The Culture of Poverty in China Rural Area: The Cases in Junxi Village

  • Zhaojin Lu State University of New York at Albany


One of the motivations in writing this paper is that the social problems in Chinese rural areas, which is named “San Nong” problem (“San Nong” means issues of agriculture, farmer and rural areas). It is a concept posed by a Chinese economist in 1996, and after that, it became popular in Chinese media and official language. In 2003, this concept was formally used in the governmental report. The economic gap between urban and rural areas is a reflection of serious social problems. Overall, issues of farmers include low income, obstacles to increasing income and the absence of civil rights among the rural population etc.; Issues of agriculture mean low interests in farming and low agricultural industrialization level etc.; Issues of rural areas include “underdevelopment” of the countryside e.g. infrastructural, economical, political and “cultural” underdevelopment), have been regarded, by the government and scholars, as the most significant aspect of social development in China. In recent years, the concept of “Cultural Construction” or “Building Culture” in “underdeveloped” rural areas has been placed on the agenda in governmental conferences (Councils of governments and National People Congress). Meanwhile, a number of Chinese scholars have started paying attention to the culture of poverty thesis. Culture of poverty has unique modalities and distinctive social and psychological consequences for the poor. Oscar Lewis  believes that the culture of poverty transcends the boundaries between nations and regions. However, Chinese sociological studies usually analyze this topic rural-urban separately, even though this thesis has been discredited in the past decades in western academic circles. Under this social and academic atmosphere, as one of the members of the project “sociological intervention in Chinese poor rural area”, I conducted research about the culture of poverty in Junxi Village, a small village located in Zhangzhou, Fujian Province.