When I heard of Oberlin’s Co-ops, I thought it’s such a great idea for students to own their dorms and dining. It’s not only much cheaper than school owned things, but students are in charge of everything they eat and live. However, I never connect Oberlin’s Co-ops to the ones we had in modern Chinese history. How could it be the same thing, at least sharing the same name? If you ask Chinese peasants, they might have very complicated feelings about the Co-ops. It might be a good idea, but the consequences it led to afterwards were not pleasant at all.
I was searching what Chinese scholars think about the Agriculture Production Co-op Movement, and interestingly, I found some very different ideas. They argue the direct reason accelerating the movement was the government unified grain purchase, which destructed the economic structure and market network originally existed in Chinese countryside. Through the process, local cadres paid the most efforts, but such expense was never taken into consideration when the central government made up the decision. It certainly caused peasants’ anti-sentiments, and Xinhua news agency reported (only to officials) that many places had peasants’ suicides. In order to pull through the purchase since 1953, the government started the Co-ops, which took away all surplus products from peasants and private market was no longer necessary. The speed of transition was super fast: for 90% of Chinese peasants, it only took a year from individuals to higher-stage Co-ops, most without experiencing the so-called MATs or LAPCs.
Here’s the link to the article, written by Zhang Ming, a Chinese politics professor. http://blog.china.com.cn/art/show.do?dn=zhangming&id=333122&agMode=1&com.trs.idm.gSessionId=0CD22EE4BC222AA6344EC24BE7337762