One of the most important dimensions of the recent rural reforms in China has been the new interest in and focus on the peasant household as the basic economic, political and social unit in the countryside. 1 Indeed, during the past five years or so the peasant household has virtually replaced the collective as the dominant unit of production in rural China. The peasant household itself has consequently become a much more complex unit engaging in a number of wide-ranging economic activities which in turn have placed new and important resources at its disposal and given rise to the most significant increases in peasant income since the 1950s.