Geography Reference
In-Depth Information
community where they were to be resettled had not been properly contacted and consul-
ted. Villagers in this new “host community,” anticipating the loss or reallocation of their
own farmland plots, put up fierce resistance. There were also difficulties in determining the
proper level of compensation because several households had had children in excess of the
Planned-Births Program in the 1980s, and these children were erroneously given farmland
allocations under the Household Responsibility System. Would compensation for lost land
extend to them?
The heart of Ying's report was an examination of the strategies used by villagers to seek
redress from the social ills of displacement. When the Dahe Dam was constructed in the
1970s, the nation was in the grip of the Cultural Revolution; concepts such as individual
rights and rule of law, tenuous even at the best of times, were at their lowest ebb. Never-
theless, villagers found creative strategies to voice their concerns. In Ying's words,
Especially before the mid-1980s, few Chinese citizens took legal action, or were even able to access appropriate
legal weapons, in the face of economic disputes or social injustice. Instead, many turned to party or government
organs for help, through “looking for an upright official” [ zhao qingtian ] or “seeking an explanation” [ tao shuofa ].
The use of “petitioning” [ shangfang ] became a frequent and widespread legal practice unique to China. Citizens
were not demanding universal rights, but rather, were seeking the satisfaction of specific, personal interests. They
often sought the help of officials at various levels in the belief that the party and government sincerely wanted to
take care of ordinary people.
In Yunyang County—in particular Shanyang Township, one of the communities most af-
fected by the Dahe Dam—acts of protest unfolded over many years and involved public
officials from Beijing to the provincial government and even down to the county, town-
ships, villages, and production cooperatives. Success is not easily measured in cases like
these. According to Ying, villagers managed to get compensation money to move down the
bureaucratic ladder from the county to the township to the production cooperatives ( xiao
zu ).They also succeeded inlobbying officials tolower their grain quotas andtoinject high-
er government subsidies into a local calcium carbide factory where many displaced people
worked after losing their land.
Petitioning ( shangfang ), which has been a mainstay of citizen-state relations in China
for a long time, was the tactic that proved most effective in the Dahe case. Ying created a
typology of shangfang that describes the conditions under which this tactic is most likely
to meet with success. Collective action usually proves more effective than individual ac-
tion, provided that the scale is kept modest enough to avoid direct threats to governmental
power. Leapfrogging over unsympathetic, midlevel officials in order to appeal at the top of
the political hierarchy can be effective, but this tactic often worries the central government
since it poses a risk for broader social conflict. And timing is crucial: sensitive political
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