Repeated games, community capacity and rural water conservancy cooperation

WU Qiuju 1 LIN Huihuang2

(1.School of Public Administration, South China University of Technology)
(2.Institute of Public Policy, South China University of Technology)
【Knowledge Link】repeated game; property right theory

【Abstract】Repeated game theory holds that in the case of infinite repeated games, people eventually tend to establish spontaneous cooperation. However, the practice of rural water conservancy in China shows that in spite of long-term games in water conservancy among peasant households, spontaneous cooperation is not necessarily achieved. The reason is that rural community abilities of integration, participation and implementation are weakened. Therefore, the cost of water conservancy games, including participation cost out of asymmetric positions held by upstream and downstream peasant households, integration cost in the negotiation process, and implementation cost in the process of punishing free riders cannot be effectively resolved. The main reason for weakening of rural community abilities is the atomization of rural society and the virtualization of rural grassroots organizations. Through the reconstruction of rural community abilities, the cooperation in rural water conservancy may be realized in repeated games.

【Keywords】 repeated game; community capability; water conservancy cooperation;


【Funds】 Project of Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities of South China University of Technology (XBS05) Key project of Philosophy and Social Sciences Research supported by Ministry of Education (16JZD026) Humanity and Social Science Youth Foundation of Ministry of Education (13YJC820023)

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    [1]. ① Generally speaking, farmland water conservancy can be divided into irrigation water conservancy and drainage water conservancy. This research focuses on irrigation water conservancy. [^Back]

    [2]. ② Farmland water conservancy cooperation of this paper referred to the negotiation game between the upstream and downstream peasant households, which develops the cooperation about water fee collection, water use allocation, channel maintenance and other water conservancy affairs. [^Back]

    [3]. ① Certain research showed that under the reputation effect, occurrence probability of fraud may significantly drop, and even finitely repeated game under incomplete information condition may also go from uncooperative equilibrium to cooperative equilibrium (see Zhang, 2003; Jin and Yu, 2004). [^Back]

    [4]. ② The essence of reputation is the cognition developed by the actors about what types they belong to on basis of the information interaction in long-term game, which can help trigger the trust between game players and reduce trade cost (see Jin and Yu, 2004). [^Back]

    [5]. ① According to the investigation of the authors, the cost for Group 4 of SM Village to use the small water conservancy system was CNY 187.09 per mu each year as compared with the cost of just CNY 20 for the large water conservancy system cooperatively used before. In fact, a smaller farmland area means a higher small water conservancy cost. The peasant households interviewed by the authors planted just four mu of land with water conservancy cost of CNY 641 per mu each year. [^Back]

    [6]. ② Source: Ministry of Water Resources of the People’s Republic of China. National Statistics Bulletin of Water Conservancy Development 2014 (2014 年全国水利发展统计公报). Beijing: China Water & Power Press. [^Back]

    [7]. ① During game, the downstream peasant households always tend to choose cooperation (see Huang et al., 2013). [^Back]

    [8]. ① After household contracting, the agricultural production mode based on single household has negative effects on the construction and management of farmland irrigation and drainage facility. In 1991, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council clearly pointed out that each rural laborer shall provide unpaid labor compulsory labor of 5–10 working days and accumulative labor of 10–20 working days each year (collectively known as two-labor system) for construction of public infrastructure mainly including farmland water conservancy construction, management and maintenance. With the advancing rural comprehensive reform, after 2001, various regions cancelled the two-labor system. [^Back]

    [9]. ① Before the rural tax and fee reform, the village collectives might appoint persons (water keepers) to keep water and prevent water stealing and leaking; after the reform, the peasant farmers had to independently keep water. [^Back]

    [10]. ① During 2004 and 2005, Dabeiwan Pump Station in Hubei Province was reluctant to supply water for the large sum of water fees owed by Gaoyang Town. Shayang County Government required that Gaoyang Town and Dabeiwan Pump Station signed a two-year extra water supply agreement, according to which the peasant households shall pay up water fee by CNY 20 per mu before water supply of pump station. Since water fee payment was unenforced, many peasant households were reluctant to pay. Meanwhile, the town could not collect full water fee, and the pump station did not want to break even or run at a loss. As a result, the two-year experiment finally failed. [^Back]

    [11]. ① Verified by the experiment of Robert Axelrod, if the future discount rate is high enough and the future is important enough as compared with the present, each game player can threaten the other party by hidden reprisal to maintain cooperation; instead, if the future is not important as compared with the present, cooperation of any form is unsteady (see Zhou, 2005). [^Back]

    [12]. ② The water users’ associations of Madagascar, though obtaining irrigation network development and maintenance right from the Ministry of Agriculture, had unsuccessful operation due to inadequate social cohesion (Sun, 2007). [^Back]


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This Article


CN: 11-3586/F

Vol , No. 06, Pages 86-99

November 2017


Article Outline



  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Repeated game and cooperation predicament in farmland water conservancy
  • 3 Cooperation cost of farmland water conservancy
  • 4 Community capacity and farmland water conservancy cooperation
  • 5 Conclusion
  • Footnote