Dual structure of supporting behaviors in Chinese villages: an interpretative framework for the alienation of supporting behaviors

FENG Chuan1

(1.Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Tokyo, Japan)

【Abstract】Supporting behavior is a daily opportunity to link people with one community. It is originated from economic needs, which creates an opportunity for the formation of social significance, and plays an important role in confirming and deepening the relationship among members of the community. Supporting behavior has a dual structure which includes an economic significance and a social significance, and the two are in a dialectical relationship. Supporting behavioral system is a mutually assisted behavioral system, with micro-level behavior as the focus and the behavioral network as an essential factor. Those who help others have enough abilities and resources, and those who are helped by others are lacking in abilities and resources. This reflects the economic significance of supporting behavior, with human resources, financial resources, and material as the basic elements. The construction of supporting behavior network has been initially embodied in the economical function of supporting behavior. Supporting behavioral social system is a social system with a macro-level supporting behavior network as its core. Its focus is on social groups and local societies, and its carrier is based on emotion and identity. Those who help others and those who are helped by others are in the same social system of supporting behavior, and the two sides have the common identity of the community and the awareness of belonging to one community. As a result, supporting behavior can play an active role in confirming the relationship between the actors themselves and the community or the other persons involved, which reflects the social significance of supporting behavior. A loss of economic significance in supporting behavior will hinder its implementation. However, the social significance originated from the economic function of supporting behavior, will in turn prescribe and control the occurrence of supporting behavior. When supporting behavior is lacking in the economic sense yet its social significance is not reduced, the occurrence of supporting behavior begins to be dominated by the social significance. At this point, the alienation of supporting behavior appears. The countermeasures to reverse behavioral alienation are manifested in two directions: one is compensating for the loss of economic significance; the other is dissolving the social significance of supporting behavior. The alienation on people’s favor is a manifestation of behavioral alienation of supporting behavior, and market exchange behavior on paid employment is one of the coping strategies created by villagers.

【Keywords】 supporting behavior; economic significance; social significance; the alienation of people’s favor; marketization;


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(Translated by Lin Jing)


    [1]. ① Among them, the Monthly Survey of the South Manchurian Railway(Research Department, General Affairs Department, Minami-Yuzhou Railway Company, 1987; Minami Manchu Railway Co., 1985-1987) and the survey of rural areas during the war conducted by the Sociology Research Office of Tokyo Imperial University (China Rural Practice Research Committee, 1952-1958) are particularly valuable. The former is a practice-oriented research aimed at the colonial rule of “Manchukuo,” while the latter is a survey of rural areas in central and southern China and Hebei Province and Shandong Province in north China from a clear perspective of regional sociology. From the perspective of assisting behavioral habits, the former is oriented towards the establishment of a “New East Asian Order,” excluding the ancient social habits of “Manchuria” and “Shina,” and the latter is a government-commissioned survey to identify East Asian societies (ONDA Morio, 2013: 25-60). [^Back]

    [2]. ① The shortcomings of Japanese researchers are as follows. First, the survey area has limitations. It is limited to a few villages in North China and Jiangnan, and cannot be studied under the perspective of regional comparison. Second, the survey period is limited to the war era, the 1980s or the early 1990s. Third, due to the limitation of data and the obstruction of foreign languages and foreigners’ identity, they cannot analyze the continuity of the Chinese rural habits and the inherent mechanism of change in the empirical level of daily life. [^Back]

    [3]. ② Hirano Yoshitarō proposed the community of villages theory, arguing that communities have commonality in Japan and China. This academic view is closely related to its political propositions of Greater Asianism and the construction of a Great East Asian Community. On the contrary, based on the thinking of leaving Asia, Kainō Michitaka advocated that the Japanese-style village community could bring Japan close to the modern civilization of the western world. However, since there is no Japanese-style community system structure that transcends family consanguinity and has strong organization, China has nothing to do with modern westernized civilization (Uchiyama Masaki, 2009: 223). Hatada Takashi summarized the Hirano·Kainō Argument(Hatada Takashi, 1973: 35–49). [^Back]

    [4]. ① Including the following survey data compiled by the China Rural Governance Research Center of Wuhan University: Fugou Rural Survey Report of Henan Province in 2007 (Volume 1), Ru’nan Village Governance Model of Henan Province in 2007 (Volume 2), Chuanxi Village Governance Model (Volume 3), Yingshan Rural Survey Report of Hubei Province in 2007 (Volume 4), Jingshan Village Governance Model of Hubei Province in 2008 (Volume 5), Daye Rural Survey Report of Hubei Province in 2009 (Volume 6), Changfeng Rural Survey Report of Anhui Province in 2009 (Volume 7), Fengcheng Village Rural Survey Report of Liaoning Province in 2009 (Volume 8), Fenghua Village Rural Survey Report of Zhejiang Province in 2010 (Volume 9), Fengcheng Summer Holiday Survey Report of Liaoning Province in 2012 (Volume 18), Fuchuan Summer Holiday Survey Report of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in 2012 (Volume 29). The names of villages and people used in this paper are all pseudonyms. [^Back]

    [5]. ② He (2006) pointed out that the so-called peasant collective action unit refers to the cooperative unit used by farmers in daily production and life to handle public affairs beyond the scope of the family and maintain the order of the community. Farmer’s collective action unit is closely linked with the identity unit. [^Back]

    [6]. ① Because local customs prohibit couples from living in the same household at the same time, couples in house reconstruction must lodge in two households. [^Back]

    [7]. ① Cousins on the paternal side have the same grandfather, while cousins on the maternal side have the same great-grandfather. The grandfather of cousins on the maternal side is a blood brother, not the same person. [^Back]

    [8]. ② The person in the room means the relatives. [^Back]

    [9]. ① It is also called giving presents as returns and giving money. [^Back]

    [10]. ② For example, a person who becomes a beneficiary by holding a wedding does not necessarily need to help when the other party is hosting the wedding, but may also help when the other party is hosting other life ceremonies. [^Back]

    [11]. Baxian is usually sent by one or more persons from each pangthaau. The baxian is generally prestigious people in each pangthaau of local wanzi, who is good at talking but does not have to be an old person or a senior person. The baxian is inherited (usually inherited by the eldest son) and is held by fixed families. If there are no children, they will adopt children from their brothers or uncles to inherit the role of the baxian. [^Back]

    [12]. ② The case was quoted from the Southern Metropolis Daily on March 27, 2018. As the area involved has a clan background in terms of social structure, this case is cited here as a supplementary example of a clan-type village. [^Back]

    [13]. ① It means that no matter what the family’s economic conditions are, gift-giving is inevitable. Even if you are poor, you have to give gifts when you sell the lid. [^Back]

    [14]. ① Here, the sufficiency is impaired, which means that it is emotionally impaired because of aversion to the recipient. [^Back]

    [15]. ② There are two administrators for serving the guests, one for the front area and the other for the back. The person at the front area is responsible for the ceremony, and the person at the back area helps the host entertain guests and arrange banquets. [^Back]

    [16]. ① Employment behavior in some villages in China is not a new form that gradually emerged in the 1990s with the rise of the part-time work economy. This phenomenon was widespread as early as the early Republic of China. For example, in the Western Sichuan Village Governance Model in 2007 (Volume III), the following market exchange relationships exist: 1 day’s help = 2 liters of rice (1 liter of rice is about 1.25 kg); 3 labors = 1 day of cattle cultivation; 1 stone rice (about 110 kg) = 6 cottages (rented for one year); 1 month long labor = 4 to 5 meters (1 meter is about 10 liters); 1 month monthly labor = 50 liters of meters. The relationship between tenant farmers and landlords is highly market-oriented, and land tenure is hardly affected by the relationship between geography and blood. However, after the reform and opening up, the employment behavior that emerged with the part-time economy is a response strategy to alienation, and its production logic is different from that before liberation. [^Back]


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This Article


CN: 11-3586/F

Vol , No. 06, Pages 41-61

November 2018


Article Outline


  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Classification and construction of supporting behavior
  • 3 Concrete manifestation of the dual structure of social supporting behavior in Chinese villages
  • 4 Defects of the double structure
  • 5 Alienation of supporting behavior
  • 6 Coping strategies of villagers to supporting behavior alienation
  • 7 Conclusion
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