That “plantation” population was almost surely the source of the expertise, trading savvy, and perhaps also immigration that fueled the post-1941 “take-off” in the scratchy hillside soil of the Jin-Sui Base Area; indeed its proximity, and the reinforcement to southward migration supplied by the KMT’s post-1935 attempt to reduced consumption by reducing or penalizing production, would also suggest that growing, trading, and just “learning” were well in train before Mao and Co. got the idea (or converted over to it) during the “Great Production Drive” of the early 1940s. If there has been no Ma Fuxiang, there would, so to speak, have been no Mao Zedong Special Exports Co.
Planters and Sellers in the Jin-Sui Base Area: Poorer and Smaller? And what they traded FOR?
Since the interval between the apparent total de-regulation in the W. Luliang 吕梁山区 counties (noted below (chart ***) in ca. 1941, and the failure to return to “zero tolerance” until after 1949, spans almost a decade, one would expect that by now more grass-roots level documentation would have emerged, as it has for so many other Party policy issues from the odds and ends that survive in Taiwan.
Chart 1 Profile of the Jin-Sui Base Area Today
But they do not.
The only thing even remotely cadastral in character is a 10-household register of opium production and taxation, by household, for what seems a single and VERY poor village called Yaozhuang, located in the “thoroughfare” county of Hequ, where the traveller from Shanxi headed toward Baotao, Inner Mongolia, crosses the Yellow River and then heads north into the quasi-desert. The county town was a major commercial and theatrical nub, with its own famous “folk” opera style, but the surrounding countryside is/was the poorest in the whole 9-county region. (Even today it numbers amongst the Poverty Relief program’s 36 (?) beneficiary counties).
Stratification of Poppy-planters, Yaozhuang Village, Hequ County, Xinzhou, Shanxi (disc. Chen Yungfa)
About the only conclusion that seems safe from this ridiculously small tax-roll sample – a loose page? – is that (but this was already 1947!) the larger lineage/surname groups had the best land and productivity: the Guos far above the others, the Haos a much-lagging second. Presumably, as larger groups, they had started earlier and risked more, but for whatever reason neither they not any other growers had risked much. The Party assessors (if that’s who they were) noted this, and slammed a 55% by-weight tax on the Guo’s assessed crop, but this may also reflect the gradient in SOIL quality: on a scale of 1 (best) to 10 (worst), the Guo lands – about 40% of the roster – seem far and away highest quality (grade 4 average), though the yield (28 mace or 1.4 kg/mu) is for the entire village pathetically low: pretty clearly this was from the start marginal land, probably unplowed or fertilized, and, after 8 odd years badly depleted: it should already have been allowed to go fallow and recover.