Rural Development Strategies and Government Roles in the Development of Farmers' Cooperatives in China
AbstractIn an effort to address the growing income disparities between rural and urban residents in China, Chinese authorities introduced a series of rural development policies beginning in 2002 that established as a national goal a xiaokang (all around better off) society and gave top priority to the triad of agriculture, rural areas, and farmers. Farmers' cooperatives, consequently, have received substantial government support since 2002 as they are viewed as an important institution for linking small-scale producers to agro-food supply chains, and particularly value-added food chains. Yet little is understood regarding how and to what extent farmers' cooperatives have benefited members and contributed to rural development in China. Using a case study method and in-depth interviews, we evaluated three successful farmers' cooperatives in China. Following the "deepening-broadening-regrounding" typology proposed by van der Ploeg, Long, and Banks (2002), we found that the farmers' professional cooperatives can make important economic, social, and environmental contributions to rural development by adopting alternative strategies and activities. On the other hand, these cooperatives also face great challenges for further development, including limited access to land and capital, a massive loss of laborers, low market competitiveness, weak internal management, and limited government support, which explains why cooperatives are not more widespread in China. This paper offers new insights into the roles of farmers' cooperatives and government in rural development.
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