Published online by Cambridge University Press: 06 July 2010
I used two phrases to describe rural reforms in the 1980s of the last century: “Advancing of non-governmental sector and retreat of the state.” As for the 1990s of the last century, I also have two descriptions – “Advancing of the state and retreat of the non-governmental sector” and “retreat of rights of the people and advancing of the rights of the government.” In the 1980s, the standard of living of the peasants improved day by day and the level of tensions was low in the rural area. In the 1990s, although rural economy continued to develop, the livelihood of the peasants was difficult and the level of tensions in the rural area accelerated considerably.– Li Changping (2005), a former Party secretary in Jianli county of Hubei province
We began the last chapter with the story of Mr. Nian, the impoverished and self-deprecating rural entrepreneur who created a marketing storm in the early 1980s with his Idiot's Seeds. The decade also ended with him. In September 1989, Mr. Nian was arrested. The local procuratorate of Wuhu city where Mr. Nian's business was headquartered charged him with crimes of corruption and “embezzlement of state property.” In 1990, the city government shut down his firm. It was an inglorious end to a once sensational brand – and brand-name – of Chinese indigenous capitalism.
The charges against Mr. Nian were so trumped up that they did not even pass muster with the low evidentiary threshold of the Chinese courts.