Most accounts of East Asian economic growth have focused on the role of developmental states in successful industrialization. This article expands and challenges that framework by showing that rural policy was different from industrial policy. A key finding is that for more than a century, East Asian states have relied on mass mobilization campaigns rather than on technocratic planning and market-conforming institutions to achieve rural development. Based on case studies of Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and China, the author argues that three main factors explain the rise of campaign states: revolutionary traditions, rural populism, and policy learning. A brief assessment of outcomes illustrates the payoffs and costs of campaigns and the practical considerations that drive them. The author’s analysis offers a new perspective on the East Asian model and disputes the widely held view that campaigns are tragic exercises in social control, demonstrating instead that they were central to the region’s rural transformation.