This article examines the social bases of agrarian transformation during and
after the communist-led collectivization of agriculture in China and Vietnam.
The social science literature generally portrays rural people as passive, depoliticized
and dependent. Nowhere is this more true than in studies of socialist
societies that have been heavily influenced by totalitarian and authoritarian
theories. The literature focuses on the initiative and power of supreme leaders,
as well as party and state mobilization, to explain social and institutional
change. This perspective, while not uncontested, holds generally for the subject
Our central thesis, in contrast, is that the cumulative weight of rural resistance
eventually made it too costly, both economically and politically, for the
respective states of China and Vietnam to continue collectivized agriculture.
While recognizing significant differences in the structure and performance of
collectivized agriculture in Vietnam and China, this study underlines strikingly
similar tactics used by farmers to circumvent, resist and eventually, under politically
fortuitous conditions, contribute to the elimination of the core institutions
of collective agriculture and expand the scope of the market and household economies.
We consider, in short, the interplay of resistance from below and the
roles of party and state in generating fundamental social change.
If everyday resistance succeeds in dividing ruling groups, it has the
capacity to contribute to and shape far-reaching social change. Yet if Vietnamese
and Chinese villagers have manifested surprising strength in generating
system change, this should not blind us to the fact that they have yet to institutionalize
their power in a manner that will guarantee their future participation in
decisive political processes.
Chad Raymond, Mark Selden, and Kate Zhou (2000) The Power of the Strong: Rural Resistance and Reform in China and Vietnam. China Information 14 (2): 1-30