|Land Stratification in Northeast China: Demography, State, and Market, 1870-1906|
|In this paper we examine the distribution of land in 120 state farm villages in Northeast China from 1870 to 1906 to explore the roles of demography, state, and market in land stratification. A central component of the canonical Chinese ‘dynastic cycle’ is the transition from relatively egalitarian land distribution to highly concentrated land ownership. At the beginning of almost every dynasty, the new state redistributed the concentrated wealth of the previous dynasty to create a relatively equal land distribution. Private land transaction, however, is said to have eventually led to the reconcentration of wealth, growing inequality, and social and political unrest. While scholars acknowledged the importance of political power in causing land concentration, they also consider land market a major force to create inequality.
We draw our analyses from a longitudinal dataset that melds population and household records and land ownership record: 1) 108,100 linked individual life histories from 1,346,829 observations recorded in 260 annual registers from 1866-1912; 2) 19,609 plot histories from 23 coded land registers dated 1870, 1876, 1887, 1889 of which 13,155 plot owners have been linked to the population dataset. We demonstrate that the state land allocation policy played a major role in maintaining a relatively equal land distribution. At the same time, considerable stratification still existed in the two extremes, the top and bottom deciles, of the population. While family size and demographic disadvantages explain downward mobility and the creation of many of the landless, the interplay of family size and political power propelled other families upward into the highest ranks of the landed. Market alone only played a minor role in land stratification in northeast China.