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[Notice: All images on this site are (c) Copyright Saundra Sturdevant, 2002]



End Of An Era -- Migratiion From The Countryside -- Work In The City



End Of An Era

Most of China is mountains, desert or semi-desert. Almost all the great population lives on or next to the great alluvial plains formed by China's rivers. At the end of the Mao period, some 10% of China was tillable. By the end of the 1980s, that number was down to 7%. Chinese Socialist policy of self-sufficiency and integration of agricultural, light and heavy industrial development gave way to China's going on the international market to purchase grain, foodstuffs, technology and machinery. With this type of development, China obtained loans from international lenders, most frequently secured to exploitation and development of China's ample natural resources. Chinese economy became like that of other developing Third World states.

These photos were taken in Shen-zhen, which was booming with the initial development that came with being China's premier export processing zone. Shen-zhen reflects the huge internal migrations that accompanied the abandonment of the policy of self-sufficiency and going on the international market. This, among other things, necessitated the privatization of land via dismantling of the commune system. Privatization worked for the male-dominated family if the agricultural land received was tillable, had secure water rights, the family rich in male labor power and the location near transportation. These endowments are not easy to come by.

During part of the time of these great transformations, I was based in Hong Kong, working as the Quaker International Representative in Asia (an American Friends Service Committee position). I spent a lot of time working in China, Korea, Japan and Okinawa. My residence was in a Chinese village, some fifteen minutes from the Chinese border where Shen-zhen was located. The End of An Era images helped inform my consciousness while writing an article on the changes in post-Mao China. (Saundra Sturdevant. "China's New Labor Market," The Nation, 28 September 1988.)



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