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Abstract

China’s integration into the global economy, while rapid, has been managed as part of a wider liberalization process. The structural changes in the rural economy arising from these twin processes have led to widening intra-rural inequalities. To address these, the central leadership has, in Polanyian manner, moved to counter some of the adverse effects of liberalization and globalization. We discuss this dynamic as it has affected rural China. We analyze results from a national data set covering the period 1991-2006 to assess the extent to which the state has been successful in protecting society from the advance of market forces. We find positive outcomes in terms of real earnings growth and poverty reduction but negative outcomes in terms of the rise in open unemployment and in terms of increasing intra-rural income inequality, although this was noticeably more pronounced in the 1991-2000 period than in the 2000-2006 period when more active government redistributive mechanisms were in place.

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