China, endowed with rich agricultural resources, has a long history of farming. The traditional farming practice with intensive cultivation as its essence is one of the most important achievements of the human civilization.
Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the country has witnessed land reform, agricultural co-operatives, the people’s commune and reform and opening up in the process of agricultural and rural development. Under the system of the people’s commune, rural land belonged to the rural collective, commune members worked together to undertake farming activities, the state monopolized purchase and sales of agricultural products, and the collective income was distributed to commune members according to their work. Such a system seriously constrained farmers’ initiatives. As a result, agricultural production and rural economy developed rather slowly and rural areas were left in a poor and backward condition for a long time.
Along with agricultural reform started in 1978, China began to introduce the household-based contract system to rural areas, promote market-oriented development of agriculture, and press ahead with integration into world agricultural development. Ever since then, agriculture and rural economy in China, being full of vigor and vitality, has created a miracle of feeding 21 percent of the world population on less than 9 percent of the world total cultivated land, thus, making great contribution to the world food security and agricultural development. It may be summed up in the following five aspects:
First, the relation between supply and demand of agricultural produce has undergone great changes. Owing to its steadily improved overall capacity, agricultural production has made a fast development, making a shift from a long-term shortage to a basic balance in total supply and demand, with even a surplus during good years.
Second, the growth pattern in agriculture has experienced significant changes. Agricultural science and technology has increased capacity to make progress and innovation, leading to a gradually narrowed gap in this field between China and other countries in the world and remarkably improved equipment and facilities in agricultural sector.
Third, the rural economic structure has witnessed dramatic changes. Township enterprises, a new force emerging all of a sudden, has opened a pathway with the Chinese characteristics to modernization in rural areas, bringing along structure transformation of rural industries and employment as well as the development of small towns.
Fourth, the international cooperation and exchanges in agriculture have been increasing consistently. Agricultural trade with other countries has made rapid development; agricultural sector in China has seen an increasingly expanded “bringing in” and a steadily progressed “going global” development.
Fifth, great changes have taken place in rural areas. Farmers’ income has kept increasing, their lives have been improved significantly and rural China as a whole has made a historic leap frog development from a subsistence community to a well-off one.
At present, the development of agriculture and rural areas in China is till faced with many problems, including among others the problem of increasing farmers’ income. Since 1997, per capita net rural incomes have grown at a slow pace; the growth rate of farmers’ income in major grain producing areas has been even lower than the national average; the income of some farm households has kept stagnant or even declined; and the income gap between rural and urban residents has remained to enlarge. In recent years, the Chinese government has adopted a number of important policies and measures to facilitate a faster growth of farmers’ income, and narrow the ever-enlarging income gap between rural and urban residents as soon as possible mainly through implementing a strategy of balanced social and economic development in rural and urban arrears; adhering to the scientific viewpoint of development; carrying out the principle of “giving more, taking less and loosening control”; restructuring agriculture sector; accelerating progress in science and technology; creating more job opportunities for farmers; and deepening rural reform. We will give top priority in all our work to solving problems facing agriculture, farmers and rural areas, focusing on the following seven aspects.
Firstly we will promote faster increase of farmers’ income. We will promote cost-effective agriculture by relying on scientific and technologic advancements; increase economic returns from farming operations; and promote the industrialization of agriculture and the development of secondary and tertiary industries with township enterprises as a major player. We will also stimulate small town and intra-county economies; increase employment channels in rural areas; enhance training and service for migrant rural workers; offer employment opportunities outside rural areas; and increase income of migrant rural workers.
Secondly we will protect and increase the overall capacity of grain production. Strict measures for protecting farmland will be implemented and the capital construction of farmland ensured, and grain production capacity increased. Projects to industrialize production of high-quality grain will be undertaken to establish a number of state production bases specialized in high-quality grain. Policies and measures like subsidies to developing improved seeds of crop varieties, direct subsidies to grain producers, support for grain processing in major grain producing areas will be implemented to stimulate farmers’ initiatives for grain production.
Thirdly we will continue to promote strategic restructuring of agriculture. The program of regionalized competitive agricultural products will be implemented to speed up the development of industrial belts for producing such products and optimize the structure of quality agro-produce and its regionalization. At the same time, we will energetically prevent and control the spread of important animal epidemics, and actively develop animal husbandry and aquaculture. Great efforts will be made to improve the quality and safety of agricultural products in an all round way, and improve the overall capacity of agriculture and sharpen the edge of its competitiveness.
Fourthly we will actively promote progress in agro-science. We will enhance research work of agricultural high-tech and key research programs, and increase its reserve level. By focusing on improved crop seeds, cost-effective technologies and sustainable development of agriculture, we will endeavor to ensure demonstration and extension of advanced and practical agricultural technologies, and grant proper subsidies to farmers for purchase of farm machinery and implements to improve mechanized farming operations.
Fifthly we will further open agriculture to the outside world. We will actively develop agricultural trade with other countries; make use of foreign funds through multiple channels and various forms; and have bilateral and multilateral cooperation and exchanges, especially regional cooperation, in the field of agriculture.
Sixthly we will speed up the transfer of rural labors. We will develop rural secondary and tertiary industries, and endeavor to ensure the development of small towns so as to facilitate faster transfer of rural labors, and optimize the rural employment structure. We will improve the employment environment for rural workers in cities, and create more jobs for them in various ways.
Seventhly we will continue to deepen rural reforms. Priorities will be place on reform of rural land system, tax and administrative charges, grain distribution system and rural financial system to provide farmers with institutional support to ensure increase of farmers’ income. Budgetary appropriations will be increased to the construction of rural infrastructure to promote the development of rural social undertakings, improve the living conditions of farmers, and keep rural society stable.
However, agricultural development in China has arduous tasks and a long way ahead. The road ahead is by no means smooth. Nevertheless, I am in firm confidence that agriculture in China will give full play to its advantages, overcome any difficulties, enter upon a new stage of development and match towards a brighter new future in the new century!
Du Qinglin Minister of Agriculture, the People's Republic of China
AGRICULTURE IN CHINA 2
AGRICULTURE IN CHINA 1
The People's Commune (1958 to 1978)
Agricultural Cooperation (1953 to 1957)
Agrarian Reform (1949 to 1952)
Achievements Over the Past 50 Years
Agriculture in 2002
Reform on the Agricultural Legislature and the Agricultural Supporting System
Reform on the Agricultural Circulation System and Commercialized Agricultural Operation
Reform on the Agricultural and Rural Economic Structure
Reform from 1978
Reform on the Agricultural Operational System
Development in Cooperation with Other Countries and Utilization of Foreign Capital
Development in Agricultural Education, Research, Extension and Technological Progress
Development in Agricultural Production Conditions
Development of Township Enterprises
Development in Agricultural Production
Development since 1949