Since 1979, China has changed its rural policies from emphasis on the collective economy to the support of a variety of household and individual contract systems. The forms of economic organization introduced between 1954 and the late 1970s have been criticized in the Chinese media and blamed for slow rates of development. However, in retrospect, it is not completely clear that the form itself was to blame. Three of the four books under review are in part defenses of the past and critiques of present-day policies. Basing their work on interviews with peasants and rural cadres, these authors present both the achievements and the failures stemming from state policies during the collective years, and some of the peasant reactions to them. They also raise questions about the long-term implications of the new system. The fourth author is uniformly critical of the collective decades and the present readjustments. The extent to which rural socialism was a failure and the advantages or disadvantages of the household economy are matters that scholars of China and economic development will continue to argue in coming decades.

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