until after 1600. That watershed reversed the trend in England before the Black Death toward greater and greater labor intensification in the direction of Chinese agriculture, turning England into a relatively much more land-abundant (relative to population) agricultural economy which, in turn, set the background for the eighteenth-century agricultural revolution to come. In that revolution, intensification of labor input relative to land was augmented and altered by much greater use of animal power (as a result of “enclosures” that made erstwhile common land available for private use, for alternating the growing of animal-feed crops and foodgrains for human consumption, such as in the Norfolk system), setting the stage for greatly enhanced labor productivity. In Aimin Guo’s terms, one agricultural labor household came to be able to support not just its own household but also two non-farm households. Put another away, as E. Anthony Wrigley did, the change was from the agricultural population occupying roughly 70 percent of the total population down to just 36.25 percent (Wrigley, 1985). No such advance was possible in eighteenth-century Chinese agriculture, which had advanced much closer to the finite limits of preindustrial land productivity.
The main lesson of the above articles, perhaps, is that we must not make the mistake of placing too much emphasis on just the organizational, or institutional, dimension of agriculture, to the neglect of fundamental economic conditions, such as land endowment relative to population, relations between industry and agriculture, and the state of technology. Nor make the mistake of dismissing all pre-Reform era advances as misguided mistakes, to the neglect of how group incentives can also operate effectively when they are truly tied to peasant interests. As Yuan Gao’s article points out, the Mao era overemphasis on the organization of production (production relations), to the neglect of population and technology (productive forces), bears certain similarities to the contemporary neoliberal economics belief in the primacy of individualized, private property incentives.The two opposite exaggerations, we might say, had driven one another during the Cold War to ever more ideologized extremes.
We would do well to “historicize” our understanding of agriculture. We might, first of all, think of agricultural development in three different stages: preindustrial agriculture, agriculture using industrial inputs (chemical fertilizers, scientific seed selection, and machinery), and postindustrial agriculture (e.g., organic agriculture). Within those stages, we might further distinguish between land-abundant agriculture and land-scarce agriculture. The former, in the preindustrial era, was characterized by more land use (relative to labor) and generally also more animal power use. The latter, by contrast, used relatively more labor (relative to land). It could reach the point, as in China’s case, of sufficient population-to-land pressure to rule out animal husbandry (because it takes six to seven times more land to support a person on meat, milk, and cheese than it does on grain), to become a “crops-only” type of agriculture, as opposed to a mixed animal husbandry and crops agriculture, as in England (Huang, 2002: esp. 502–8).
Each of the two types, in turn, undergoes “modernization” with the coming of industrial inputs very differently. In the former (e.g., New World land-abundant countries and, to a lesser extent, also England and WestEuropean countries), the dominant pattern of development was land and capital dual intensifying, relying above all on mechanical power (tractors), revealingly measured in terms of horsepower, to expand the scale of farming and raise dramatically labor productivity (as opposed to land productivity), especially in (big open-field) grain farming. China’s pattern, by contrast, has been mainly labor and capital dual intensifying, relying more on chemical fertilizers (raising land productivity more than labor productivity) than mechanical power, exemplified mainly by the growing of high-value vegetables and fruits, and meat-poultry-fish on relatively small farms. That was the pattern in Japan and Korea, and now, also China (and India) (Huang, 2014: esp. 191–99; Huang 2016c; cf. Huang Zongzhi, 2010).
We would do well to keep these different patterns in mind when thinking about the future path of development of Chinese agriculture. Given the resource endowments and historical pattern of Chinese agricultural development, it is simply foolhardy to imagine that China could follow the path of development of American agriculture. Such a policy violates the realities of agricultural history in China, violates the genuinely pertinent history of agricultural development in East Asia’s Japan-Korea-Taiwan, where the engine of development was labor-and-capital-dual-intensifying small-scale agriculture, and not land-and-capital-dual-intensifying large-scale agriculture. China, and East Asia in general, simply do not have the land resource endowment of New World countries. Moreover, if we were to look farther into the future, the postindustrial organic agriculture of the present and future will also be mainly labor-and-capital-dual-intensifying small-scale agriculture.
The New Agriculture
Most of the studies discussed above have not given much attention to the role played by what I have termed the “new agriculture.” Labor-and-capital-dual-intensifying production of higher-value agricultural products like high-end vegetables, fruits, meat-poultry-fish, has expanded geometrically in China in the last thirty-five plus years. Output value of the new agriculture (in constant prices) expanded about 600 percent between 1980 and 2010 (Huang and Gao, 2013: 57–58, tables 9, 10). Sown acreage under vegetables and fruits expanded between 1990 and 2010 from 7 percent to 19 percent of total sown acreage, to account for 27 percent of total output value. Animal products, driven by a 560 percent increase by weight in meat (pork, beef, mutton-lamb) production between 1990 and 2010, have gone from merely 16 percent of total output value in 1990 to 30 percent in 2010. Food-grains 谷物production (not counting grain substitutes like beans and potatoes, as does the broader Chinese term staple foodcrops 粮食), by contrast, while still occupying 56 percent of total sown acreage, has declined in its share of total output value down to just 16 percent (Huang, 2016c: see esp. 346, table 4).
The labor-and-capital-dual-intensifying new agriculture, most of it by relatively small farms of just one to five mu (e.g., tented vegetables, fruit orchards) up to 10 to 30 mu (e.g., crops cum animal husbandry farms), is now really the key aspect of change and development in Chinese agriculture in the past thirty-five plus years in terms of its total output value. But it has been largely ignored until very recent years, because of the habit of mind of many policy makers and scholars, who continue to equate Chinese agriculture with mainly grain production, as I analyze in detail in my article for this symposium(Huang, 2017).
The symposium contains two solidly researched and highly convincing and illustrative examples of the new agriculture. Chang Liu–Shiqing Bao–Danqing Peistudy in depth Xixia 西峡 county (in Henan province), today the national center for shiitake (in Japanese; xianggu in Chinese) mushroom production in China (Liu, Bao, and Pei, 2017). Here scientific technology and industrial products have helped agriculture in almost surprising ways: xianggu mushroom growing used to require considerable use of lumber, imposing heavy pressures on forest resources, but Xixia, led by the local government, has developed the method of raising the mushrooms in elongated tube-like plastic bags in which “waste materials” like sawdust, stalks, and wheat and rice bran are used to grow the mushrooms. Then came a further technological advance: instead of having to use labor to tear those plastic bags, a method was developed whereby a thinner plastic was used for the inner bag, which is pierced by the sprouting mushrooms, thereby greatly saving labor. Before that, a couple could only raise about 3,000–4,000 bags on one mu of land; now a couple can raise 10,000 bags or more, earning a net income of about 2 yuan per bag (depending on market conditions), or about 20,000 yuan per mu per year. These mushrooms, of course, are exemplary of the new agriculture in terms of its high-intensity use of labor as well as capital, and also its low requirements for land.
These technological advances and usage of industrial products have powered a stunning development of xianggu mushroom production. In 1985, China as a whole produced a mere 5,000 tons a year, out of a total world production of 40,000 tons. Today, China alone produces no less than 7.35 million tons of these mushrooms (2014 figure) per year! We have all felt the impact of this mushroom boom directly in the food we consume.
The output value of the mushrooms is high, of course, about twenty times that of grain per mu of land. It is truly illustrative of what is special about the new agriculture: small-scale production using little land (which may also be conceptualized as highly intensive use of the land, with far greater labor and capital input per mu than for grain), producing a high-value product that is not understandable simply by weight or caloric content, but can only be grasped in terms of output value. It is, of course, very highly market-oriented production.
That brings into focus the central problem confronted by the growers. As production and supply expand past a certain point, prices decline. The growers are faced with sometimes violent price swings, often placing them completely at the mercy of big merchants who are able to dominate processing and marketing. It creates the situation of “the vegetable growers lose money, but the buyers pay a high price” 种菜赔，买菜贵, common to almost all of the new agriculture. This kind of situation almost cries out for co-ops, for the small producers to join together and organize their own processing and marketing, so as to better cope with the big merchants and the big market, and retain more of the profits for themselves (Huang Zongzhi, 2012a). But, for now, the government is intent on “industry-ization” 产业化, developing large-scale enterprises for production and processing and marketing, rather than co-ops, in part because of the entire ideology of the presumed superior dynamism of large capitalist enterprises. By contrast, peasant co-ops are given much less support, with only modest government subsidies, and remain critically constrained by their inability to obtain credit from the nation’s financial institutions (more below). Also, the very conception of the state’s policy on co-ops has been misguided, focusing on imitating American-style specialty co-ops based mainly on enterprises, not on small peasant producers and their communities, as I point out at some length in my article for this symposium (Huang, 2017; see also Huang Zongzhi, 2015). Here in Xixia, peasant co-ops, except for some fake ones posing as co-ops to obtain government subsidies, figure very little if at all in terms of helping the great majority of the peasant growers.
Like Chang Liu et al.’s article, Changquan Jiao and Yingjiao Chen’s study (Jiao and Chen, 2017) of tobacco production in Jiao’s hometown (Enshi city 恩施市in Hubei) is similarly solid and illuminating. First, it shows the great importance of industrial input, in this case, especially machinery like the “rotary tiller-ridgers” which greatly save labor for soil preparation, something that used to require one full day’s work by several strong men for each mu. Now the machine can prepare, plow, and ridge a large space in a relatively short time, and cheaply. Then there are also the leaf-cutting machines, the power sprayers, and others, which also greatly facilitate production. Even so, tobacco cultivation still requires intense labor input (about 25 gong [i.e., a standard workday] per mu). It too is labor-and-capital-dual intensive production.
A second important requirement for tobacco growing is the flue-curing barns烤房that are crucial for processing. One curing barn is needed for every 6 to 8 mu of tobacco, requiring several rounds of 6 days each, for a total of 6–8 weeks of curing. For each small grower to build and operat