We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

Forty years ago, in 1978, 18 farmers from the village of Xiaogang in China, met at night in secret. They had seen subsistence and famine. Exhausted and emaciated, they lacked the energy to work the collective fields as Party discipline required. A few years earlier they had seen 67 of their 120 population starve to death in the “Great Leap Forward” Now they took matters into their own hands. By flickering lights (none had seen electricity), they came forward in turn to sign a document dividing up the collective farm into individual family plots, whose owners could keep most of the proceeds of their labours.

They knew the dangers, and added a clause to the contract pledging that if any were betrayed and executed, the others would raise their children until aged 18. Following that historic contract, the village produced more food next harvest than it had in the previous 5 years combined.

Madsen Pirie

16 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • PapayaSF

    What a great story! I only knew Deng had reformed things, not how it started.

  • Sam Duncan

    Just as important as the principle of keeping what they produced is the fact that they drew up a contract. Nobody ordered anything; they agreed to it. And nobody told them that this was the right thing to do, either. They just knew.

    I also find it interesting that, globally and historically, that contract signed by a few humble Chinese farmers turned out to be at least as, if not more, important than the great pompous Treaties being drawn up at roughly the same time by the highly-paid Commissioners of Europe.

  • Julie near Chicago


  • Attempts to restore individual farming occurred in Russia under Stalin and doubtless in China under Mao. But as the article notes, promises that survivors would raise the children of any betrayed would not have helped much under Mao: the whole village would have been killed. Stalin and Mao so did not care which method produced the more food. It was all about who had control of the crop, not how much there was.

  • CaptDMO

    Same thing happened in one of the original socialist “Common Wealth” invasions by “The Colonists”.
    ALSO SEE: “Tragedy of the Commons”

  • Regional

    The same thing happened more or less after the first year of the Pilgrim settlement. After the winter there were only about eight able bodied men in the settlement.

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    So they’re the ones to blame! China has now become so successful that it has turned into a bully! Can we persuade them to now go back to real communism, so China will become peaceful? Please?

  • Paul Marks

    No farm is safe in China – it can be confiscated at any time as their is no private landownership or (the Common Law Feudal version) “Free Hold” either. However, winked at private farming (with no real legal basis) is better than no private farming at all. The same is true for industry – China now has, perhaps, the largest privately owned manufacturing base in the world, but it could all be confiscated over night (as it has been a various times over the CENTURIES in Chinese history).

    Nicholas – of course the intentions of the People’s Republic of China were vicious under Mao (as you know they were in no way peaceful under Mao), but their ability to engage in aggression in the world was much less, because of their primitive economy.

    The “Forth Modernisation” (the military) announced in 1978 was not “4th” in importance, it was 4th in time – it was understood that the military modernisation would have to largely wait till the (de facto private) economy was developed enough to sustain it. The whole of Western policy was based on the assumption that economic reform “must” lead to political reform in the PRC – we now know that this is wrong. Forty years of economic reform has NOT meant political reform – political reform is not on the cards, the PRC is as hostile as it ever was. The “free trade will make them our friends” idea has not worked. No more that it worked with Imperial Germany in the run up to First World War when Britain followed a free trade policy with Germany – in spite of Germany imposing taxes on our imports to them from the late 1870s onwards, the fond illusions once spread by Cobden and Bright were destroyed by the German invasions of 1914. The People’s Republic of China is vastly WORSE (and vastly LARGER) than the Imperial Germany of Kaiser Wilhelm II – I am sorry if the media seem unable to understand this, but it is so. We have actively helped the People’s Republic of China follow its plan – its plan (its conscious and deliberate plan) for our destruction. They do not plan our destruction today or tomorrow – but plan our destruction they most certainly do.

    “Are you saying that we should put taxes on imports from the PRC?” No I am not saying that – but we must have a fundamentally different view of the PRC – they are not our friends, they are our foes. And they do not really care how rich selling stuff to us will make them – especially as our consumption of goods from them is “paid for” by BORROWING it is unsustainable anyway and they know it is unsustainable (why care about something that CAN NOT last?). The PRC plans to destroy the West. Why? Because they despise basic liberties – such as Freedom of Speech and Freedom or Religion and they hate and despise any country that even partly rejects the Jeremy Bentham idea that basic rights are “nonsense on stilts” – in short, in the long term, they want to destroy us and they do not care that this might carry an economic cost for them. The PRC can not politically reform without destroying itself – the very right of the Party to rule is based on the political (not the economic, the POLITICAL) system of Lenin and Mao.

  • Paul Marks

    Would it make a difference if the PRC elite bluntly announced their evil intentions to the world? Most likely not – after all the German academic and political elite openly (and at great length) declared their utter hatred for Classical Liberalism from 1888 to 1914 (not just Kaiser Wilhelm II – the elite generally) and their desire to dominate the world – yet even today most (yes – most) historians appear to be utterly ignorant of the IDEOLOGICAL basis of the Germany of 1914 and how its actions were directed by the IDEAS of its elite.

    Again the hatred was essentially political – not economic. The German elite might bleat a bit about the economic value of Belgium or of the industrial areas of France, but they were NOT really seeking war for economic gain – they wanted to destroy other powers for the SAKE of power itself. An argument that “if you kill us you kill your customers” did not matter to them – and it does not matter to the PRC leadership either. By our very existence we are a threat to their power (internally) – so we must be destroyed.

  • Paul, the whole point of the article is that by even partially accepting severalty & markets, which the PRC has manifestly done, it caused the largest uplift of humanity in history.

    And it all started with this wonderful & brave moment.

  • Mr Ed

    it caused the largest uplift of humanity in history.

    Perhaps, it permitted the largest uplift of humanity in history, but only after deliberately causing one of the largest downshifts in human history.

    I think that Paul’s concern is that currently the PRC is operating a longer-term version of the New Economic Policy (auth. V I Lenin), but one that has endured as it as part of a much better plan, to make the rope which the West will buy to get itself hanged.

  • NickM

    I am with you on this. About 20 years ago I was on a train – Trans-Penine. The women sitting opposite me was from the PRC. Her English was not 100%, my Chinese v. poor. Anyway we chatted. I said I’d really like to see the terracota army. She clocked “army” but not “terracota”. She thought I was a spy! She thought I wanted to know about the Chinese Army! Seriously. That is a level of paranoia that doesn’t end quick.

  • Gavin Longmuir

    To follow up on NickM’s anecdote — another one about an immigrant Chinese lady engineer I worked with in Houston. She brought her mother over from China to stay with her for an extended vacation. To keep her mother amused while she was at work, the lady subscribed to Chinese TV channels — which gave her the opportunity to see Chinese TV for the first time in over a decade.

    When I asked the lady if she was enjoying Chinese TV, she shook her head. No, it was all full of how great China is. I could not help contrast that with Western media, which is full of how rotten the West is.

    Probably back in the days of the playing fields of Eton, the English had the same Civilizational Confidence which the Chinese now evince. And the English went on to dominate the world and create an Empire on which the Sun Never Set.

    There is an interesting principle in geology — Uniformitarianism: anything which has happened before can happen again.

  • NickM

    I realised I typed this on a Lenovo Thinkpad. I am a serial Thinkpadster. My first was an IBM. This is Chinese and it is a nice machine but some part of me prefers buying American. Perhps it is the part of me that honeymooned on Key West and not Shanghai. But I keep on with Thinkpads (my wife has two) because I like the trackpoint. I like it being solid Al. I like the screen and the keyboard and in a odd way I like the black of it reminding me of my ’80s Speccy.

    And guess what? I am going to take this machine and do something amazing. The mighty English Empire has already seen Rome and France fall. The Chinese and Aztecs are on the cards. I have six carriers ready. four transports, thirty air squadrons, twelve armoured divisions, twelve mech inf, twenty infantry, ten artillery. That is twenty-five years of Civ for you.

    And it is Emperor level and 1808.

    There is gonna be a reckoning.

  • Eric

    If people would stop doing this kind of thing, communism would finally work.

  • Patrick Crozier

    I wonder how this story ever saw the light of day. I fail to see how it would have been in Deng’s interests for people to think that the great reform was not down to him but were the result of a few hicks taking things into their own hands.