i posted once before about how, since the 1970s/1980s, clans have returned to china with a vengeance. (i suspect that they never really went away, just went underground.) the people’s communes, established during the great leap forward, were supposed to do away with clans. for some reason, that didn’t work.
here from Rural China: Economic And Social Change In The Late Twentieth Century (pg. 258 – emphases and link added by me):
“A clan may consist of up to several thousand people. It is headed by the eldest member of the clan and a group of elder men and provides its members with economic and social protection. An internal clan law regulates clan matters.
“The vacuum created by the erosion of party and administrative structures in villages is gradually filled with traditional values. In many places in south and central China, traditional clan organizations have taken over village administration, and the activities of local functionaries are often bound to clan interests. A survey of five villages in Hubei Province in the early 1990s revealed that 41.8 percent of the individuals interviewed were convinced that village functionaries merely acted in the interests of the clan; 45.9 percent thought that they were only interested in their own profit (including clan interests), and only 12.3 percent thought that the functionaries acted in the best interests of the village inhabitants. The weakening of political control has led to a revival of traditional structures (kinship relations, secret societies, clans) that locally have even started to organize themselves politically. All over China there are reports on the new power of clans and on violent and bloody clan fights concerning forests, irrigation, building lots, and borderlines of fields and lanes. In regions where clan dominate the villages, they have frequently taken over local power in the form of VACs.
“With the establishment of people’s communes in the second half of the 1950s, the traditional clan connections were supposed to be destroyed. With the disbanding of the communes and the return to family economic activities in the 1980s, the role of the family and clan in rural areas increased and the economic function of traditional family structures was revived. As long as the village residents were organized in production brigades, family and clan connections were of no great importance. It was the return to family economic activities, at first in agriculture, that made family relations essential again. Thereafter, mutual aid and support of the production process, the need for capital when starting a business or establishing an enterprise became more and more important. Individuals could not rely on fictitious collectives, but had to rely on family or clan bonds. This process of the growing importance of family groups in the economy stimulated economic dynamism.”
and from Local Government and Politics in China: Challenges from Below (pgs. 180-181 – emphases added by me):
“Finally, the revival of traditional kinship groups and clans in Chinese villages creates competition with village authorities in China. Kinship groups and clans, which were strong rural political forces in traditional China, were suppressed but were never eradicated during the Mao era and have resurfaced in the reform era. Apart from traditional kinship groups and clans, secret societies, which were common in rural China prior to the Communist era, have also sprung up since the 1990s in the Chinese countryside. A main reason for the resurgence of kinship groups, clans, and secret societies is the peasants’ need to depend on some kind of organization or association for better protection of their interests as the feel they can no longer trust the official village authorities to do so. As a matter of fact, traditional cleavage created by kinship groups and clans have played a prominent role in villagers’ committee elections in rural regions, especially poor and remote rural ones. In some places, ‘undesirable elements’ or even ‘evil forces’ (based largely upon kinship and clan support) have come to power via village elections and have coalesced into a force resistant to carrying out township/town government policies.”
finally, lots of good stuff from China: The Next Superpower: Dilemmas in Change and Continuity (emphases and links added by me):
“Clan wars continue to be waged largely out of sight and out of mind in many rural areas, some of them having their origins in events long before the Communists took power, and even from imperial days. In August 1993, for example, in Hunan Province, birthplace of Mao, thousands of villagers fought a pitched battle armed with home-made guns, grenades and explosives that left at least five people dead, 12 seriously wounded and several buildings in ruins. Security forces had to fire tear-gas into the crowd to split up the warring factions. [see footnote 27 below.]
“Inter-regional conflicts are no longer confined to the coast-versus-hinterland syndrome. Rich provinces and cities are pitted against each other even as poor areas pummel one another with stunning ferocity. The reasons are little more than money, resources, and greed. Take the scuffles over the delineation of borders between provinces. Since 1980, more than 10 bloody clashes have taken place between the cadres and residents in Guangxi and Hunan provinces. Fifteen hundred people were allegedly killed or seriously injured in quarrels over land and water rights. Equally venomous battles have been fought between villagers living on the Qinghai-Gansu border over gold-mine rights. Two special work teams sent by the Communist Party and State Council to the area failed to solve the problem….
“Inter-provincial confrontations, of course, go back several centuries. Since 1949, thousands of Chinese have died in more than 1,000 armed conflicts over the imprecise demarcation of frontiers. They have worsened owing to the eclipse of central authority. For most of the new-style ‘economic warlords’, local development bringing tangible benefits such as wealth to close relatives and business associates is more important than heeding Beijing’s call to promote national cohesiveness….“
pg. 227 – footnote 27:
“The Battle of Matian Marketplace, as it has become known, was the latest chapter in a bitter clan feud between Matian villagers surnamed Liu and Jinggang villagers surnamed Li that dated back at least to the 1920s. The Canton Evening News reported that Matian and Jinggang had been at war since 1928, when a Matian landlord ‘massacred 27 innocent Jinggang villagers in the name of eradicating Communism’, launching decades of unceasing disputes of various kinds.”
“But when Americans and Chinese talk about ‘democracy’, they are not necessarily referring to the same animal. Democracy as it is known in the West is the product of Roman Law, the Magna Carta, the Boston Tea Party, the Fall of the Bastille, the Industrial Revolution, and the intellectual contributions of many great thinkers, such as Rousseau, Locke and Jefferson. The Chinese are coming from an entirely different tradition.
“The great virtues that the Chinese traditionally have valued so highly are tolerance, patience and non-interference in others’ affairs. There is also the strong individualism of the Chinese, which may seem a contradiction when one is taught that it is the ‘group’ not the individual that is important in China. But loyalty to the ‘group’ is still on a family or clan basis, rather than the vaguer concept of nation. Chinese do not particularly like to interfere in what they see as ‘idle affairs’. Public spirit and civic pride are difficult to grow in this type of soil, and that mitigates against the planting of democratic ideals.
“Secondly, the parental concept of government that has evolved over millennia and survives to this day means government of the people, for the people but not by the people. Essentially, the average Chinese simply wants to be left alone to get on with daily life without outside interference from *anyone*. Democracy is the play-thing of intellectuals, and China essentially is still a peasant society which traditionally has shown little interest in voting, paying income tax or helping to run the country.
“One legacy of the country’s long history is that behavior is based on the rule of man, not the rule of law. A complex body of nationally-enforced law was not considered necessary in traditional society because society had built in powerful forces of self-regulation. Government intervention was rarely needed because social order could normally be maintained through the family or clan, or other associations and occupational groupings. With the whole family liable to be blamed for the wrongdoing of an individual member [reminiscent of the albanians – h.chick], this was a powerful force to keep everyone in line.
“The revival of ‘feudalistic clans’ which are undermining the authority of the party in the countryside are a growing concern. Clan organizations, which were supposed to have been wiped out in the 1950s, have become the centres of power in counties with low income and education levels, according to internal circulars issued by government security units. ‘Some village cadres have abolished local party committees, with the clan chiefs becoming the de facto administrators,’ one document said. ‘In other rural areas, the election of village committees is under the control of clansmen.’
“While the revival of clans began in the early 1980s, they have become larger and much better organized recently. Rural cadres complain that clan activities have siphoned off badly needed funds for agriculture and education. The security departments cited villages in Hunan as having clan units so powerful they had refused to pay taxes or implement family planning measures. At the same time, since only males can join clans, their revival has fuelled families’ desires for male children in rural areas.“
“One clan in central China boasts more than 30,000 members from three generations. Clan members make regular contributions to Spring Festival celebrations and the maintenance of ancestral shrines, temples and cemetaries. The Education Ministry cited the case of a county in the north-West which had more than 100 clan temples. Enthusiasts there spent more than one million Yuan ($120,500) in 1994 on clan-related activities, more than the area’s budget for schools. In the Hunan Province districts of Dingcheng and Hanshou districts, where there are several prominent clans, fights over territory or committee positions often degenerate into blood battles. ‘Many villages turn to clan organizations instead of the police or courts to settle disputes,’ a rural official in Hubei told a local newspaper.”
recall that the chinese have been regularly marrying their (mostly maternal) cousins or marrying endogamously since at least the third century b.c. (for more info, see links in mating pattern in asia series in the left-hand column below ↓ — almost at the bottom of the page.)
previously: china today…
(note: comments do not require an email. it’s late. i’m tired.)