How to Differentiate the Classes in the Rural Areas

Proletarians of all countries, unite!
There is one goal, the conquest of power!


Chairman Mao Tse-tung
October 1933

Selected Works, Vol. 1
Foreign Languages Press
Peking 1965
Reproduced by
The Red Flag


Chairman Mao Tse-tung wrote this document in October 1933 to rectify the deviations that had occurred in the work of land reform and to provide a correct solution for the land problem. It was adopted by the Workers‘ and Peasants‘ Democratic Central Government of that time as establishing the criteria for determining class status in the rural areas.


A landlord is a person who owns land, does not engage in labour themself, or does so only to a very small extent, and lives by exploiting the peasants. The collection of land rent is their main form of exploitation; in addition, they may lend money, hire labour, or engage in industry or commerce. But their exaction of land rent from the peasants is their main form of exploitation. The administration of communal land and the collection of rent from school land1 are included in the category of exploitation through land rent.

A bankrupt landlord shall still be classified as a landlord if they do not engage in labour but live by swindling or robbing others or by receiving assistance from relatives or friends, and are better off than the average middle peasant.

Warlords, officials, local tyrants and evil gentry are political representatives and exceptionally ruthless members of the landlord class. Minor local tyrants and evil gentry are also very often to be found among the rich peasants.

Persons who assist landlords in collecting rent and managing property, who depend on landlord exploitation of the peasants as their main source of income and are better off than the average middle peasant shall be put in the same category as landlords.

Usurers are persons who rely on exploitation by usury as their main source of income, are better off than the average middle peasant, and shall be put in the same category as landlords.


The rich peasant, as a rule, owns land. But some rich peasants own only part of their land and rent the remainder. Others have no land of their own at all and rent all their land. The rich peasant generally has rather more and better instruments of production and more liquid capital than the average and engages in labour themself, but always relies on exploitation for part or even the major part of their income. Their main form of exploitation is the hiring of labour (long-term labourers). In addition, they may let part of their land and practise exploitation through land rent, or may lend money or engage in industry and commerce. Most rich peasants also engage in the administration of communal land. A person who owns a fair amount of good land, farms some of it themself without hiring labour, but exploit other peasants by means of land rent, loan interest or in other ways, shall also be treated as a rich peasant. Rich peasants regularly practise exploitation and many derive most of their income from this source.


Many middle peasants own land. Some own only part of their land and rent the rest. Others own no land of their own at all and rent all their land. All of them have a fair number of farm implements. A middle peasant derives their income wholly or mainly from their own labour. As a rule they do not exploit others and in many cases they themself is exploited by others, having to pay a small amount in land rent and in interest on loans. But generally they do not sell their labour power. Some middle peasants (the upper-middle peasants) do practise exploitation to a small extent, but this is not their regular or their main source of income.


Among the poor peasants some own part of their land and have a few odd farm implements, others own no land at all but only a few odd farm implements. As a rule poor peasants have to rent the land they work on and are subjected to exploitation, having to pay land rent and interest on loans and to hire themselves out to some extent.

In general, a middle peasant does not need to sell their labour power, while the poor peasant has to sell part of their labour power. This is the main criterion for distinguishing between a middie and poor peasant.


The worker (including the farm labourer) as a rule owns no land or farm implements, though some do own a very small amount of land and very few farm implements. Workers make their living wholly or mainly by selling their labour power.

1There were various forms of public land in China‘s rural areas — land owned by the township or district government, by the ancestral temple of a clan, by a buddhist or taoist temple, a catholic church or a mosque, or land whose income was used for public welfare purposes such as famine relief, or the building and maintenance of bridges and roads, or for educational purposes. In practice, most of such land was controlled by the landlords and rich peasants, and few peasants had any say in its administration.