We Must Step Up Efforts for Balanced Urban and Rural Development and Strengthen the Foundation for Agriculture and Rural Development(Extract)

From: English Edition of Qiushi Journal Updated: 2011-09-20 13:52
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 It is crucial that we continue making progress in coping with the effects of the international financial crisis and continue steady and rapid economic development in 2010, the last year of China’s 11th Five-Year Plan. Success in the work related to agriculture and rural areas this year is extremely important to the overall success of all China’s endeavors.   

 We must continue to strive for coordinated urban and rural development and improve all aspects of the environment for the development of agriculture and rural areas.

 The decision to balance urban and rural economic and social development was a major policy decision of the CPC based on a scientific understanding of the general rules for development, the overall arrangements for the cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics and the overall strategy to develop a moderately prosperous society in all respects. The decision was designed to resolve the imbalance between the development of industry and agriculture and between urban and rural development that has resulted in the dual economic structure seriously hampering social and economic development. The idea of balancing urban and rural economic and social development was developed and introduced at the Sixteenth National Party Congress, marking the beginning of a historical process of breaking down the urban-rural dual structure. It was further decided at the Third Plenary Session of the Sixteenth CPC Central Committee to make balancing urban and rural development an important component of the Scientific Outlook on Development and the most important of the five aspects that need to be balanced. At the same time, it was decided to develop a system that would promote gradual dissolution of the dual economic structure. At the Seventeenth National Party Congress it was decided to set up a long-term mechanism through which industry would promote agriculture and cities would promote the development of rural areas to create a new situation in which urban development and rural development are fully coordinated. At the Third Plenary Session of the Seventeenth CPC Central Committee comprehensive arrangements were made for developing a system of balanced urban and rural development and for carrying out the work of balancing urban and rural development.    

 We worked hard to make innovations in both theory and practice under the guidance of the policies and principles defined by the Party Central Committee, introducing a number of new ideas and concepts with far-reaching significance in keeping with the times and formulating new policies and measures that represent milestones and signs of the times. One theoretical innovation was the strategy of making solving problems faced by agriculture, the countryside and rural residents a top priority for the work agenda of the entire Party. The important thesis of “two trends” was introduced and the major judgment was made that China was overall now in a development stage in which industry promotes agriculture and cities promote the development of rural areas. A basic program was formulated for industry to support agriculture, the cities to support the countryside and for government to give more to and take less from rural residents and make policies more flexible for agriculture and the countryside. The basic orientation of following a path of modernizing agriculture with Chinese characteristics, the strategic task of building a new socialist countryside and the basic need to accelerate the integration of urban and rural social and economic development were also introduced. These major theoretical innovations represent a profound recognition of the fundamental and historical position of agriculture, the countryside and rural residents under the current conditions, an accurate understanding of the law for building socialism, and an important component of the theoretical system of socialism with Chinese characteristics. 

 The practical innovations include promoting availability of public financing in rural areas, greatly increasing public spending for agriculture, the countryside and rural residents and making the tax burden more fairly distributed between the cities and the countryside by rescinding the agricultural tax, slaughter tax, animal husbandry tax and tax on special agricultural products. Another practical innovation was to improve the balance between industrial and agricultural development by granting direct subsidies to grain producers, subsidies for planting superior seed varieties, subsidies for the purchase of farm machinery and tools and general subsidies for agricultural supplies, and setting floor prices for state grain purchases. We are working to make the level of basic public services the same in urban and rural areas and providing free compulsory education in the countryside, and have set up a new-type cooperative medical care system and a cost of living allowance for rural areas and started trials for a new pension insurance system for rural residents. We are integrating the public infrastructure system of urban and rural areas, providing safe drinking water, building or repairing rural power grids, rural highways and methane facilities in many rural areas and repairing or replacing dilapidated and dangerous rural housing. We are working to ensure that urban and rural residents have equal access to employment by developing a unified labor market, strengthening protection and guarantees for the rights and interests of migrant workers from the countryside and gradually easing restrictions on rural workers wishing to settle in cities.

 March 18, 2010, following government renovation, these housing units in Poyao Village, Maolin Town, Yudong District, Yulin City, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region take on a beautiful appearance. After Yulin began implementing a strategy of balancing urban and rural development in 2009, the city government improved planning for rural development and increased efforts to improve and develop rural infrastructure so that villagers can enjoy the same quality of life as urban residents. / Photo by Xinhua reporter Zhou Hua

 At the same time, we have ensured that the rural population enjoys greater and more practical democratic rights when we accelerated formulation or revision of relevant laws and regulations. In particular, the Standing Committee of the NPC is now conducting a study on how to institute a system of electing deputies to the people’s congresses from the same size population group in both cities and the countryside in accordance with the arrangements made at the 17th National Party Congress. As a result of these major practical innovations, rural economic and social development and efforts to increase the participation of the rural population in modernization and ensure rural residents enjoy their fair share of the fruits of reform and development received a strong boost, and agriculture and the rural areas are witnessing one of the best periods of development in history. It could be said that the result of the past few years of painstaking trials and hard work is that we have clearly defined a basic strategy of balancing urban and rural development, basically completed the formation of a system of policies designed to balance urban and rural development and set up the basic elements of an institutional framework for balancing urban and rural development. This represents a major and substantial stride on the road of balancing urban and rural development.      

 At the same time, we must fully recognize that dissolving the urban-rural dual structure and developing a new relationship between industry and agriculture and between urban and rural areas will be a long process that cannot be completed overnight. The imbalance between urban and rural development is still a problem threatening to hinder China’s modernization. Moreover, the gap between urban and rural incomes and between urban and rural consumer spending is still growing and rural infrastructure and social programs are markedly lagging behind those of the cities, compounded by the presence of deep-rooted problems hindering efforts to balance urban and rural development. It is the nature of a market economy for resources to always gravitate toward industries and areas that are more profitable and pay higher returns. The fast pace of industrialization and urbanization makes it even more likely that resources will flow from agriculture toward industry and from rural areas toward urban areas, and there are internal factors promoting increase in the urban-rural gap.

 The long existence and the deep-rooted defects of the urban-rural dual structure, the interrelated nature of many problems, the many conflicts of interest, some of which seem to be intractable, and the presence of traditional systems that stubbornly continue to have an impact in various aspects and forms are all symptoms of institutional inertia. The long-term habit of concentrating on forming “urban centers,” which is deep-rooted and will be difficult to change, relying too much on GDP growth in assessing local government performance, paying too much attention to changes in the cities in judging development, and focusing on secondary and tertiary industries to the neglect, in various degrees, of agriculture, rural areas and the rural population in attracting business and investment all represent old ways of thinking. It is even more important to note that the spontaneous operation of market forces has been working in tandem with the operation of the dual structure, compounded by restrictions posed by the rigid pattern of interests and seriously outdated traditional ideas. This compels us to be firm in adhering to the strategy of balancing urban and rural development, resolutely and tirelessly pursue the goal of narrowing the gap between urban and rural development, and ceaselessly work to break down the urban-rural dual structure.

 First, we must stand firm on the fundamental position that we must intensify work related to agriculture, rural areas and the rural people. The CPC has made a major shift in its development strategy and policy orientation, emphasizing the view that efforts to balance urban and rural development must be strengthened. The fundamental reasons for this shift include the fact that the foundation of agriculture is still weak and most in need of strengthening. In addition, rural development still lags behind urban development and is most in need of support. Finally, promoting faster growth in rural incomes is still difficult and the growth in rural incomes most needs to be accelerated. In accordance with the arrangements and requirements of the Party Central Committee, we must truly direct more of the national revenue towards agriculture to develop more public programs for the countryside and ensure that more of the measures designed to improve standards of living are directed towards the rural population. 

 Second, we must firmly focus on efforts to direct more resource factors towards rural areas. We must put a stop to the practice of favoring the cities in the distribution of resources as soon as possible to achieve a more balanced distribution of resources. We must direct more government public resources to rural areas to bring the level of basic public services up to that of the cities. We must expedite the development of a mechanism to promote the distribution of more resource factors to rural areas in order to direct more capital, technology, skilled persons and management personnel to the countryside. More of the returns from appreciation in land value should be invested in rural development.   

 Third, we must firmly adhere to the strategic view that urbanization should be coordinated with the development of a new countryside. In other words, we should actively yet prudently proceed with urbanization and strengthen the role of cities in stimulating the development of the surrounding countryside. At the same time we must energetically proceed with the development of a new countryside to ensure satisfactory living and working conditions for the people who remain there. Because of the inescapable fact that rural development lags behind urban development, we must devote more energy to improving agriculture, rural areas and the lives of the rural population, developing a beneficial interaction between urban and rural areas, and promoting prosperity for both.

 Fourth, we must firmly focus on the key areas to bring rural reform in line with urban reform. We must help rural migrant workers settle in the cities and turn them into urban residents in an orderly manner and use this as a key breakthrough point in the effort to bring rural reform in line with urban reform. We must work harder to make more public services available to migrant workers, make it easier for migrant workers to settle in the cities and build more low-cost housing in urban areas so that migrant workers settling in the cities realize the same rights and interests as other urban residents.  

 Balancing urban and rural development is a profound social transformation, as well as an arduous and complex systematic project that requires good leadership, careful arrangements and painstaking preparations in order to make substantial progress. On the practical side, we must actively encourage the development of new practices and their bold implementation, safeguard the desire of local governments to carry out reforms and make innovations and make good use of the creative spirit of the general public. We must also gain a thorough understanding of central government policy, maintain the correct orientation in balancing urban and rural development and proceed in a standardized and orderly way. In other words, we must make good use of the principal role of the government, strengthen the responsibilities of the government and do all we can. On the other hand, we must take into account current conditions, respect the will of the rural population, focus on the key areas and maintain a proper intensity of efforts in balancing urban and rural development, strive for significant results and avoid overreaching. In other words, we must combine planned urban and rural development and the use of land and be more flexible in using rural factors and resources while firmly upholding the fundamental elements of government policy and avoiding deviation from the state plan for land use and the annual land use plan. Moreover, we must not weaken the production capacity of agriculture or infringe on the legitimate rights and interests of the rural population.

 We must strengthen the foundation for the development of agriculture and rural areas to promote sound and rapid rural social and economic development.

 The Party’s general approach to work related to agriculture, rural areas and the rural population in 2010 is to keep grain production stable to ensure a stable supply of farm products, increase rural incomes to improve the lives of the rural population, carry out reforms to promote improvement in the balance between urban and rural development, and improve rural infrastructure to ensure sustainable rural development. Keeping grain production stable to ensure a stable supply of farm products requires a good job to be done in the production of grain and other major farm products, working to ensure market stability and a reasonable price level, and resolutely working to prevent the production of food grain from sliding back. Increasing rural incomes to improve the lives of the rural population means doing everything possible to promote sustained and rapid increase in rural incomes, working hard to improve the working and living conditions of the rural population and resolutely working to prevent stagnant growth in rural incomes. Carrying out reforms to promote improvement in the balance between urban and rural development means working to develop a permanent mechanism through which industrial development promotes agricultural development and urban development stimulates rural development, balancing industrialization and urbanization efforts with the effort to modernize agriculture and resolutely working to prevent overlooking or neglecting agriculture, rural areas and the rural population. Improving rural infrastructure to ensure sustainable development means continuing to improve rural infrastructure, strengthening the underpinnings of agriculture, improving our overall ability to ensure sustained development of agriculture and rural areas, and resolutely working to prevent a reversal in the current satisfactory development trend in agriculture and the countryside.

 1. We must ceaselessly work to regulate the production and supply of major farm products. That is an important basis for ensuring stable and rapid economic development, increasing our ability to proactively prevent inflation, and ensuring people’s well-being and improving their lives. Should a problem emerge in the supply of agricultural products resulting in soaring prices in the market, problems with only a limited impact could become major problems and problems in the structure of farm products could evolve into problems in balancing total supply and demand. We must take effective measures to promote another good harvest in 2010. We must work to ensure stable development of grain production by keeping our message consistent, never relaxing requirements and not reducing support. We need to work hard to improve the structure of grain varieties planted and improve the yield per hectare and quality while ensuring that the total area of grain cultivation remains basically stable. We need to develop a comprehensive platform to improve grain production, coordinate arrangements, combine resources, concentrate factors, meet the goal of the plan to increase grain production capacity by 50 million tons nationwide and expand the scale of cultivation of high-yield species. We must actively work to transform the production model for non-staple food crops to make production more concentrated, more institutionalized, more widespread and more standardized. We need to carry out a new round of the Vegetable Basket Project for non-staple food supply, focusing on setting up standard model garden crop cultivation plots, large-scale poultry production bases, and demonstration ponds for healthy aquaculture techniques. We need to strengthen and improve regulation of the market for agricultural products, employ a combination of regulatory tools, work to stabilize the market for agricultural products and ensure that prices stay at a reasonable level. We need to continue to raise the minimum purchase prices for wheat and rice and purchase and stockpile other major agricultural products as a temporary measure as needed. We need to support the efforts of large-scale enterprise groups related to agriculture to develop distribution facilities for agricultural products. We must be flexible and efficient in our import and export policy, improve the administration of imports to avoid the impact of excessive imports of certain products and support efforts to expand exports of superior agricultural products. We need to set up a sound market monitoring and advance warning mechanism to improve statistical analysis at every link, including production, distribution, consumption and import and export.

 2. We must always work to strengthen the factors that support agriculture. We must work on all key aspects related to agriculture, including water, land, technology and machinery, and work to raise the overall production capacity of agriculture with the aim of modernizing agriculture and ensuring steady development of agriculture. We must build more water conservancy projects for farmland, continue the good work in building follow-up support projects and adopting more efficient water-saving technology in medium- and large-scale irrigation areas, build more small-scale water conservancy projects for farmland and expand application of water efficient irrigation technology. We need to improve the meteorological system for agriculture and the early warning system for disastrous rural weather to reduce the damage caused by flood and drought. We need to make still greater efforts to develop a group of primary farm plots with high and stable yields in accordance with the need for unified planning, coordinated division of labor, concentrated investment and adjacent plots. We must continue testing soil and developing suitable fertilizer formulas, expand the scope of allowances for increasing soil organic substance, expand application of protective farming techniques and carry out a drought resistant demonstration agriculture project. We must work to make innovations in agricultural science and technology and expand efforts to improve capacity to make major breakthroughs in key areas and core technologies. We need to work quickly to improve public service agencies responsible for introducing agricultural technology in villages, towns and rural regions and expand the reform of the system for introducing agricultural technology in rural areas and enlarge the area for developing model counties. In particular, we must view accelerating development of superior varieties and making the seed cultivation industry bigger and stronger as a strategic measure, strengthen support for independent innovation in seed biotechnology, carry out major gene modification projects to develop new varieties, accelerate the merging and consolidating of domestic seed enterprises, encourage cooperation between seed enterprises and research institutions, work to develop large-scale seed enterprises and strengthen the core competitiveness of China’s seed industry. We need to improve agricultural machinery and equipment, continue raising by a large margin the funds available for subsidies for the purchase of farm machinery and tools, speed up efforts to expand use of advanced applicable agricultural machinery and speed up the pace of mechanization in deep plowing, transfer of rice straw to rice paddy and cultivation and planting of rice seedlings. We need to pay special attention to improving agro-industrial technology and making innovations in products to provide good durable machinery and equipment at a reasonable price for agriculture, the breeding industry and for enterprises engaged in the processing and storage of agricultural products. 

  3. We must do everything possible to provide multiple channels for the employment of rural residents. Employment is basic to a person’s well-being and a way to increase rural incomes, so we must put rural employment even higher on our agenda. We need to step up the pace of urbanization and create more employment opportunities for rural residents leaving the countryside. We must take full advantage of the role of urbanization in expanding employment, focusing on the development of small and midsize cities and small towns, especially county seats and central towns, to strengthen the capacity of urban areas to absorb excessive rural labor. We should view helping qualified rural residents gradually find employment and settle in urban areas as an important task in carrying out urbanization, ease residence requirements for small and midsize cities and small towns, and absorb qualified rural migrant workers into the urban population, particularly the generation of young migrant workers. We should continue to encourage members of the rural workforce to find non-agricultural employment in urban areas and safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of rural migrant workers. We need to strengthen county economies and actively work to find employment for rural residents in their local area. We also need to continue expanding employment opportunities in agriculture and work to develop a variety of functions for agriculture. We need to continue developing non-farm employment opportunities for rural residents by energetically developing the rural secondary and tertiary industries. We must take advantage of opportunities presented by shifts in industry to develop mainstay industries for rural areas. Migrant workers should be encouraged and guided to return to the countryside to start up businesses. We need to provide more technical training to better prepare rural residents for finding employment and starting businesses. We need to work out how to develop a mechanism for training that is government-assisted and market-oriented with schools operated by both government and non-government entities to change more rural residents into new-type farmers that have good general knowledge, understand technology and have the ability to operate a business or skilled and capable industrial workers. We must strengthen government allocations for vocational training for rural residents and combine training resources to improve the efficiency of the training system.

  4. We must work very hard to promote public utilities in rural areas. This is urgently needed to improve the lives of the rural population and make comprehensive social progress in the countryside. This will also help stimulate more investment and consumer spending in rural areas and drive economic development. We must firmly resolve to increase government spending on rural projects to truly increase the pace of progress in the countryside. We need to build more rural infrastructure projects to provide more rural areas with safe drinking water, pave more rural roads and build more methane facilities. In particular, more support should be provided to build rural housing, government spending for repair of dilapidated rural housing should be increased, local governments that are able should employ various means to support rural residents building their own housing in accordance with the law and regulations and actively work to send more building materials to the countryside. We must work hard to ensure the success of the new round of the project to improve and upgrade rural power grids to improve the reliability and capacity of the rural electricity supply. We need to accelerate rural social programs to improve the availability of compulsory education, basic health care services and public cultural facilities, and expand the number of rural residents covered by social security programs. We must do more to improve the ecological environment, focusing on ecological forest projects and development of the forestry industry and strengthening forest protection and improving forest management. We need to institute the contract system for grasslands, strictly enforce the system for balancing preservation of grasslands and use for grazing, and set up a compensation system for ensuring good ecological conditions on grasslands. In addition, we need to carry out key state projects to protect water and land and prevent pollution of agricultural land from rural waste and sewage and from non-point agricultural sources. We need to continue efforts to relieve rural poverty, increase government spending on poverty alleviation, truly make vocational training available to entire villages, industrialize poverty alleviation efforts and provide employment as a replacement for government assistance.

  5. We must make relentless efforts to deepen rural reforms. We must firmly adhere to the correct orientation in the rural reforms. It is even more important to improve the interaction between urban and rural areas, the coordinated development of the urban and rural areas and the relevant legal framework to make rural development more dynamic. We should absolutely keep to the two-tier system of unified management and independent management for agriculture based on household contracts and make still greater efforts to improve the legal and policy framework for the contracting of rural land. We need to continue deepening the reform of the system of collective forest rights and the basic operating system for grasslands. We must work hard to develop specialized farmer cooperatives and accelerate reform of the supply and marketing cooperatives. Local governments with the proper conditions should be encouraged to carry out trial reform of the system of collective ownership of agricultural land. We need to push reform of the system of rural land management in an orderly process, accelerate the review, registration and certification of rural collective land ownership, residential land use rights and collective construction land use rights, and rectify the rural land system in a standardized and orderly manner. We need to accelerate the pace of reform of the rural finance system, make innovations in the rural finance system and in financial products and services, make a vigorous effort to develop small-scale rural banking institutions and increase small-scale lending to rural households, and work to meet the needs of rural residents for loans. We need to continue to deepen overall rural reform by focusing on the public finance reward and subsidy trial on a case-by-case basis for public welfare undertakings at the village level, clearing up village debt, setting up a mechanism to ensure basic funding for county and township governments and clearing up key areas of the debt burden of rural residents while at the same time carrying out a thorough reform of town and township government organs. We need to deepen reform of the land reclamation system, launch a reform of state-owned forests and launch a trial reform to unify the management system for state-owned forested areas and the management of the state-owned forest resources. Finally, we need to improve guidance to those pilot districts for rural reforms. 

(From Qiushi in Chinese, No. 3, 2010)


Note: Author: Member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and Vice-Premier of the State Council

Extract of a speech delivered by the author at a conference on rural work convened December 27, 2009 by the CPC Central Committee

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