Repenetrating the Rural Periphery: Party Building Under China’s Anti-Poverty Campaign

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Post-Mao reforms ranging from de-collectivization to the abolition of agricultural taxes have eroded the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) control over the rural periphery. However, with an agenda to strengthen the CCP’s all-around control over the economy and society, the Xi Jinping era saw a reversal of the long-term trend. We argue that Xi’s high-profile anti-poverty campaign from 2015 to 2020 consisted of massive Party building attempts and served as an important strategy for the Party to repenetrate the rural periphery. Based on in-depth fieldwork, archival research, and secondary information sources, we show that by injecting human and financial resources into poverty regions, the CCP reinvigorated its previously underfunded and demoralized grassroots organs, expanded rural Party member recruitment, and enhanced the Party’s intervention in village affairs. Therefore, despite its seemingly economic nature, Xi’s anti-poverty campaign may lead to the long-lasting effect of Party power consolidation in the countryside. This finding suggests that authoritarian regimes can use campaigns with appealing policy goals to advance broader political agendas and enhance authoritarian resilience.




Zhou, H., & Zhan, J. V. (2023). Repenetrating the Rural Periphery: Party Building Under China’s Anti-Poverty Campaign. Journal of Contemporary China.

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