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Issue 38 (July 1997)
Martin King Whyte
The Fate of Filial Obligations in Urban China
Data from a 1994 survey conducted in urban districts of Baoding, Hebei, are used to examine whether the combined force of revolution, economic development, and changes in Chinese culture has weakened the obligations that young people feel toward their elders. The survey data reveal that a sense of filial obligations is alive and well in Baoding, with grown children if anything expressing stronger support for traditional attitudes in this realm than do their parents. This unexpected finding does not appear to be the result of anything particularly conservative about Baoding or our respondents. Instead, it appears to be the result of the multiple ways in which urban social organization has reinforced filial bonds in the PRC, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding.
James Kai-sing Kung and Shouying Liu
Farmers' Preferences Regarding Ownership and Land Tenure in Post-Mao China: Unexpected Evidence from Eight Counties
It is often presumed that farmers' insecurity over their property rights is a fundamental cause of inefficient utilisation of agricultural land in China today. This sense of insecurity is attributed by many to China's current land tenure system - under which land gets periodically redistributed among members of the village community to adjust for changes in family size. To rectify this, the Chinese government directed in 1993 that farmers' land tenure should be guaranteed through new 30-year contracts after their current ones expire, during which period land adjustments will be frozen, regardless of population growth.
Based on a unique farm survey covering 800 households in eight counties characterised by different socio-economic conditions, it is found that, first, an overwhelming majority of the farmers do not hold a strong preference for private ownership; and, second, the majority, 62 per cent, said they prefer the existing institutional arrangement of periodically reassigning land within the farming community. We attribute these findings to first, the social insurance function served by, and embedded in, the existing institutional practice. To the extent that a family will, at some point of its demographic cycle, become larger, it will have inadequate land to farm should land adjustments be frozen for 30 years. Related to this, farmers who search for off-farm employment outside their villages are only willing to give up land when they are assured that there will be land available upon their return. The current land tenure systems offer just such flexibility to Chinese farmers. Second, we attribute the finding also to farmers' preference for the equal per capita land-entitlement rule, which will clearly be violated should land adjustments be frozen.
A notable finding is the effect of non-farm employment on tenure security and institutional choice. Due to their decreasing reliance on land as a primary source of income, farmers who have off-farm jobs tend not only to find the current land tenure system secure but are also less opposed to the proposed policy of freezing land re-adjustments.
Rural Resettlement: Past Lessons for the Three Gorges Project
The Three Gorges Dam project at the midpoint of the Yangtze River is entering a crucial stage of construction. After the high-water season this year (1997), the river will be closed off to create a water-free berm at Sandouping, where the construction plan calls for the dam to be 185 metres high and 2,000 metres wide. The dam's generating capacity of 18,000 megawatts will be 50 per cent more than the world's largest hydrostation --Itaipu in Paraguay. At the time of writing, only a relatively small number of people have been relocated. But large-scale resettlement will begin when the first group of electric generating units start operation in 2003. The entire project entails the relocation of at least 1.2 million people from 13 cities, 140 towns, and 1,353 villages. About half of the targeted resettlers are farmers. Never before has a single hydroelectric dam displaced so many land-dependent people. Yet since 1949 China had embarked on hundreds of highly ambitious if somewhat smaller river-damming projects. These projects offer some valuable lessons for evaluating the relocation program of the Three Gorges project.
Based on a review of three earlier cases of population resettlement, this articles singles out the problems of resettling the farmers of the Three Gorges area. The author argues that Chinese officials in charge of the Three Gorges project are repeating many of the disastrous problems associated with the construction of big dams and reservoirs during the Great Leap Forward (1958-60). These problems include miscalculation of the size of the population for resettlement, the use of coercive means to relocate the targeted population, and the lack of an effective policy to compensate the rural resettlers. If history provides any lessons, it is that a tragedy involving more than half a million farmers is in the making in the Three Gorges area.
Ethical Issues in Organ Procurement in Chinese Societies
his article considers three ethical issues surrounding the process of organ procurement in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore. The focus is on kidney procurement and the issues discussed are living donation, consent of donors, and prisoners as organ donors. The data were gathered from published articles in the case of Singapore and from articles and interviews with a broad range of people in the organ transplant field in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan from 1993 to 1995. The author concludes that while most societies carrying out organ transplants experience a shortage of organs for a variety of reasons, the shortages in Chinese societies are augmented by beliefs about the role of the kidney in traditional Chinese medicine and by beliefs associated with traditional folk religion. Political, economic, and social factors affect how these shortages are dealt with in each of the societies.