Introduction: William Hinton and His Vision of the Long Bow Reform
It is certainly hard to believe that an American man, even the American man who had been living in China for a considerable amount of time, could depict certain changes in the Chinese society and analyze the factors that contributed to a specific implementation of a certain reform. Weirdly enough, William Hinton did; in his analysis of the Long Bow Reform, the author gives credit to where it belongs, at the same time outlining the obstacles that the reformers faced.
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Despite the fact that originally, the economical reform that was carried out in the Long Bow Village, was intended for the fair distribution of the land resources, some of the aspects of the procedure were more than contradictory and quite controversial, which, therefore, discredited the very idea of the Long Bow Village reform.
It must be admitted that the reform itself pursued rather noble goals. According to the previous records, China needed a more fair land distribution: “Social scientists, reformers, and revolutionaries were all attuned to the problem of unequal land distribution, seeing landlessness as the force that drove impoverished peasants into the cities and absentee landlordism as an inefficient way to manage land production” (Bossen 86). However, mainly because the reform did not take into account the specifics of certain settlements, the available human resources were used unreasonably, which led to rather deplorable effects in certain parts of China, such as the Long Bow Village.
Following the Track of Hinton’s Notes: The Original Intentions
It is worth mentioning, however, that the land reform that was carried out in the Long Bow Village, was supposed to help solve the problems related to land ownership and grant peasants the land that they had been deprived of for so long.
Turning over the old system of land use
As it has been explained above, landlordism led to a number of undesirable outcomes, such as the fact that the state had very little regulation over the land, and that the land was sold to the people who offered the landlords the greatest amounts of money instead of the people who could actually make the land prosperous and fruitful, etc. As Bossen noted, “Many farmers were impoverished by the drop in commodity prices and the loss of markets for textiles” (Bossen 86). Offering that the land belonged to peasants, the reform allowed for a better control of the land. Therefore, it can be concluded that the original meaning of the reform was to minimize the impact of private businesses on the land and to let the government take control over it.
When urban intellectuals get down to work
Another idea that underlies Hinton’s research is that the Party must have been trying to promote the Communist ideas among the urban intellectuals by offering them the ideas of equal rights and freedoms (Hinton).
When the Ideas Were Put into Practice: The Associated Obstacles and Controversies
Unfortunately, the key problem of the agrarian reform was its vagueness and stiffness; with a bit more flexibility and a due amount of care, the key ideas of the agrarian reform could be applied in regard to the specifics of certain towns and villages.
Village residents are no soldiers
Of all the mistakes that were made in the course of the land reform implementation, the unwillingness to consider the specifics of the venue and the local residents was the most drastic one, which the Long Bow Village case illustrated graphically. According to what Hinton claims, the disadvantages of turning peasants as military soldiers were obvious from the very start: “Mao Tse-Tung, long before he became chairman of the Chinese Communist Party, catalogued the weakness exhibited by peasants as revolutionary soldiers” (Hinton 56). Anyway, Hinton was absolutely correct in that it was a bad idea to force the village residents to perform the functions of soldiers.
When the road to liberation is paved with thorns
Along with the fact that they could hardly start struggling for the better future without any previous experience of such “fights,” the citizens of the Low Bow could hardly embrace the new Socialist values that the Communist leaders bestowed on them. In addition, the new reform triggered radical changes that created the environment in which the residents of the Low Bow Village were not used to existing. Thus, a number of questions concerning the new way of life piled up, left without any answers: “Even if all the means of production could be equally divided, what was to prevent the old processes of differentiation which had originally produced landlord and tenant from producing them all over again?” (Hinton 55).
Reconsidering Hinton’s Argument: There Is More than Meets the Eye
Being able to watch the reform being implemented, as well as observe the outcomes of the reform and people’s reaction toward the latter, Hinton seems competent enough to talk about the mistakes that the Chinese government made. According to Hinton, apart from admittedly pointless efforts to turn the villagers into warriors, the political leaders should have abstained from changing the environment in which the villagers were used to live in so drastically.
Switching from one extreme to another: commandism vs. emancipation
Offering people too many freedoms in return for the years of tyranny of the upper class has never been a reasonable idea, and the infamous Long Bow Village case is the most graphic example of that. While it was important to grant the villagers with constitutional rights and freedoms, it was a mistake to offer escalating emancipation, which must have rather embarrassed the peasants than boosted their confidence. Hinton remarks, however, that the initial intent of the Chinese leaders offered going in the right direction: “The work team must make the village Communists aware of the real dangers of commandism, loose morals, self-indulgence, dishonesty and petty corruption. It must help them root out of these dangers completely, irrevocably” (Hinton 335), yet the implementation of these ideas left much to be desired.
Mere mortals pursuing the ideas of the Party
It was also quite unusual that the Party imposed the roles of soldiers on the people who had actually never had battle experience before. It can be assumed, therefore, that, without the government’s guidance, peasants would have never resorted to violent actions. Thus, it can be concluded that, by encouraging the peasants fight against the landlords, the Chinese government was pursuing its own goals of promoting Communist ideas among the villagers.
The Expected and the Actual Outcomes of the Reform: Analyzing the Mistakes
To understand the significance of the land reform and the lessons learned from it, analyze the outcomes of the land reform in China and comment on what lessons the Chinese government learned after the deplorable effects of the reform were observed. However, Hinton mentions only briefly what should have been done instead. Considering steps that are more adequate will help learning the historical lessons better.
What the reform results turned out to be
According to what Hinton says, the outcomes of the agriculture reform in China turned out not as favorable for the Chinese government as the latter had expected them to be. The troops got out of hand quite quickly. It should be mentioned, however, that “drawing into meaningful action of hundred peasants” (Hinton 363) contributed to shaping the nation’s identity.
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What could have been done in a different way
When reconsidering the effects of the agrarian reform in China, one cannot help feeling somewhat disappointed, because the reform could have been carried out in a much better and much more efficient way. If the government could create well-organized troops out of the village dwellers and control their actions better, instead of chaotic bloodbath for the sake of getting some scraps of land, one would have had an upheaval against the injustice of greedy landlords.
What the key source of problems was
As it has been mentioned, very few citizens of the village could actually confront landlords as a military unit; as a matter of fact, the dwellers of the Long Bow Village could hardly master the art of fighting. In essence, the government’s grandeur plans on forming military unions out of the local dwellers failed because the latter did not have the required skills. As the existing records say, “Through violent struggle, peasants were able to extract some money, but far from enough to satisfy the many peasants who still suffered in poverty” (DeMare 228).
What lessons can be learnt
Judging by the results of the implementation of the agrarian reform in the settings of the early XIX century Communist China, one must admit that, even if people support the ideas of the government and if there is passion about a certain task to be accomplished, it is still required that the government should control the actions of the citizens. In addition, needless to mention, the Long Bow example shows that, no matter what circumstances, aggression and violence are never the answers. The conclusion to be drawn for Hinton’s story is that, even when there is the need to transform civilian residents into soldiers, military training is essential, since fighting skills do not come out of nowhere.
Conclusion: Hinton’s Experience in China and the Weight of His Argument
Overall, Hinton’s work seems surprisingly strong and quite neutral in its political tone, which makes it rather objective and definitely engaging read. Hinton has proved the fact that the outcomes of the land reform that as carried out in the Long Bow Village differed from the ones that the Chinese government aimed at because of the conflict between the Maoist ideas, which the reform pursued, and the specifics of the residents of the Long Bow village.
Bossen, Laurel. Chinese Women and Rural Development: Sixty Years of Change in Lu Village, Yunnan. New York, NY: Rowman and Littlefield, 2002. Print.
DeMare, Brian James. Turning Bodies and Turning Minds: Land Reform and Chinese Political Culture, 1946—1952. Ann Arbor, MI: ProQuest, 2008. Print.
Hinton, William. Fanshen: A Documentary of Revolution in a Chinese Village. Berkeley, CA: The University of California Press, 1997. Print.