Resource Details

The Political, Social, and Ecological Transformation of a Landscape

Literature: Journal Articles

Xu, Jianchu. April 2006. Mountain Research and Development, 26(3):254:262. International Mountain Society

Contact Info

Corresponding author:


  • Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences


Species Info

  • Hevea brasiliensis


  • In 1951 the Chinese Government issued the Decision on Cultivating Rubber Trees, which resulted in the establishment of large-scale rubber plantations in the tropical regions of China, including Xishuangbanna in southern Yunnan. These rubber plantations, worked by the relocated Han Chinese, were a manifestation of state power on the landscape.
  • The article is based on 20 years of working and visiting locals and government agencies, extensive household interviews, and policy dialogues on land use change among researchers, local farmers and government officials.
  • The rubber plantations served the state interest of transforming China into a self-sustaining socialist society. People's communes collectively owned agricultural and forest lands but were centrally planned quota system. For supplemental income, locals were encouraged to plant rubber on a mosiac land use system.
  • Through the process of decentralization of land use decision-making, large forest tracts were converted to individual leased lands - these land use changes were disruptive to the traditional exchange between ethnic minorities. State rubber farms nearly collapsed during the 1970s when 'disillusioned educated youths' went to the cities.
  • Due to the poor microclimate and low soil fertility, rubber plantations in Xishuangbanna takes more labor to cultivate. Rubber plantations may have been seen as the way to construct a ‘legible landscape’ in southern China, but the diverse land use systems practiced by smallholders may be the most ecologically appropriate and culturally suitable means for promoting sustainable local economies and livelihoods in the mountain areas.

Geographical Region

  • Other-China
  • Ecosystems

  • Montane Forest
  • Country

  • China
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