Sunday, November 24, 2013

Rural China Is Dying

Chinese people will cease to be Chinese people at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: Economic convergence and dying places.

Subject Article: "China's villages vanish amid rush for the cities."

Other Links: 1. "London: people moving out, people moving in."
2. "Creative Class Myths About Talent."
3. "Beijing to Make It Easier to Bet the Farm: Leaders Set Goal of Clarifying Land Rights With Eye to Speeding Urbanization, Improving Agriculture."
4. "Environmental Explanations for Urban Migration and Sprawl."
5. "China's Pittsburgh Moment."

Postscript: Economic cycles and migration aside, I'm mainly interested in the connection between rural communities and national identity. Reading about China, I kept thinking about Mexico:

In addition to the gender of farming, the gender of out-migration from feeder states like Michoacan, Jalisco, Guanajuato, Zacatecas, and more indigenous Chiapas and Oaxaca, has changed radically. Once upon a time only men headed for El Norte and the potentially mortal consequences of this dangerous migration but womens’ numbers in the flow north have tripled in the last decade as neo-liberal agrarian policies imposed from Mexico City have devastated the "campo" and the bottom has fallen out of Mexican agriculture.

Under presidents Carlos Salinas and Ernesto Zedillo (1988-2000), the Constitution was mutilated to allow the privatization of communally-held land, grain distribution was handed over to transnationals like the Cargill Corporation, guaranteed prices were scrapped, and credit for poor farmers dried up. Vicente Fox and Felipe Calderon (2000-2010), presidents chosen from the right-wing PAN party, have hastened the demise of the agricultural sector.

The coffin nail was the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement. Every year since, millions of tons of cheap U.S. and Canadian corn swamp Mexico forcing small-hold campesinos and campesinas out of business. A Carnegie Endowment investigation into the impacts of NAFTA on poor Mexican farmers published on the tenth anniversary of the trade treaty calculated that 1.8 million farmers had abandoned their milpas in NAFTA’s first decade – since each farm family represents five Mexicans, the real number of expulsees comes in close to 10,000,000, at least half of them women.

Emphasis added. Growing corn is to Mexico, as rice cultivation is to Japan. NAFTA effectively destroyed the icon of the Mexican yeoman farmer. Migrants streamed from rural Mexico to urban America. Rural Mexico is dying. Which means, Mexican-ness is dying. The link between a rural landscape and the national soul appears to be a universal. Thus, urbanization is an existential threat to the state and not so surprising that many suppose the globalizing city is undermining sovereignty.

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