Peasants, time and the land: The social organization of farming in China

J.D. van der Ploeg, L. Ye, Lu Pan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


This article discusses the multiple meanings of land in the peasant economy of modern China. It argues that the three-generation structure of the peasant family and the circularity of labour migration ensure that land remains a central and non-substitutable resource. This implies that the, oft-articulated, thesis that migrant work represents a definitive adieu to farming is a fallacy. Peasant workers remain attached, and consequently return, to their land, precisely due to labour migration. In the absence of their husbands, women care for the land, together with their fathers in law and in so doing they sustain both the productivity and continuity of agriculture. It is also argued that a further softening of the Chinese Hukou regulation will not trigger a massive rural exodus. The strong relations between peasant households and the land suggest that this will not happen. The article draws on anthropological and agronomic research by the authors in villages in the province of Hebei that has been ongoing for several years and reviews of historical literature.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)172-181
JournalJournal of Rural Studies
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • rural china

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