• land reform;
  • China;
  • inequality;
  • agriculture;
  • East Asia

The claims made by Griffin et al. for the impact of land reform in China are unconvincing. The land reform of 1947–52 did not lead to a pronounced increase in agricultural output. Nor was it egalitarian; indeed, but for the deliberate preservation of the rich peasant economy, growth might have been non-existent. The second land reform of 1981–3 was equally ineffectual. Agricultural growth had shifted on to a faster growth path before decol-lectivization, and the surge of 1980–4 was little more than a temporary response to decent weather, procurement price rises, the abandonment of the Dazhai system and a reduction in output under-reporting. Rural income inequality has been held in check since 1984 because of local government intervention, not because family farming is intrinsically egalitarian. China's experience of land reform is mirrored by those of other East Asian countries. A century of land reform has not resolved Japan's deep-seated agricultural problems, nor those of Taiwan and South Korea.