About the Authors

Anthony Saich is the director of the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation and Daewoo Professor of International Affairs, teaching courses on comparative political institutions, democratic governance, and transitional economies with a focus on China. In his capacity as Ash Center Director, Saich also serves as the director of the Rajawali Foundation Institute for Asia and the faculty chair of the China Programs, the Asia Energy Leaders Program and the Leadership Transformation in Indonesia Program, which provide training programs for national and local Chinese and Indonesian officials.

Saich first visited China as a student in 1976 and continues to visit each year. Currently, he is a guest professor at the School of Public Policy and Management at Tsinghua University, China. He also advises a wide range of government, private, and nonprofit organizations on work in China and elsewhere in Asia. Saich is a trustee member of he National Committee on US-China Relations (2014-), AMC Entertainment Inc., the chair of the China Medical Board, and International Bridges to Justice. He is also the US Secretary-General of the China United States Strategic Philanthropy. He sits on the executive committees of the John King Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, Council on Asia Studies, South Asia Initiative and the Asia Center, all at Harvard University. He serves as the Harvard representative of the Kennedy Memorial Trust and previously was the representative for the Ford Foundation’s China Office from 1994 to 1999. Prior to this, he was director of the Sinological Institute at Leiden University in the Netherlands.

His current research focuses on politics and governance in post-Mao China, China’s urbanization and rural-urban inequality in China; and the interplay between state and society in Asia and the respective roles they play in the provision of public goods and services at the local level. His most recent books include Governance and Politics of China (Fourth Edition, 2015); Chinese Village, Global Market (2012); Providing Public Goods in Transitional China (2008); Revolutionary Discourse in Mao’s Republic (with David Apter, 1998); The Rise to Power of the Chinese Communist Party (1996); and China’s Science Policy in the 80s (1989). He has edited books on political governance in China (2015), philanthropy for health in China (with Jennifer Ryan and Lincoln Chen, 2014), China's urbanization (with Shahid Yusuf, 2008), HIV/AIDS (with Joan Kaufman and Arthur Kleinman, 2006), and the reform of China’s financial sector (with Yasheng Huang and Edward Steinfeld, 2005).

He holds a Ph.D. from the Faculty of Letters, University of Leiden, the Netherlands. He received his master’s degree in politics with special reference to China from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London University, and his bachelor’s degree in politics and geography from the University of Newcastle, UK. Away from the office, he enjoys time with his two children, movies, and soccer.

Biliang Hu is the Director of Belt and Road Research Institute (BRRI), Dean of Emerging Markets Institute, and Professor of Economics at Beijing Normal University.

Book Description

This book is a story of one village, Yantian, and its remarkable economic and social transformation. The village sits in the Pearl River Delta, the engine of Chinas emergence as the hub of global manufacturing and production. The villages success relied on the creation of new economic collectives, its ability to leverage networks, and its proximity to Hong Kong to transform forever the formerly sleepy rural area. The result of almost 20 years of field work by the authors, Chinese Village, Global Market shows how outcomes are shaped by a number of factors such as path dependence, social structures, economic resources and local entrepreneurship.


“In the early 1960s, starving refugees from Dongguan County in southern Guangdong were risking their lives to escape to nearby Hong Kong. In the three decades since 1980, Yantian, a Guangdong village, grew from a small agricultural brigade to a thriving modern community with 80,000 people producing goods for the world. Tony Saich and Biliang Hu explain how the economy, society, and governing structures have developed during the changes.”--Ezra F. Vogel, Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences Emeritus, Harvard University

“Chinese Village, Global Market: New Collectives and Rural Development is a fascinating study of the transformation of a rural village into one of China’s major industrial and export centers. The innovation that made this transformation possible occurred through the interaction of local leadership with both the central government and the globalizing world economy. The policies of the central government that facilitated this transformation are well known. Far less well known is how so many of the initiatives actually originated with local people, initiatives that affected not only the economy, but also how society is governed at the local level and how public goods from education to health care are provided.”--Dwight H. Perkins, Harold Hitchings Burbank Research Professor of Political Economy, Harvard University

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Tony Saich:

My name is Tony Saich and I work for the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation. Well, first time I went through the area where Yantian is situated, which is just over the border from Hong Kong, it was in 1976. And that was when I was in China as an exchange student through the British Council Scholarship Scheme. And in those days it was our traditional image of old Asia. It was a water Buffalo, it was paddy fields. It was looking as if time had stood still for 100 or 200 years. It was an extraordinary experience.

Maybe almost 20 years later, I went back. And suddenly I couldn't find the arable land. I couldn't see the water buffaloes, I couldn't see the paddy field. And what was there and it's place was a burgeoning fast developing industrial manufacturing zone. So that's what peaked my interest. And I thought it was a good way of telling a story about the China that I first saw it in 1976 and the China we see now today in 2012.

We've all heard about what people call the China Miracle. Its tremendous growth over two or three decades of 10%, 10% plus. What really interested me to look at in this study was, what did that mean in terms of a micro level analysis? And so we just focused on one village and how that integration into the global economy changed the life of those villages forever and indeed change the lives of the 100,000 or more migrants who came to work in that village.

The collective ownership of land was crucial for the development of the Yantian economy. As we know when the reform started, the land was divided up again and given them back to the households for their own use, but not the ownership. What happened was, as China opened up to the outside world, the village leadership decided to take back ownership over the land and then use that collective land to rent out to factories that were coming to invest. Many of them from Hong Kong where land prices, wage prices had gone up. And so it was more economical to shift to a cheap place destination.

The second thing I think which was important was the role that the clan played within the local community. There's one family really dominates all aspects of life in the village, and that's the family called the Dengs. and they had another 3,000 family members who had left China. And they encouraged many of those to come back and reinvest in the village once the opportunity was there. Because unlike some villages towards central China or in the North of China where already the collective had investment funds, the village of Yantian did not. So the only way it could begin to kickstart its economy was by bringing in that capital from outside.

Yantian was able to integrate its own development to the demands of the emerging global economy. So at its peak it had over 400 foreign invested enterprises based within the Yantian village. All are using this collective land and drawing in massive numbers of migrant labor. At its peak there were 150,000 migrants working in Yantian, and remember, there's only barely under 4,000 registered inhabitants of the village itself. So a lot of the wealth was actually built on cheap migrant labor coming in to work on cheap land that are being re collectivized by the village.

Well, looking forward, the village in Yantian faces challenges which are economic, which is social and also political. On the economic side, it's very clear that the cost of production are going up. Wages are going up, input factors are going up, and of course then there's been the global financial crisis which has led to a drop in demand for what was essentially an export dominated local economy.

At the moment, the village elections are tightly controlled to only those who have official registration in the village, which as I said is about three and a half thousand or so inhabitants. And the migrants themselves do not vote in that process. And so again, this over time it seems to me there is going to become political challenges. Will that group which are in some ways see themselves as social outcasts, are also now political outcasts. And will that lead to them demanding more political voice in terms of the future development of the village? And this is not a problem just for this one village of Yantian. This is something which is occurring all over China, is hundreds of millions of people move away from their rural roots and settle in new urban or acquires urban locations. And it really is one of the most significant challenges that the leadership will have to deal with over the next five to 10 years.