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«Juanwen Yuan Thesis committee Thesis supervisor Prof. dr. A. Niehof Professor of Sociology of Consumers and Households Wageningen University Thesis ...»

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The Household Responsibility System and Social

Change in Rural Guizhou, China:

Applying a cohort approach

Juanwen Yuan

Thesis committee

Thesis supervisor

Prof. dr. A. Niehof

Professor of Sociology of Consumers and Households

Wageningen University

Thesis co-supervisor

Dr. H.H.S. Moerbeek

Assistant Professor, Sociology of Consumer and Households Group

Wageningen University

Other members

Prof.dr.ir. A.P.J..Mol, Wageningen University

Prof.dr. J.L.S. Jiggins, Wageningen University Dr. N.B.M. Heerink, Wageningen University Dr. E.J. Spaan, Radboud University Nijmegen This research was conducted under the auspices of Mansholt Graduate School of Social Sciences The Household Responsibility System and Social Change in

Rural Guizhou, China:

Applying a cohort approach Juanwen Yuan Thesis Submitted in fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of doctor at Wageningen University by the authority of the Rector Magnificus Prof. dr. M.J. Kropff in the presence of the Thesis Committee appointed by the Academic Board to be defended in public on Tuesday 15 June 2010 at 11 a.m. in the Aula.

Juanwen Yuan

The Household Responsibility System and Social Change in Rural Guizhou, China:

Applying a cohort approach Ph.D. Thesis, Wageningen University (2010).

With references – With summaries in English and Dutch.

ISBN 978-90-8585604-7 Acknowledgements Without the support of International Development Research Center (IDRC), I could not have done this PhD study. Special gratitude goes to Ms. Elaine Tang of the IDRC Singapore office and to the program officer of IDRC, Dr. Ronnie Vernooy, for his support and his friendship during my study period. I also would like to express my thanks to the Neys-van Hoogstraten Foundation for financing my field research.

I would like to give special thanks to my promotor Prof. Anke Niehof for her guidance and patience and her help with solving practical problems. Thanks also go to my co-promotor Dr. Hester Moerbeek, especially for her help with the quantitative data analysis, and to Dr. Lisa Price for her guidance at the beginning of my study. I would like to thank my colleagues and friends from the Sociology of Consumers and Households Groups. Special thanks go to Hedy Munro for her help with the logistics and all kinds of minor problems a PhD student in Wageningen experiences. Thanks are due to Dinie Verbeek and Margaret van Wissen for formatting the dissertation and make it nice and to Riet van de Westeringh for telling me about Dutch life and culture. I value the friendship of other PhD students from different countries whom I met in Wageningen – Nahid, Narayani, Marian, Mariame, Faith, Monica, Namizata, Rose, Julie, Raisa, Ekaete, and Stephanie – and of my country mates in Wageningen – Liu Jinlong, Peng Guangqian, Wang Guohong, Zhang Lu, Zhong Lijing, Wang Huashu, Yu Jihua, Sun Qiu, and Yang Huan.

I am indebted to the Guizhou College of Finance and Economics for granting me study leave, especially to Prof. Xu Zhuyan. Special thanks go to Kaizuo villagers and officials for their hospitality and assistance while in the field, especially the villagers of Dabuyang and Dongkou. I would like to thank the enumerators Wang Jiexiong, Wu Ju, Jiang Xiaolan, Zhu Yanxia, and Ye Chenfa for accompanying me in the field during the coldest month in fifty years. Thanks are also due to Lu Jinfang for joining my survey and sharing her experience.

Lastly but not least I would like to thank my husband Yan Qian for his sacrifice and my daughter Yongyong for her understanding. She is a self-disciplined girl and never gives me trouble, which enabled me concentrate on my studies. I am grateful to my sisters-in-law and my parents-in-law for taking care of my daughter when I was away and to my parents, my sisters and brothers for their encouragement.

It is hard to list all. If there is someone I forgot to mention, please forgive me and accept my sincere gratitude.

–  –  –








1.1 Motivation of the research

1.2 Setting the stage for the research

1.3 Problem statement and research objectives

1.4 Relevance of the research

1.5 Location and timing of the research

1.6 Structure of this thesis


2.1 The collective era

2.2 The “Household Responsibility System” (HRS)

2.2.1 Initiation and implementation

2.2.2 Household structure and composition change

2.2.3 Household livelihood change and differentiation

2.2.4 Change related to gender roles

2.3 Transition to a market economy

2.4 Migration

2.4.1 Reasons for migration

2.4.2 Impacts of migration

2.4.3 The significance of the social network

2.5 Agricultural change

2.6 Development in rural areas

2.7 Family and household

2.7.1 The Chinese family and household

2.7.2 Kinship

2.7.3 Headship

2.7.4 Division of labour

2.8 Gender issues in China

2.8.1 Gender and land issues in China

2.8.2 Gender and household labour in China

2.9 Summary and conclusion


3.1 Household, family, kinship and headship

3.1.1 Household

3.1.2 Family

3.1.3 Kinship

3.1.4 Headship

vii 3.2 Livelihood and migration

3.2.1 Livelihood

3.2.2 Migration

3.3 Gender

3.4 Social differentiation and social change

3.5 The cohort approach

3.5.1 Cohort analysis

3.5.2 Temporal perspective

3.6 Conceptual framework and operationalisation

3.6.1 Household

3.6.2 Livelihood

3.6.3 Gender

3.6.4 Social stratification

3.6.5 Life course


4.1 Guizhou province

4.2 The municipality of Kaizuo

4.3 A profile of seven selected villages

4.4 The administrative system

4.5 Agriculture and livelihood

4.6 Cultural profile


5.1 Methodological design

5.1.1 The cohort perspective

5.1.2 The household’s life course perspective

5.1.3 A combination of perspectives and methods in the study design

5.2 The fieldwork as a process

5.3 The data collection

5.3.1 The household survey

5.3.2 Secondary data collection

5.3.3 Key informant interviews

5.3.4 Self-ranking

5.3.5 Focus group discussions (FGD)

5.3.6 Life history

5.3.7 Case study

5.4 Data analysis

5.5 Issues in the research process


6.1 The relationship between cohort and life stage

6.2 Marriage and household formation

6.3 Female-headed households

6.3.1 Female-headed households in the literature

6.3.2 Female-headed households in the study area

6.4 Women’s life stories

6.4.1 Life story 1

6.4.2 Life story 2

6.4.3 Life story 3

6.4.4 Life story 4

6.4.5 Life story 5

6.4.6 Life story 6

6.4.7 Life story 7

6.4.8 Life story 8

6.5 Discussion and Conclusion


7.1 Assets and resources

7.1.1 Human resources

7.1.2 Physical and financial resources

7.1.3 Environmental resources

7.1.4 Social resources

7.2 Livelihood activities

7.2.1 Farming

7.2.2 Land use

7.2.3 Migration

7.2.4 Migrated households

7.3 Gender and livelihood portfolios

7.4 Conclusions



8.1 Marriage and household formation changes

8.2 Household composition and residence

8.3 Household livelihood portfolios, land use and cropping patterns

8.3.1 Household livelihood portfolio changes

8.3.2 Land use and cropping pattern changes

8.4 Food security

8.5 Gender

8.5.1 Gender and livelihood change

8.5.2 Gender changes in the division of labour and decision-making

8.6 Migration

8.6.1 Motivations for migration

8.6.2 Migration impact

8.7 Social resources

8.7.1 Changes in social resources

8.7.2 The importance of social resources

8.8 Case studies

8.9 Discussion and conclusions


9.1 The extension structure

9.2 Extension activities and interventions

9.3 Farming households’ adoption behaviour and initiatives

9.3.1 Households’ technology adoption channels

9.3.2 Cohort and technology access

9.3.3 Gender issues in agricultural technology extension

9.3.4 Villagers’ experimentation and innovation

9.3.5 Cases

9.4 Discussion


10.1 The changes in farming households since the HRS

10.1.1 Characteristics of Chinese farming households in the collective period

10.1.2 Land allocation and land use

10.1.3 Changes in farming households after the implementation of the HRS

10.2 Interrelated changes in household, gender roles, land use and livelihoods............ 199 10.2.1 Household types and decision making on land use

10.2.2 The household’s life course and decision making on land use

10.2.3 Gender and decision making on land use

10.2.4 Livelihood strategies in relation to gender and life course

10.2.5 Impacts of changing household livelihood strategies on rural society

10.3 Implications for agricultural extension policies

10.3.1 Agricultural extension and farming households’ perspective

10.3.2 Implications for agricultural extension

ix 10.4 General discussion

10.4.1 Dimensions of social change

10.4.2 Social change and stratification

10.5 Final notes on methodology







–  –  –

Figure 3.1: Conceptual framework

Figure 4.1: Location of the municipality of Kaizuo (Tyler, 2006)

Figure 4.2: The location of the seven research villages in the municipality of Kaizuo (adapted from CBNRM, 1999)

Figure 4.3: The administrative system

Figure 4.4: Land use in Dabuyang village (adapted from the CBNRM project, 1995).

.... 59 Figure 5.1: The study design

Figure 6.2: The genealogy of Zhi

Figure 6.3: The genealogy of Xiu

Figure 6.4: The genealogy of Zhen

Figure 6.5: The genealogy of Fen

Figure 6.6: The genealogy of Yan

Figure 6.7: The genealogy of Xiao

Figure 6.8: The genealogy of Ming

Figure 6.9: The genealogy of Ying

–  –  –

ACWF All-China Women's Federation CAB County Agricultural Bureau CAPAO County Agriculture and Poverty Alleviation Office CBNRM Community-based Natural Resource Management FGDs Focus Group Discussions GPG Guizhou People’s Government GPLSSD Guizhou Provincial Labour and Social Security Department GSGSSB Guizhou Survey Group of State Statistics Bureau HRS Household Responsibility System IDRC International Development Research Center, Canada IFAD International Fund for Agricultural Development KPG Kaizuo People’s Government RCRE Research Center for Rural Economy ROSCA Rotating Savings and Credit Association RTDI Rural Transformation and Development Institute SPONRMT Sunshine Project Office of National Rural Migration Training Project

–  –  –

1.1 Motivation of the research When I came to Wageningen University for my PhD study, I had been involved for seven years in a community-based natural resource management project, funded by the International Development Research Center (IDRC, Canada). I had been working in research during these years and could observe many changes. From the villagers and local officials I also heard about the changes taking place. During the past two decades, the impacts of both the Household Responsibility System (HRS)1 and migration have become visible in a major way. Men and young people migrate, leaving women and the aged at home to manage the field and natural resources. The natural resource management (including land use) is undergoing change because of labour shortage and other factors.

My tentative topic for the PhD study was community organization and natural resource management. I was interested in understanding women’s organizations at the community level, not so much in phenomena at the individual or household level. After I began to study at the chair group of Sociology of Consumers and Households at Wageningen University, I became interested in the concepts of household and livelihood and the perspectives they represent. This motivated me to reformulate my research topic and try to open the ‘black box’ of the household, chiefly because the household became the unit of agricultural production from the moment the Household Responsibility System was implemented. In developing the research proposal, I applied the concepts of household and livelihood to address the topic of rural social change in relation to natural resource management and changing land use. Gender was seen as a crosscutting issue from the start of the research. Thus, this research focuses on the interrelated dynamics of household change, changing livelihoods, land use, and changing gender roles.

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