Farm Management and Non-Farm Employment in Modern Southern Manchuria: A Case Study from Liaoyang
90 , 2016-12
This article explores the characteristics of family farm management in modern southern Manchuria by looking at its relationship to non-farm employment through an analysis of Qiansankuaishi 前三塊石 Village in Liaoyang 遼陽, using the data from village surveys conducted by Japanese fieldworkers during the Manchukuo era. During the latter half of the nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries, Manchuria as a whole and its agricultural sector, in particular, which centered on soybean production, rapidly developed along with the construction of the Southern Manchurian Railway. In addition to agriculture, industry, beginning with mining and manufacturing, also developed on the strength of the advance of Japanese capital investment into Manchuria after Japan’s victory in the Russo-Japanese War in 1905, exercising a major impact on local rural society there. In southern Manchuria, where the development of non-agricultural industry was most concentrated, many cultivators were given the opportunity to find employment in non-farm occupations characteristic of the region, such as coal mining and factory work. The availability of this type of non-farm employment did not bring about a simple displacement of surplus labor from the agrarian to the industrial sector, but rather became one link in a farm management strategy that now could take full advantage of its forces of production by diverting a portion of them into non-farm industries suited to the characteristics of and demand in each region. That is to say, in regions that offered a rich selection of non-farm employment, farm families sent their male members to work in non-farm industries which paid higher wages, while at the same time organizing their farm labor forces employing female members, hired hands and other various agrarian practices, resulting in substantial increases in family income. This type of farm management diversification also reduced the risk involved in allocating all of its productive forces to natural disaster-prone cultivation activities, and further stabilized farm families by sending members off to work in non-farm industries that were not susceptible to the vagaries of nature. In the research to date on rural society in Manchuria, there has been a tendency to analyze family farm management solely from the aspect of cultivation, with very little attention being given to the role and impact of non-farm employment and side occupations. The type of relationship between family farm management and its forces of production described in the present article may very well offer a better understanding of the diversity that existed within rural economy and local society of Manchuria, compared to other regions of continental East Asia.