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Reflections on cooperative experiences in rural Yunnan: 1942 - 2010

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Thesis type
((Thesis)/(Dissertation)) Ph.D.
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The thesis has a double focus: on the one hand, it deals with instances of cooperative economic development in Lijiang Naxi Autonomous County, Yunnan, China, covering three time periods between 1942 and 2010; on the other, it contextualizes these studies’ central conceptual thread – the presence or absence of participatory decision-making - through a more general consideration of the relationship between leadership and led in China. Workers’ cooperatives are by their very nature democratic institutions, based on the principles of worker self-management and ‘one man, one vote’. It is instructive to look at the reality of their practice in a Chinese context, so I examine theoretical approaches to governance relationships arising out of the Chinese experience and studies that consider strategies arising from actual situations. The thesis is quintessentially about a kind of communication mediated by the intervention of cultural, language and ethnicity differences and centering crucially on varying perceptions of ‘cooperation’, ‘cooperatives’, and ‘participation’. The studies first examine the cooperative experience of Lijiang County in the early 1940s, when Chinese Gung Ho industrial cooperatives developed nationwide and in Lijiang in response to the dislocation of the Anti-Japanese war. In Lijiang, I argue, the remarkable qualities of Peter Goullart, Lijiang Gung Ho Depot Master, helped to ensure relative success. In the 1990s, the thesis is concerned with the Simon Fraser University (SFU)/Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences (YASS) ‘Cooperative Development (Yunnan, China)’ project intended, if possible, to assist with poverty alleviation in Lijiang County through establishing a new generation of small cooperatives. A secondary emphasis through these sections of the thesis is placed on the role of Lijiang people’s memories of Gung Ho in sustaining an interest in cooperatives; collaborative research between SFU, YASS, and Lijiang partners; and the important role of strong Naxi cooperative traditions. The third study, bringing Lijiang cooperatives into a new era, is of the Yuhu Ecotourism Cooperative. I conclude that cooperatives in the three historic periods show different forms and degrees of participation, and that the relationship between leadership and led in China is one of extraordinary diversity and complexity, dynamic, interactive and multi-layered.
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Thesis advisor: Anderson, Robert
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