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Title: Digesting industrialisation : social changes in two industrialised villages in East China
Author: Zhang, Guanli
ISNI:       0000 0004 7971 5550
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2018
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Industrialisation has caused substantial and profound changes in rural China. Based on fieldwork in two industrialised villages, Jiangbin (江滨) and Weiken (围垦), on the outskirts of Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, this research examines how the rural residents and the rural communities cope with the challenges brought by the industries. In Jiangbin and Weiken, industrialisation has already been integrated into the everyday life. Like food, water, and air, industrialisation has become a necessity and an indispensable part of local people's life. Villagers strive to 'digest' industrialisation and its side effects. Rather than passively adapting to the challenges, they strive to understand, co-exist with, and even take advantage of industrialisation. The observations on how local people digest industrialisation serve as a lens for understanding the value, social bonds, and social structure of contemporary rural China at a time of momentous change. This research critically engages with Fei Xiaotong's theories on the organisation of Chinese rural society in the pre-communist era. It examines the three parts of Fei's classic proposition, i.e., the differential mode of association (chaxu geju 差序格局), with reference to rural residents' adaption to and resistance against the challenges in the era of industrialisation. Based on Fei's theories, this research proposes three arguments. 1) Fei Xiaotong considers rural residents' individuality as the behavioural basis of the differential mode of association. I argue that although many villagers follow a 'selfish' logic to survive and thrive in the tide of industrialisation, the connotation of their individuality has significantly changed. 2) The kinship-based closeness that forms the concentric circular structure of each individual rural resident's social networks in Fei's theory has now been replaced by a more fluid, diversified, and relative type of social bonds. Functional groups that are established based on profession, geographical distribution of households, and similar experience (e.g. diseases) have gradually replaced blood ties in the formation of local people's social networks in rural society. 3) Traditional ethics (renlun 人伦) that serve as a vertical binding force in Fei's differential mode of association has observed much contemporary variation. This has led to a shrinking sphere of influence of traditional ethics, which proves itself unfitted to many new issues in the industrialised villages. The three arguments lead to a further discussion of the driving forces - capitalism, urbanisation, grassroots institutional reform, and legal awareness - behind the on-going social changes. Based on an 11-month on-site research and extensive qualitative data collected through my fieldwork, I present 14 ethnographic portraits of villagers in this dissertation. These portraits illustrate the mentality and reaction of rural residents when they face the challenges of land acquisition, changing means of livelihood, and pollution caused by industrialisation. These ethnographic portraits exemplify how social change in rural China is perceived by ordinary people and how the rural residents respond to the change. This research bridges literature on village studies, sociology of industrialisation, and social inequality in China. It adds contemporary elements to Fei's theories. Furthermore, it contributes to the studies of Chinese rural society both theoretically and empirically: the multi-dimensional examination on the driving forces behind social change in the two researched villages critically responds to the mainstream assumptions about the state-society tension in the socio-economic transition of China, whereas the first-hand and up-to-date empirical data facilitate our understanding of the current status and future of Chinese villages in the tide of industrialisation.
Supervisor: Lora-Wainwright, Anna ; Wójcik, Dariusz ; Yuge, Ma Sponsor: University of Oxford ; China Scholarship Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available