1 Introduction

Despite the rapid urbanization and industrialization that have occurred in China over the past 30 years, most Chinese are still classified as residents with rural hukou (household registration) or nongmin (peasants)1 even though many of them have temporarily migrated to work and live in the cities. China's breathtaking economic reforms started in the countryside in the early 1980s with the adoption of the household responsibility system. There followed significant improvement in the economic life of the Chinese countryside in that decade. However, the rural economy has been stagnating or even deteriorating in many areas in China since the 1990s. The rural–urban income gap has been widening at an alarming rate. The rural situation ...

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