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Small Works

Poverty and Economic Development in Southwestern China

John H. Donaldson

Publication Year: 2011

How can policymakers effectively reduce poverty? Most mainstream economists advocate promoting economic growth, on the grounds that it generally reduces poverty while bringing other economic benefits. However, this dominant hypothesis offers few alternatives for economies that are unable to grow, or in places where economic growth fails to reduce or actually exacerbates poverty. In Small Works, John A. Donaldson draws on his extensive fieldwork in two Chinese provinces-Yunnan and Guizhou-that are exceptions to the purported relationship between economic growth and poverty reduction.

In Yunnan, an outward-oriented developmental state, one that focuses on large-scale, urban development, has largely failed to reduce poverty, even though it succeeded in stimulating economic growth. Provincial policy shaped roads, tourism, and mining in ways that often precluded participation by poor people. By contrast, Guizhou is a micro-oriented state, one that promotes small-scale, low-skill economic opportunities-and so reduces poverty despite slow economic growth. It is no coincidence that this Guizhou approach parallels the ideas encapsulated in the "scientific development view" of China's current president Hu Jintao. After all, Hu, when Guizhou's leader, helped establish the micro-oriented state in the province. Donaldson's conclusions have implications for our understanding of development and poverty reduction, economic change in China, and the thinking behind China's policy decisions.

Published by: Cornell University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-vi


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p. vii-vii

Figures, Tables, and Maps

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pp. viii-x

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pp. xi-xii

...Like raising a child, raising a monograph requires a village. Acknowledging adequately the contributions made by the many people who have assisted me would require nearly as much space as the book itself. A few short sentences will have to suffice...


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p. xiii-xiii

Chinese Terms

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pp. xiv-xvi

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pp. 1-20

...Is economic growth good for the poor? In theory, yes. With increasing wealth, the poor should benefi t along with everyone else. This argument has long prevailed in the thinking of scholars of development and poverty. Back in the eighteenth century, Adam Smith emphasized the benefits for the...

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1. Guizhou and Yunnan in Comparison

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pp. 21-36

...Just as a detective scrutinizes numerous suspects implicated in a murder mystery, so we must assess the extent of involvement of various candidate factors— geographical, natural, demographic, cultural, economic, and political—in the present puzzle. For instance, if the weather was worse in...

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2. Why Do Similar Areas Adopt Different Developmental Strategies?

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pp. 37-60

...The top leaders of Guizhou and Yunnan set about establishing and implementing strikingly dissimilar strategies to effect economic improvements. Even the goals pursued were markedly different. Why did the leaders of two similar provinces do so? After all, these leaders faced similar challenges, operated...

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3. Roads

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pp. 61-77

...In an administrative village in northwestern Guizhou, a large crowd of farmers, carrying heavy loads of fresh-cut vegetables on their back, had gathered. An informal weighing station had been set up, and the villagers waited patiently as men in a large green truck weighed and purchased their...

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4. Migration

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pp. 78-101

...The livelihood of the Zhaos, a Miao family living in impoverished Leishan county (the name means “Thunder Mountain”) in Guizhou was greatly enhanced by the work of their indomitable daughter. At a relatively young age, this remarkable young woman made the arduous trek to Guangdong province...

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5. Tourism

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pp. 102-129

...My traveling companion and I finally arrived after our full-day hike through the heart of Thunder Mountain, a poor rural county in southeastern Guizhou. Turning the bend, we spotted the traditional wooden houses with ornate window frames of Upper Langde, the Miao village that was...

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6. Coal Mining

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pp. 130-149

...The man’s story was as surprising as it was haunting. In a guesthouse in the Guizhou town of Bakai early in my travels, I sat transfi xed as Mr. Liu described how he made his living. In the off-season, this farmer organized several of his neighbors to mine coal. This small group of men, armed with pickaxes and other simple tools, together went into a pit mine and extracted...

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Conclusion: The Micro-Oriented State, Development, and Poverty

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pp. 150-172

...Scholars have long promoted numerous pathways to reducing poverty in the developing world, incorporating different state strategies, capacities, and roles. Some argue that poverty reduction is best accomplished when the state removes itself as much as possible from economic decision making while proactively facilitating the ability of the market to stimulate the economy and...


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pp. 173-194


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pp. 195-214


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pp. 215-222

E-ISBN-13: 9780801462771
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801449680

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2011

Edition: 1