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    Apples and oranges: Political crops with and against the state in rural China
    Rogers, S ; Han, X ; Wilmsen, B (University of Arizona, 2022-01-01)
    In this article we bring together conceptual threads from political ecology, commodity geographies and agrarian studies to enable an inquiry into the political nature of crops. This inquiry is underpinned by the idea that crops are not just a means or a target of political projects, but can have effects through their webs of relations, and that their different capacities might mean that they may differently engage in political projects. This article examines how specialized cash crops in rural China are enrolled in state projects. We explore the cases of orange orchards and apple orchards in different locations in Hebei by detailing flows of capital and expertise, and smallholder-crop relations. Our analysis demonstrates that a political ecology of cash crops can provide insight into the politics of successive state projects that have been rolled out in China's agricultural communities. We argue that through evolving relations with smallholders, the attributes of the crops themselves, and particular market dynamics, robust smallholder-crop complexes have emerged that are currently proving resistant to the latest state project to achieve at-scale, industrialized agriculture. If we take political crops and their relations seriously in the story of contemporary agrarian change in China, we find that apple and oranges, previously with the state, can also come to act against it.
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    Scaling up agriculture? The dynamics of land transfer in inland China
    Rogers, S ; Wilmsen, B ; Han, X ; Wang, ZJ-H ; Duan, Y ; He, J ; Li, J ; Lin, W ; Wong, C (PERGAMON-ELSEVIER SCIENCE LTD, 2021-10-01)
    Major changes are taking place in the Chinese countryside. Long a smallholder dominant economy with small and fragmented farms, a suite of policies, regulations, and financial instruments are being mobilised to drive larger-scale, more commercialised, and more industrialised farming in China. Larger operators such as “dragon-head” agribusinesses are transforming production and supply chains, while the operational rights and titles over farmland are being formalised so that smallholders can more easily transfer their land to large-scale producers. This article aims to deepen our understanding of the extent and nature of land transfer in China by exploring its dynamics in inland provinces. It draws on a 2019 survey of more than 900 cash-cropping farms in four provinces (Hebei, Shaanxi, Hubei and Yunnan), semi-structured interviews, and secondary data. Our mixed methods approach supports in-depth analysis of the extent and dynamics of land transfer in apple, tea, orange and coffee-growing areas. We find that in contrast to national statistics, land transfer from smallholders to other operators is generally quite limited, a finding which highlights the ongoing viability of specialised smallholder farming and other site-specific barriers to scaling up. In the site where land transfer is most extensive, it is being driven by a state-agribusiness-cooperative alliance rather than through a newly emerged rural land market. We also find that the nature of leasing out farmland is markedly different to leasing in farmland. Where it occurs, the leasing out of land tends to be organised and formalised, and is tied to state developmentalist goals, particularly poverty alleviation. The leasing in of land is more widespread and occurs on an informal basis. Our analysis highlights key conditions that determine uneven land transfer and confirms that local political-economic dynamics complicate the realisation of central government directives on the ground.
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    Between Project and Region: The Challenges of Managing Water in Shandong Province After the South-North Water Transfer Project
    Chen, D ; Luo, Z ; Webber, M ; Rogers, S ; Rutherfurd, I ; Wang, M ; Finlayson, B ; Jiang, M ; Shi, C ; Zhang, W (WATER ALTERNATIVES ASSOC, 2020-02-01)
    This paper examines the challenges that a region of China is facing as it seeks to integrate a centrally planned, hierarchically determined water transfer project into its own water supply systems. Water from China's South-North Water Transfer Project (SNWTP) has been available in Shandong since 2013. How has this province been managing the integration of SNWTP water into its water supply plans, and what challenges is it facing in the process? This paper demonstrates that Shandongʼs planners consistently overestimated future demand for water; this, together with the threats posed by reduced flows in the Yellow River, encouraged the Shandong government to support the building of the SNWTP. However, between the genesis of the plans for the SNWTP and its construction, the supply from the Yellow River became more reliable and the engineering systems and the efficiency of water use in Shandong Province itself has improved. As a result, by the time the SNWTP water became available, the province had little pressing need for it. Besides this reduced demand for SNWTP water, there have been difficulties in managing delivery of, and payment for, water within the province. These difficulties include unfinished local auxiliary projects that connect cities to the main canal, high water prices, conflict and lack of coordination among stakeholders, and ambiguous management policies. The result is that in 2016, on average, cities used less than 10% of their allocated quota of SNWTP water, while seven cities used none of their quota. The story of the SNWTP in Shandong is that of a centralised, hierarchically planned, fixed infrastructure with its deterministic projections coming into conflict with the fluidity of water demand and local political circumstances.
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    Producing a Chinese hydrosocial territory: A river of clean water flows north from Danjiangkou
    Rogers, S ; Wang, M (SAGE Publications, 2020-11)
    Hydrosocial territories are produced not just through concrete water infrastructure, but through flows of people, water, money, and ideas at multiple scales. As part of China’s South–North Water Transfer Project, water drawn from the distant Danjiangkou Reservoir now supplies the megacities of Beijing and Tianjin with the majority of their drinking water. To provide this new service – supplying drinking water of sufficient quality and quantity – the Reservoir and its upper reaches are in the midst of socio-economic and ecological transformations. In this article, we outline the tools being mobilised to send a river of clean water north, including administrative interventions, displacement, and discursive imaginings. We argue that what is being attempted is a wholesale reorganisation that marginalises local territorialities, reflects China’s particular governing rationalities and practices, and highlights new spatialities of water governance. Our analysis of the remaking of Danjiangkou pushes hydropolitical scholarship to more precisely define the geographies of power in hydrosocial territories.
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    Targeted Poverty Alleviation in China: A Typology of Official-Household Relations
    Davie, G ; Wang, M ; Rogers, S ; Li, J (SAGE PUBLICATIONS INC, 2021-07-01)
    ‘Targeted Poverty Alleviation’ (TPA) is the Chinese government’s latest anti-poverty policy, aiming to lift the remaining 70 million Chinese citizens above the poverty line by 2020. The TPA scheme is novel in that every impoverished household is paired one-on-one with a local government official, who then bears responsibility for the eradication of their poverty. Despite being at the core of TPA, this pairing mechanism has received little academic attention. Based on an empirical case study of ten households across two villages in rural Shaanxi Province, China, this article aims to investigate this pairing mechanism at the micro level and its outcomes for poverty alleviation, in order to better understand how the notion of ‘precision’ is being realized through TPA. Two distinct traits that influence the TPA pairing system emerged: first, the ranking of the assigned local official is important in that higher-ranked officials have greater social and financial resources at their disposal, bringing about enhanced poverty alleviation outcomes for their households compared with lower-ranked officials. Secondly, the willingness and ability of impoverished households to actively participate in their poverty alleviation programme is beneficial within the TPA scheme, achieving better outcomes in the long-term compared with households who are passive receivers. TPA has the potential to work effectively and to achieve China’s poverty reduction goals; however, our analysis shows that some pairing mechanisms are more effective in achieving poverty alleviation goals than others.
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    Inside-out: Chinese academic assessments of large-scale water infrastructure
    Webber, M ; Han, X ; Rogers, S ; Wang, M ; Jiang, H ; Zhang, W ; Barnett, J ; Zhen, N (WILEY, 2021-09-04)
    Little is known in the international academic community about Chinese-language research on water management. To remedy this deficit, this paper reviews current mainland Chinese understandings of the role of large-scale water infrastructures as tools of water resources management. We reviewed 461 papers published in mainland Chinese journals by Chinese scholars. This review suggests that the dominant approach to water management reflects the confines of government priorities—large-scale, concrete-heavy, infrastructure-based means of moving water around the country so as to meet demands and stimulate economic growth. Suppression of critical voices means that infrastructure is generally rendered apolitical: the critiques are about practical issues, such as technological, managerial, or administrative problems. There are exceptions to this characterization that adopt more critical frames; however, they reflect on water management elsewhere or in the past rather than on contemporary China. While these more critical papers are interesting and important contributions to our understanding of the politics of hydraulic infrastructures, the literature as a whole says little about the politics of infrastructure in China now. In effect, much of the literature in Chinese on water management in China simply acts as an arm of a machine—a network of corporations, universities, international institutions, and arms of the government, together tasked with identifying and framing what are water management issues, formulating standardized procedures for tackling those issues, and then constructing solutions to them. This article is categorized under: Engineering Water > Planning Water Human Water > Water Governance.
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    An integrated assessment of China's South-North Water Transfer Project
    Rogers, S ; Chen, D ; Jiang, H ; Rutherfurd, I ; Wang, M ; Webber, M ; Crow-Miller, B ; Barnett, J ; Finlayson, B ; Jiang, M ; Shi, C ; Zhang, W (WILEY, 2020)
    China’s South–NorthWater Transfer Project (SNWTP) is a vast and still expanding network of infrastructure and institutions that moves water from the Yangtze River and its tributaries to cities in North China. This article aims to assess the SNWTP’s impacts by beginning to answer seven questions about the project: How is the management of the SNWTP evolving? What are the problems to be resolved when managing SNWTP water within jurisdictions? What are the status and management of water quality in the SNWTP? What are the consequences of resettlements caused by the SNWTP? How is increased water supply affecting regional development? Is the SNWTP achieving its stated environmental goals? What are the sustainability credentials of the SNWTP? Drawing on primary and secondary data, the article demonstrates oth that the opportunities and burdens characterising the project are highly uneven and that management systems are evolving rapidly in an attempt to enforce strict water quality targets. Furthermore, while the SNWTP may be helping to resolve groundwater overexploitation in Beijing, it is highly energy intensive, raising questions about its sustainability. Our analysis highlights the need to continue to interrogate the socioeconomic, ,environmental, and political implications of such schemes long after they are officially completed.
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    Beyond contradiction: The state and the market in contemporary Chinese water governance
    Jiang, M ; Webber, M ; Barnett, J ; Rogers, S ; Rutherfurd, I ; Wang, M ; Finlayson, B (Elsevier, 2020-01-01)
    State/market interactions in water governance have long been interpreted in terms of the contradiction between water as a commons and water as a commodity. Recent challenges to this dichotomisation claim that it cannot provide a useful lens through which to interpret the complexity of water resources and their management. This paper provides evidence from China to show that a dichotomous interpretation of state/market interactions has little power to explain the formulation and evolution of water governance regimes. Through an analysis of China's water policy development over the 1998–2018 period, the paper outlines how state control and marketisation are complementary rather than contradictory, collectively contributing to a governance regime that serves broader political and economic goals as much as water management ones. We argue that better understanding of the roles of state and market in water governance requires moving beyond an ‘either-or’ point of departure, and paying greater attention to the ‘both-and’ hybridisation increasingly observed in water management.
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    Towards a critical geography of resettlement
    Rogers, S ; Wilmsen, B (Sage, 2020)
    Resettlement is a governmental program with inherent spatial effects in that it drives the rearrangement of capital, labour, and land, and seeks to render people and space more governable. This article examines the extent to which this disruptive phenomenon has been theorised. We first review the existing literature, finding a distinct polarisation between mainstream studies and more critical scholarship. We then propose a critical geography of resettlement centred on its multiple logics, agents and expertise, and subject-making and spatial practices. An invigorated critical geography of resettlement is needed to challenge the legitimisation of an expanding resettlement industry.
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    China’s rapidly evolving practice of poverty resettlement: Moving millions to eliminate poverty
    Rogers, S ; Li, J ; Lo, K ; Guo, H ; Li, C (Wiley, 2020)
    Motivation: Unlike in other places where resettlement is largely a by-product of large infrastructure projects, in China, resettlement is used as a tool for poverty alleviation. With the introduction of Xi Jinping’s Targeted Poverty Alleviation, and the goal to end absolute poverty by 2020, resettlement has become central to China’s poverty-alleviation practice. Rather than investing in dispersed, remote villages, the Chinese government prefers to bring people to development by constructing high-density resettlement sites in small towns and peri-urban areas: up to 16 million people are being resettled between 2016 and 2020. Despite the scale of these interventions, the English-language literature on poverty resettlement is limited and is yet to detail rapidly evolving policies or how these are playing out on the ground. Purpose: In this paper we examine how poverty resettlement projects are working under Targeted Poverty Alleviation, with a focus on the implementation and impacts of, as well as overlapping motives for, projects in Shaanxi and Gansu. Approach and Methods: Our analysis draws on semi-structured interviews and secondary data collected in multiple sites in two provinces. Findings: Our findings show that China’s intense focus on resettlement as a tool for poverty alleviation has resulted in reduced financial burdens on those resettled, but is also engendering new conflicts at the local level. Policy implications: Our analysis highlights the contested nature of state-driven resettlement for poverty alleviation and raises questions about the relevance of this practice for other developing countries.