Using examples from village reconstruction programs in rural China, we show that local cadres often prioritize project visibility over publicized policy goals. Rather than emphasizing land reclamation (or rural welfare) as central policies and the academic literature do, cadres and the projects they designed tended to focus on projecting an image of urban, wealthy villagers. Where such image-driven behavior is most deleterious to villagers, it can evince opposition. We observe that some areas avoid conflict by making these projects voluntary or adjusting projects to local conditions. However, we provide a case study of a village with strong village leadership, showing that contrary to recent claims that village cadres are increasingly impotent, some maintain the authority to override widespread objections from villagers.