The purpose of this research is to assess the prospects for China's rural revitalization programs now in their initial stages of formulation and implementation. The study seeks to discover, primarily on the basis of field research in several different rural locations, what capacities and political-economic conditions seem to hold the greatest promise for success. The research was occasioned primarily by two key factors: First, China's party and government are now engaged in a massive program to create nothing less than a harmonious society, a key element of which is a "new socialist countryside." The second factor is that despite numerous previous attempts to close the economic, political and social gaps--a pronounced and institutionalized class structure that divides rural Chinese from urban--the gap is larger today than at any time in the last 60 years, and is still expanding. These two factors lead to the obvious question: What evidence is there that this time the party and government will succeed?
The research explores policy implementation and international development literatures and China's recent history for explanations of both successes and failures of rural development policies, and attributes a part of the problem to Beijing's persistent reliance upon mass programs, which have helped many, but which have bypassed hundreds of millions of farm households. China is a large country with extreme variations in climate and topography, and China's farm communities can therefore not be managed in the same way. This dissertation proposes town by town development capacity assessment as a means of determining what resources are available and what kind of capacity building will be appropriate as a development plan is prepared. It also aids in determining whether endogenous resources will be up to the task or government leadership or investment will be necessary.
The ability to understand and make use of capacity as a development research tool evolved during this research as a hypothesis worthy of further exploration and testing, as it seems to hold important considerations for those planning future development projects.