Patron Client Relationships and Co-operative Development in Rural China
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Agricultural co-operatives in China have developed rapidly since the Farmers’ Specialized Co-operative (FSC) law came into force in 2007. Still, Chinese co-operatives have been criticized because a small group of core members dominates the co-operative movement by initiating and controlling the co-operatives. However, with more co-operatives initiated and more farmers joining co-operatives, combined with significant government support for co-operatives, core members’ control over co-operatives appears acceptable to various stakeholders including government, co-operative core members, and ordinary farmer members. While the FSC law specifies that co-operatives should be controlled democratically, the question is why farmers and the government are willing to accept an institutional structure that provides more influence to these key members. Using qualitative field studies and theoretical modelling, this dissertation explores the Chinese co-operative model taking into consideration the Chinese rural context such as the heterogeneity in holding and accessing resources, the social relationship among stakeholders, and the mutual-supportive social norms within rural communities. The co-operatives originate from both member heterogeneity in accessing economic resources and member homogeneity in relations, norms, and cultural perceptions. This dissertation suggests that the patron-client relationship is more appropriate in describing internal relationships in some co-operatives in China. The patron-client framework is consistent with features of co-operation in rural China in terms of resource heterogeneity and resource sharing, trust-building and reciprocation, as well as the power disparity between core members and ordinary members. This dissertation suggests that rural China has a unique co-operative model and development path. The Chinese co-operative does not and may not resemble co-operatives observed in the West. This does not make Chinese co-operatives somehow inferior — it simply means that many of the ideas that have been used to discuss co-operatives do not apply to the Chinese case.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
DepartmentAgricultural and Resource Economics
CommitteeFulton, Murray; Skolrud, Tristan; Natcher, David; Pigeon, Marc-Andre; Chen, Kevin