The financial burden imposed upon the Chinese farmer by local taxes has become a major source of discontent in the Chinese countryside and a worrisome source of political and social instability for the Chinese government. Bernstein and Lü examine the forms and sources of heavy, informal taxation, and shed light on how peasants defend their interests by adopting strategies of collective resistance (both peaceful and violent). Bernstein and Lü also explain why the central government, while often siding with the peasants, has not been able to solve the burden problem by instituting a sound, reliable financial system in the countryside. While the regime has, to some extent, sought to empower farmers to defend their interests - by informing them about tax rules, expanding the legal system, and instituting village elections, for example, these attempts have not yet generated enough power from 'below' to counter powerful, local official agencies.
• This book sheds light on China's stability in the countryside • It investigates China's democratization • It analyses China's bureaucratic institutions, how they work, and how they are being reformed
1. Introduction; 2. Peasants and taxation in historical perspective; 3. Extracting funds from the peasants; 4. Institutional sources of informal tax burdens; 5. Burdens and resistance: peasant collective action; 6. Containing burdens: change and persistence; 7. Burden reduction: village democratization and farmer national interest representation; 8. Conclusions.
Review of the hardback: '… a powerful argument … Readers will learn just as much about how to study China as they will about China itself in this fascinating book.' Journal of China Quarterly
Review of the hardback: 'The authors of this book tackle a subject crucial to understanding contemporary China.' Journal of East Asian Studies 4
Review of the hardback: '… its startling revelations and bold analysis should be compulsory reading for leaders in China and other developing countries who are genuinely interested in social reform and preventing the suffering of a critical sector of the working class.' Development Policy Review
Review of the hardback: '… comprehensive … its startling revelations and bold analysis should be compulsory reading for leaders in China and other developing countries who are genuinely interested in social reform and who seek to prevent suffering of a critical sector of the working class.' Development and Change