Rural Livelihoods in China: Political economy in transition (Hardback) book cover

Rural Livelihoods in China

Political economy in transition

Edited by Heather Xiaoquan Zhang

© 2015 – Routledge

222 pages | 4 B/W Illus.

Purchasing Options:$ = USD
Paperback: 9780815379751
pub: 2017-11-15
Hardback: 9780415844673
pub: 2015-04-02
eBook (VitalSource) : 9780203750742
pub: 2015-03-27
from $54.95

FREE Standard Shipping!
Look Inside


In recent decades, China has undergone rapid economic growth, industrialisation and urbanisation concomitant with deep and extensive structural and social change, profoundly reshaping the country’s development landscape and urban-rural relationships. This book applies livelihoods approaches to deepen our understanding of the changes and continuities related to rural livelihoods within the wider context of political economy of development in post-socialist China, bridging the urban and rural scenarios and probing the local, national and global dynamics that have impacted on livelihood, in particular its mobility, security and sustainability.

Presenting theoretically informed and empirically grounded research by leading scholars from across the world, this book offers multidisciplinary perspectives on issues central to rural livelihoods, development, welfare and well-being. It documents and analyses the processes and consequences of change, focusing on social protection of mobile livelihoods, particularly rural migrants’ citizenship rights in the city, and the environmental, social and political aspects of sustainability in the countryside.

This book contributes to the current scholarly and policy debates, and is among the first attempts to critically reflect on China’s market transition and the associated pathways to change. It will be of interest to students in international development studies, China studies, social policy, public health, political science, and environmental studies at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, as well as academics, policy makers and practitioners who are concerned with China’s human and social development in general, and agriculture and rural livelihoods in particular.


"Rural Livelihoods in China challenges us to transcend modernist frameworks in the analysis of China’s massive historical transformation and its attendant social development issues. By examining the struggle over rural livelihoods in China through the double lens of sustainability and mobility, this superb collection eloquently demonstrates why debates on China should move to the center stage in mainstream and critical debates on development alike. Through careful empirical research, policy analysis, and far-sighted theoretical argumentation, successive chapters accomplish a significant rearticulation of established concepts in livelihood analysis. What emerges from these pages, in the last instance, is a much enriched and transformed view of both Chinese studies and development theory and practice."

Arturo Escobar, University of North Carolina, USA

"This collection by leading scholars urges us to critically rethink the taken-for-granted urban-biased development and modernization discourse that has been dominating China’s development for decades. It invites all readers to think deeply about a basic question, that is, what kind of life rural people really want? And what kind of countryside a developmental state could allow rural people to have?"

Jingzhong Ye, China Agricultural University, China

"Without losing sight of the specificities of each case in China’s historical and social contexts, chapters in this collection subject a range of timely topics to analytical interrogation from the livelihood perspective. This is a book that offers rich empirical details and insightful theoretical discussions for both China experts, and students and scholars in development studies."

Qian Forrest Zhang, Singapore Management University, Singapore

Table of Contents

1.Introduction: Rural Livelihood Transformation and Political Economy in China Part 1: Mobility and Livelihoods 2. Migration, Risk and Livelihood Struggles in China 3. Social Protection and Livelihoods: Providing Old-Age Social Insurance for Migrant Workers in China 4. Sustaining Livelihoods in Urban Villages – Health risks and health strategies among rural-to-urban migrants in China: The case of Guangzhou 5. Legal Activism or Class Action? The Political Economy of the "No Boss" and "No Labour Relationship" in China's Construction Industry Part 2: Sustainable livelihoods 6. Biotech Politics in an Emerging Economy: Is China a Developmental Risk Society? 7. Small Cotton Farmers, Livelihood Diversification and Policy Interventions in Southern Xinjiang 8. Rural Finance and Development in China: The state of the art and ways forward 9. The Effects of Political Recentralisation on Rural Livelihoods in Anhui 10. From Taxing to Subsidising Farmers: Designing and implementing the "Four Subsidies" in China

About the Editor

Heather Xiaoquan Zhang is Senior Lecturer in Chinese Social Studies at the University of Leeds, UK.

About the Series

Routledge Explorations in Development Studies

The series features innovative and original research at the regional and global scale. Its scope extends to scholarly works that take an interdisciplinary and comparative approach.

In terms of theory and method, rather than basing itself on any one orthodoxy, the series draws broadly on the tool kit of the social sciences in general, emphasizing comparison, the analysis of the structure and processes, and the application of qualitative and quantitative methods.

The series welcomes submissions from established authors in the field as well as from junior authors. To submit proposals, please contact the Development Studies Editor, Helena Hurd (

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Development / Economic Development
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Development / Sustainable Development
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Environmental Economics
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Policy / Environmental Policy