Source 4: William Hinton (1966) Fanshen

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Source 4: William Hinton (1966) Fanshen


William Hinton was an American marxist who witnessed the early stages of land reform first hand in 1948 during the Chinese civil war. He interviewed local residents in the village of Long Bow (Zhangzhuangcun), Shanxi province. His account was measured, highlighting both the successes and mistakes of the land reform movement.


'The gentry literally held the power of life and death of the peasants and personally carried out whatever punitive measures they deemed necessary when their interests were damaged or threatened… In one famine year a Long Bow peasant child, only six years old, stole some leaves (to eat) from a tree belonging to his father’s employer. The landlord caught the boy, beat him black and blue with a stout stick, and docked his father $12. This amounted to the father’s earnings for the entire year. He had to borrow money from a relative to get through the winter and was still paying the debt a decade later.'

'The peasants supported violence in smashing the old regime. But violence for loot alone, violence that was basically punitive, violence that turned on those that practiced it, turned out to be stark, senseless, repellent. Though no one in the village put it thus in so many words, such thoughts undoubtedly lurked in the recesses of their minds and made them draw back. Yet as more people drew back from active participation in new campaigns, the leaders began to push harder.'

'Not abstract justice, not absolute equality, but the development of production, the industrial transformation of the country - this was the real goal of the revolution, for only thus could real problems of livelihood be solved.'


William Hinton


Vintage Press




William Hinton, “Source 4: William Hinton (1966) Fanshen,” Chinese History for Teachers, accessed August 8, 2022,

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