Cooperatives have had constitutional recognition since the People's Republic of China (PRC) was founded in 1949, except for a short period between 1975 and 1982. However, the development of cooperatives in China is inseparable from the political and economic development in the country. Very different from their Western counterparts, cooperatives in China have been operating through governmental policy rather than under a national legal regime until recently when farmers' specialized cooperatives become governed by a designated law. Thus, the primary objective of this paper is to examine how and why cooperatives under the PRC's reign could operate and survive within a minimal legal framework. This is achieved by navigating through the economic, political, and social incidents and development in the country.