Fei Xiaotong’s (Fei Hsiao-tung) works on rural economies and societies written in the 1940s were deeply affected by British economic historian R. H. Tawney. Through comparison, this article reveals at least two connections between their works. First, Tawney’s analysis of the transition from agricultural modernization to industrial modernization in Britain serves as a reference for Fei’s works on the economic transformation of the Yangtze Valley in Jiangsu and Lucun village in Yunnan. Second, Tawney’s “theory of gentry” also serves as the underlying view for Fei’s theory on the functions of the Chinese gentry. However, Fei does not simply follow Tawney’s steps. Instead, he offers unique insights into the issues of horticulture transformation and gentry types in China. Furthermore, in Fei’s social theory and practice, the role of “state” was considered to be less positive. The interrelations of the community, market, intellectuals and the state construct Fei’s modernization scheme of China. His idea about how China, a slower participant in the world system, can maintain economic autonomy was still valuable today.



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