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500 China Review International: Vol. 4, No. 2, Fall 1997© 1997 by University ofHawai'i Press crease his power. Among other things, he was able to expand his economic interests and to reshape his public persona from gangster to philanthropist from within this new institutional framework. In short, by becoming a part ofthe political system of Shanghai, Du and the Green Gang were able to make out like the "bandits" they were. Brian G. Martin is to be commended for his sober description and objective inquiry into the complex institutional history ofChina's best-known gang ofthugs. William Wei University of Colorado at Boulder William Wei is a professor ofhistory specializing in modern Chinese history and Asian American history. im Terry McKinley. The Distribution of Wealth in Rural China. Armonk, New York: M. E. Sharpe, 1995. Hardcover $65.00, isbn 1-56324-614-7. Paperback $27.50, isbn 1-56324-615-5. This book confirms the old adage, "getting there is half the fun." Here, far more interesting than the actual conclusion is the intricate journey that takes us there. The author's basic conclusion is that wealth in rural China was distributed in a relatively (compared to other third-world countries) equitable manner in 1988, when the data for this study were collected. This conclusion is problematic for several reasons. First, there are very serious difficulties with the data and methodology . Sampling procedures may be biased, very poor families may be underrepresented , and income and wealth may be hidden. Even though McKinley is sensible and careful in his assumptions, there remains an uncomfortably large element of arbitrariness. Moreover, the very dynamic situation in rural China today renders any snapshot in time potentially dated and obsolete. McKinley realizes that ultimately the apparendy high degree of equitable distribution rests on a precarious political equilibrium. Simon Kuznets showed long ago that the early phase of economic development in a poor society normally involves increasing inequality. To calculate rural wealth, McKinley totals the presumed value ofland (adjusted for productivity), fixed productive assets (livestock, farm machinery, and tools), housing, and financial assets. The challenges in calculating the value of land are very great, considering that farmers cannot actually own land and there Reviews 501 is no market for it. The "average" household in this study had assets worth 14,700 yuan, ofwhich land accounted for 59 percent and housing for 31 percent. Generally speaking, McKinley finds that differences in the amount ofassets in land are somewhat balanced by other forms ofassets; that is, people with little land have otiier resources (e.g., more animals and machines) that give them income and wealth. Thus, when all factors are taken into consideration, the distribution ofwealth is reasonably equitable. Along the way to drawing these conclusions, the author offers some fascinating insights. For one thing, the basic legal principle ofthe communist system of collective agriculture is that residents of an area are to receive reasonably equitable entitlements to the productive resources ofthat area. This principle was followed in the distribution ofland when collective agriculture was restructured in the early 1980s; thus there is a relatively equitable distribution ofland. Second, farmers actually still do not legally own farmland. Rather they receive the rights to use the land for a fixed period (fifteen years). China's reluctance to press forward with the formal privatization ofland means diat there is an underlying equitable bias in die distribution ofland. Third, farmers have an incentive to invest in new houses rather than in farmland , because the private ownership and inheritability ofhouses is secure. During the 1980s, roughly half of all farm families moved into new houses. Rural living space roughly doubled. Fourth, under current conditions, the prices for farm products and the costs of farm inputs and wage labor make farming not particularly profitable. There is a negative correlation between the amount offarmland and income. The people who are getting wealthy are those who are escaping agriculture and moving into transportation and commerce, factory work in rural towns, or business and entrepreneurship. Fifth, those having the most success going into business and escaping the low income ofan agricultural occupation are those who have been cadres or otherwise have had personal connections in...


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