To Get Rich Is Glorious: Numeracy, Taxation, and the Chinese Communists’ Early State-Building in Northwest Shanxi during the Second Sino-Japanese War

Di Luo, University of Alabama

“To Get Rich Is Glorious,” a phrase commonly attributed to Deng Xiaoping, characterizes the economic reform the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) executed after 1978. In contrast, class struggle, land reform, and revolutionary poor peasants are usually the highlights of the pre-1949 Communist revolution in the party’s own account and many scholarly studies. Examining the CCP’s tax policies and implementation in northwest Shanxi during the Second Sino-Japanese War, this paper demonstrates that “getting rich” was not a strategy unique to the reform era. The CCP once used it to mobilize production in a war-devastated zone. Through literacy training classes, the CCP taught villagers how to calculate their taxes with a purpose of showing that they were less burdened under the Communist regime. The common knowledge about taxation also helped villagers brainstorm ideas about how to get rich through cooperative production rather than appropriating others’ property. In this way, this paper shows a different story about pre-1949 Communist revolution at local society, which was not merely a struggle for social justice, as the CCP’s class-based sense of justice was dubious in the eyes of peasants. Instead, work-based monetary incentives resonated strongly with the dream for prosperity of villagers across all social sectors. Learning how to calculate tax helped to cast a positive light on this coercive state policy.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 262. Public Finance and Data in Chinese History