Rents, Taxes, and Peasant Resistance: The Lower Yangzi Region 1840-1950. Kathryn Bernhardt.

Rents, Taxes, and Peasant Resistance: The Lower Yangzi Region 1840-1950

Stanford University Press. 6 x 9.25", xiii, 326 pp., 5 maps, tables, notes, references, Character list, index, cloth, d.j., Stanford, 1992. Item #34548
ISBN: 0804718806

Throughout China's long imperial history, the political-economic system was supported mainly by the rents and taxes collected from the peasantry. The survival of the system depended on orderly relations between landlords and tenants and between the state and landowners. In the century before the Communist triumph in 1949, both sets of relations were profoundly changed. How did this transformation come about?

With the commercially advanced lower Yangzi region as its focus, this book provides the most comprehensive treatment to date of rents and taxes in nineteenth- and twentieth-century China. It demonstrates that the tax burden on landlords, relative to price changes, increased as a result of expanded levies by the state. At the same time, the rents received by landlords, relative to price changes, declined as a result of both state interference and peasant resistance. The result was a progressive weakening of landlord power. Past scholarship has generally dealt separately with either landlord-tenant relations, seen through rent, or state-society relations, seen through taxes.

By analyzing the two together, this study provides a distinctive view of the political-economic structure involving the three-way relationship between state, elite, and peasant. It demonstrates how that structure changed in the lower Yangzi valley during the century before the Communist victory through declining landlord power, increased state intervention, and expanded tenant collective action. Earlier studies have argued either for class revolution, or for Communist conspiracy as the dynamic behind the twentieth-century revolution.

This book offers a new perspective by suggesting that the old social-political system in this region was destroyed not by the revolutionary action of either the many or the few, but by a long-term process of change that left landlordism tottering on the verge of collapse even before the Communist Party's rise to power.

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