It's All About the Rural Household

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Tradition’s Legacy
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I mean Confucian East Asian societies have, of course, a tremendous advantage in a way...

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<p>Well, I think the household has a unit of consumption and production, it is clearly part of the growth engine. And so we're talking about rural China, as I said, about self-sufficiency in China at the rural level. In 1983, when it's contracting down to the household, it's all about the household. Like in many agrarian societies, the head of a household sees everyone in his household, it's a male head, as part of his labor team. They are trying to maximize everybody's labor power to accumulate, the largest amount of assets for their family household.</p> <p>That's not unique to China, there are many countries like that. But China and Taiwan, Korea, Japan, I mean Confucian East Asian societies have, of course, a tremendous advantage in a way because Confucian ideology and the traditions of ancestor worship make that family both a sacred unit, an economic unit, a social unit...If you look at all the rituals that go through it, I mean, it's very very coherent and powerful. And it's one reason why when people emigrate, they are also able in a way to reproduce it. It's eminently reproducible. And you don't need assets to reproduce it. You just need, I don't mean &quot;just,&quot; a definition of what family obligations should be, how far they go, and they are profoundly economic. It is about accumulation for the family. And that is a terrific modus operandi in a capitalist society. As you reduce consumption, you maximize savings, you pool savings for long-term investment, you think long-term. It's a very powerful economic engine.</p> <p>And the contradiction to some people is that, 'But this is a communist socialist society. Don't know, oppose family loyalties and in particular, let's say religious precepts, tradition and...' No! And that was my first book. In fact, what the revolution did did by keeping everybody tied to their village and not letting people leave, strengthened the rural family. So you then allow people to migrate and literally you have 300 million households out there ready to move in a highly capitalistic mode.</p>
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Deborah Davis explains how China's Communist revolution strengthened family ties, creating 300 million family units ready to seize their newfound economic freedom in the early 1980s.