Though there have been in China since 1949 occasional deviations in the policy regarding family life, some ideals enunciated at the start of the revolutionary regime have remained constant. The dominant policy has been that the family should be retained and its strengths used. However, family commitments should not interfere with commitments to the state or the collective, and within the family feudal customs should be eliminated. The parents' stranglehold over the lives of their children should be broken. Children should be able to marry without parental interfence. There should be no buying and selling of brides, and big, ostentatious and wasteful wedding feasts should be stopped. In an effort to limit births, marriages should be delayed to age twenty-three for girls and age twenty-five for boys in rural areas. As part of the program for more equal treatment of women, parents should show no favoritism towards boys. Women like men should work in the fields, and nurseries should be established so as to help women join in productive work. At more sporadic intervals, young children have been urged to teach their parents about the thought of Mao Tse-tung in order to rid them of old feudal ideas.
Twenty-five former residents who had spent some time in villages were interviewed in Hong Kong during 1973. They included officials who had made many visits to villages in the course of their administrative work, administrators who had been sent to May 7 cadre schools in or near villages for two years, peasants who had spent all their work life in a village, and students who had been sent from the city to work in the countryside. Most were from Kwangtung province just north of Hong Kong, but three had their primary experience in north and central China. Two others, though Cantonese, had spent some time in the North.
There were a number of means to check on these people's veracity: Two were not refugees but rather people who had left through legal application procedures. Though one of these people was rather critical of bureaucrats, both tended to be positive about China, villages, and villagers. One looked forward to occasional visits back to his friends in China. Both served as useful checks on other informants. Even among those who had left illegally there was a wide spectrum of opinion. Some of the students who had been sent to a village were very positive about China, very negative about capitalism and Hong Kong, and only regretful that they had not been able to earn enough to eat in the village or had not been reassigned to an urban job. Others were more negative, but even among the most negative, by asking for very specific features and events it was still possible at times to get very useful information. By comparing the responses of those of varying opinions, it was possible to draw conclusions about the general accuracy of different respondents.
The most problematic biases, however, were not those involved with a general negativcness or posi-tiveness towards China—these biases were rather easy to detect. Rather, the most problematic biases were those involved with idiosyncratic personal histories. One youth who had a personal conflict with his team leader was a very poor informant on local leadership though an excellent informant on other aspects of the village. Another person who had been attacked by students in the Cultural Revolution was, by his own admission, not a very good informant about students and youth but excellent on the intricacies of the bureaucracy. The most important guard against these idiosyncratic biases was extended contact. It was very important to get detailed personal histories and to keep asking informants whether they had actually seen such and such an event or whether they were just reporting an opinion about it. Contact with the informants ranged from a low of two or three hours up to forty or fifty hours over twenty separate interview sessions. Contact with those informants relied on most heavily in this paper exceeded fifteen hours and six or more interview sessions. Except for a few villagers who could not speak Mandarin, the interview was one-for-onc with no outsider present. For most interviews, notes were taken by hand during the interview and then typed within twenty-four hours.
Another check on the veracity of informants was that some who reported one village as very backward would also report another village as very advanced. Two informants who had lived in northern and southern villages reported great admiration for the political activism of the northern and exasperation with the backwardness of southern villages they had lived in. A similar phenomenon was found when informants were asked to give a household census of their production team. This was the most exhilarating part of the research and the major basis for this paper. Revealed in the village was a wide range of personalities and households. Some households were harmonious, well run and prosperous. Others were filled with bickering, others were deeply in debt. Some individuals were committed, hard workers. Others were lazy. Some individuals hardly said anything in public; others were super-critical and running off at the mouth all the time. Some thought only of saving for their family; others were incurable playboys or dedicated drinkers, using up all their family's resources. It does not seem that such a wide range of types, often reported by the same informant, could come out of some mysterious bias.
Based on household censuses from interviews TCT, PAPI, HYH, KCK.
Keith Buchanan, The Transformation of the Chinese Earth (London: Bell and Jones, 1970), pp. 136–137.
Overdrawing is not an infallible index of poverty. Some families overdraw because their main laborer works in a salaried job outside the production team. (Sec Myrdal, Report … p. 154; interviews TCT:19, HYH:21, 23. The numeral following the colon indicates the page number in the interview transcript.) Others overdraw because they skimp on collective work while devoting more energies to their own private plot or other private sidelines (PAP1:42). Though a well-run team will squelch ihc second type, both types tend to prosper and at the end of the year they simply repay the team for their overdrawn grain. Even allowing these anomalies, most southern Kwangtung teams appear to have one or more poor, and overdrawn, households (censuses in interviews TCT, PAP1, HYH plus estimates by KCK, TKM:15.
On rural school expenses, see Myrdal, China: The Revolution …, p. 139; Alley, Travels in China, p. 369; interviews TCT:10, 54; PAP1:51; TKM. Myrdal shows that girls are pulled out of school more often than boys (p. 139). Because senior middle school fees are higher and because senior middle schools usually remove the child from the village, it is even more unlikely that a less wealthy peasant could have his children continue on in school (see Myrdal, Report …, Ch. 21; interview TKM:12).
The material on TB and other diseases did not come from direct questioning on the topic. Rather, it arose incidentally as informants were asked to enumerate and discuss the households in their production team. Examples are found in TCT:16, PAP1:63, HYH:18, TKM:16
Buchanan, Transformation of the Chinese Earth, pp. 142, 157.
On the time and care involved in feeding the pig as well as a discussion of subsidiary work for women and children, see Chen, A Year …, passim; Myrdal, China: The Revolution …, p. 48, Also interviews LY, TCT:50, HYH:20, TKM:1, 6.
Nurseries were apparently absent in Upper Felicity (Chen, A Year …, pp, 189, 233, 234), Willow Grove in 1969 (Myrdal, China: The Revolution Continued, p. 45), and in one Kwangtung village (Malloy, “The new China …” p. 18). The women's cadre in the west-central Kwangtung commune visited by Peggy Printz and Paul Stcinle (Westinghouse Broadcasting, May 1973, personal communication) reported that nursery and kinder-gartcn work was as yet poorly developed. Though former residents give a mixed picture, they generally report that in Kwangtung province nurseries and kindergartens are uncommon. On ponds and other dangers for kids,
Myrdal, Report …, p. 258; interviews TKM:2, CSK:3.
It is the 1962 revised draft of the Sixty Articles which is used here. Recent government documents still cite the Sixty Articles as the touchstone for rural policy. (See the documents in footnote 10.)
On the inheritance laws,
Sixty Articles, article 45. Interviews PAP1, HYH. Some villages are reluctant to allocate crop land to housing, with the result that new houses can be built only where an old one has been lorn down (interview TKM:9).
Interviews PAP1, HYH, TKM:5. Also Printz, “The Chens …,” Printz, personal communication, 1973. and Malloy, “The new China …,”
Chen, A Year…, p. 108, interviews PAP1: 40, HYH:19, KCK.
9 February 1957.
1957, No. 2, p. 26.
1957 No. 2, p. 26.
Some of these people lose their gamble and live so long that the proceeds of their house sale are used up, thereby causing quite a problem for their production team.
Myrdal, China: The Revolution…, p. 52. Meijer also finds frequent articles in the press on support of parents with only daughters, Marriage Law and Policy…, p. 261.
Interview HYH:36. Also see examples in Meijer, op. cit., p. 261.
Chen, A Year…, p. 76.
On the basis of household censuses of four production teams and estimates from other teams.
Interview TCT. Also see Buchanan, Transformation …, p. 137. These figures are for average team incomes. As noted earlier, there are additional differences in family income learn.
Myrdal, China: The Revolution …, p. 78
For the changes in policy, see Meijer, Marriage Law and Policy … as well as the journals China…s Youth (Chung-kuo ch'ing-nien) and China's Women (Chung-kuo fu-nü).
Interview TCT:38. Personal communication from a Hong Kong resident who went to visit his kin in Canton for extended periods during the Cultural Revolution.