Impacts Of Chinas Agricultural And Rural
The reform in the agricultural sector in China has been remarkably successful. Agricultural reform has seen a gradual transition from a centrally planned economy towards a socialist market economy. The commune system was replaced by one where individual families lease land from the collectives, ensuring that almost all rural households have access to land. Then, rural industries started to expand and they absorbed a large part of farm labor. This process which started in 1978 has been a major pillar of the fundamental economic growth in several very important ways, such as; increasing agricultural production, increasing the quality and variety of foods, and increasing the real per capita incomes of farm people. The rapid development of the township and village enterprises and other forms of nonfarm enterprises has been beyond even what the wildest expectations might have been. These changes have provided a major contribution to China's remarkable overall economic performance in the past 30 years, which has seen growth in real GDP average above 9% between 1990 and 2004 with even more rapid growth in trade and investment.
The social and economic stability of many nations is closely related to their ability to supply and sustain the demands of its people especially food and water. Food is the foundation for human and economic development and is an essential human need for survival, health and productivity. In China, there is a saying, "food is heaven," literally meaning that "when you eat good food, you are in heaven; when you are starving, you are in hell". However radical this saying may seem, it definitely portrays the value of food to the Chinese people. This value to food is notable as the Chinese authorities (Government) consider maintaining a comparatively high level of food self-sufficiency, avoiding supply shocks, and stabilizing food consumer prices, a matter of national security and stability. The Chinese Government is well aware that when its people are not worried about food availability, supply and sustainability, only then can they concentrate on supporting the current reform, ensuring a sustained, rapid and healthy development of the economy, (The State Council1, 1996).#p#分页标题#e#
China is currently the world's largest agricultural economy and a leading importer and exporter of agricultural products, feeding its population of about 1.3 billion people ï¼ˆapproximately 21% of the world's population with only 9% of the world's arable land. Despite all these extraordinary achievements, China's agricultural sector is still changing as it responds to the rising and increasingly sophisticated demands of domestic and foreign consumers, adapts small-scale farm structure to global food markets, and competes with other sectors for labor, investment capital, and scarce land and water resources (Gale et al., 2002; Lohmar and Gale, 2008).
This report provides an insight into key issues in China's agricultural and rural development, policy reforms in the sector and policy effects on food production and challenges still faced by the sector. It also outlines solutions (policy measures) that have been undertaken and/or proposed.
When discussing about food security, the question that arises is; what is food security?
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines "Food Security" as a situation when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life, putting in consideration both physical and economic access to food that meets people's dietary needs as well as their food preferences.
Food security can be maintained under the following conditionsï¼›Consistent availability of sufficient quantities of food, Food access (having sufficient resources to obtain appropriate foods for a nutritious diet) and Food use (appropriate use based on knowledge of basic nutrition and care, as well as adequate water and sanitation). Food security depends more on demand, than supply. Factors that influence sustainable food security include: literacy rates, levels of farmer education, agricultural research and extension capacity, transport infrastructure, non-agricultural income opportunities, social support systems, international security and confidence in international trade, domestic civil strife, international capital movements, etc.
Today, China as a nation has been very successful in its food production endeavors meaning that China is not in any eminent danger of food insecurity.
An analysis on China's current achievement in food production and food security easily erases any memories of its past problems of food scarcity and hunger. Apparently, not many people around the world are aware that less than 50 years ago, China experienced a devastating famine. The 'Great Chinese Famine' occurred in the People's Republic of China between 1958 and 1961 and was characterized by widespread famine and death. According to official government statistics, there were 15 million excess deaths (mostly as a result of starvation) in this period.#p#分页标题#e#
The causes of the Chinese Great Famine were both natural and manmade. However, outside scholars argue that massive institutional and policy changes which accompanied the Great Leap Forward were the key factors in the famine  . The "Great Leap Forward" is to this day regarded as one of the most tragic man-made disasters. Data for that period are notoriously unreliable. For example, during the period 1958-60, Shanghai's GDP grew at the rate of 33 per cent per annum. In addition, the then Chinese leader's ambition to achieve a great leap forward for China's industrial sector boosted relatively industrialized regions at the expense of other regional economies.. In this period, a series of radical changes in farming organization coincided with adverse weather patterns including droughts and floods. Due to the biased development strategy during the period 1958-60, the average annual growth rates for the above-mentioned three regions were 26, 23 and 24 per cent respectively, while that for the rest of China was only 6 per cent, (Yanrui, 2004).
Another controversial spectacle, the Cultural Revolution, took place between 1966 and 1976. This led to widespread social, economic and political upheaval of enormous proportions which brought the Chinese society to the brink of civil war. Launched by Mao ZeDong, the then Chairman of the Communist Party of China on May 16, 1966, it was officially dubbed a campaign to rid China of its "liberal bourgeoisie" elements and to continue the revolutionary class struggle by mobilizing the thoughts and actions of China's youth.
Among the several policies that went wrong was the poor agricultural policy and inefficient agricultural collectives (work communes) together with an unfair pattern of holding resources. These greatly contributed to poor productivity and very low production of food crops especially grains. Agriculture stagnated for two decades (1957-78) and due to persistent shortages, food had to be rationed. It is estimated that more than 100 million people suffered from recurrent food shortages resulting in severe stunting, leading to diminished capacity for work and higher incidence of morbidity. The agriculture sector, like the rest of the economy, was thrown into a crisis, unable to keep up with the growing population. The nation could not achieve self-sufficiency in grain and required massive imports to stave off starvation which had already claimed millions of lives.
3.0 The different reforms in the agriculture sector 农业部门的不同改革
3.1 Agricultural reforms
An understanding of China's pre-reform agricultural policy that led to serious food crisis helps to better appreciate China's miraculous achievements in the agriculture sector. Through over two decades of shortages, rationing and starvation, the Chinese are now so sure they have enough food for all the citizens that they can even afford to donate some of it. The turning point came in 1978, when Deng Xiaoping initiated economic reforms that changed all areas of the country's economy.#p#分页标题#e#
For about fifty years now, the Chinese people have been regarding food security as a central concern for development and stability. For this matter, China's leaders set the rate of grain self-sufficiency at 95%  . This percentage seemed too high to achieve but the Chinese reached their goal of 95% self-sufficiency in food production over a decade ago. In comparison, many countries that are more developed countries than China still have lower food self-sufficiency levels, for example the UK managed to achieve a self-sufficiency level of 74% in 2007 for its indigenous food types.
There is still a big challenge to the Agricultural sector in China since a vast majority of the mainland is unsuitable for cultivation (only about 13% of the total land territory is arable land), as most of the land in the east and north of the country cannot be cultivated (Liao, 2007). Further, poor climatic conditions are one of the greatest factors affecting China's food production. For instance semiarid, continental conditions with cold winters limit crop cultivation in Northern and Northeastern China. Arid conditions prevail in the northwest culminating into desert regions there. In addition, China's soil is excessively alkaline.
China's limited space for farming has been a problem and has led to chronic food shortages throughout its history. While the production efficiency of farmland has grown over time, efforts to expand to the West and the North have yielded limited success, as the land there is generally colder and drier than traditional farmlands in the East. Since the 1950s, farm space has also been pressured by the increasing land needs for industry and cities. The per-capita farmland in China is only 0.22 acres, which is less than half of the world average. With this, nearly 500 million tons of grains are produced from the current 122 million hectares of total cultivated land.
China has been able to increase its food production using a combination of institutional, technological and fiscal factors. It has hugely improved the availability of and access to food through a combination of a sound agricultural policy that has led to guaranteed government support of the sector, the development of rural infrastructure, and investment in research and development in the agricultural sector. China gradually moved from a system where all the land was collectively owned and the entire food procurement and distribution systems managed by the government to a liberalized set-up where "efficiency rather than only equity" is seen as key.
3.2 Institutional Reforms
3.2.1 Household Production Responsibility System (HPRS) and Land Tenure
At the very start of the reformï¼Œthe then leaders of China knew that the land tenure and land use systems at the time were a serious hindrance to meaningful agricultural production. They therefore abolished the People's Commune System and adopted a Household Responsibility System, Land Contract, which greatly liberalized productivity in the countryside. This entailed a well-conceived re-distribution of the country's farming land which revised thirty years of vested interests in a mere five years. Although land still belonged to the State, production control for food crops, animals and animal products was transferred back to the peasants and they were even offered incentives to produce more. Under the new system, households were given crop quotas that they were required to fulfill in return for tools, draft animals, seeds, and other essentials  . Households were free to use farmland in any way they saw fit as long as they met these quotas. The HPRS unleashed the untapped potential of the peasantry. Bumper harvests of oil crops such as cotton, rapeseed, peanuts, soybeans, and sunflower led to dramatic increases in the incomes of farmers and visible improvements in the quality of lives of the rural people  . A few years after these changes were instituted; China had already attained an average per capita food availability of 2,700kcal/day.#p#分页标题#e#
3.2.2 The Transformation of China's Rural Economic System
As part of the institutional reforms, the State established a new rural economic system framework that can meet the demand of the socialist market economy.
The State abolished the traditional state monopoly for purchase and marketing of agricultural products, opened the market of grain purchase and marketing, and encouraged diversified farming in rural areas.
Prior to that, prices of agricultural produce were controlled by the state which caused price distortions resulting in to very low rates of return from agricultural investments. As a direct result of this, the purchasing price of grain rose by 49% between 1979 and 1982 and then rose by an incredible 105% between 1994 and 1996, (Liao, 2010). This meant that farmers were actually earning much more than was previously possible. Besides, there was a very generous subsidy system in place to support grain producers. In addition to the obvious achievements, this factor also led to an exponential increase of investment into the agricultural sector.
3.2.3 Grain Circulation System Amendment
A new phase of adjustments started in the late 1990s and in the early 2000s when oversupply emerged causing grain prices to fall and increased exposure to international competition stimulated further structural changes. The main policy objective shifted to raising farmers' incomes. While cereals remain the key crop, their share in total crop production and in the area sown has declined quite substantially since the early 1990s as other crops became more profitable and the government relaxed most of the policy measures which had previously required farmers to produce grains. Impressive increases in vegetable and fruit production reflect China's comparative advantage and responsiveness to changes in domestic demand, as well as to emerging export opportunities for selected products such as garlic, onions, apples and pears.
3.3 Scientific Reforms
This has had a tremendous effect on food production and the technological achievements have had a crucial impact on the lifeline of the Chinese people, giving them back their livelihoods. The Chinese government has designed and put into practice the strategy of developing agriculture by relying on science, technology and education. It adopted a series of measures to enable research play a greater role in increased grain production.
Over the past two decades, although China's population has increased by several hundred million, the country's annual per-capita food supply has still increased from 300kg to 400kg; this can only be attributed to advancements in agricultural science and technology contributed by indigenous Chinese scientists. China has fostered and promoted more than 6,000 new agricultural varieties and combinations in the past 50 years and this has tremendously increased food production, (Chengui et al, 2002).#p#分页标题#e#
Irrigation has also played a critical role in establishing highly productive agronomic systems in China. The proportion of cultivated area under irrigation increased from 18% in 1952, to just over 50% of all cultivated land in China in the early 1990s. This too has boosted food production.
3.4 Fiscal Reforms
3.4.1 Infrastructure Development
Development of infrastructure in China has greatly boosted the Agricultural sector. Most importantly the construction of quality and durable roads which facilitate the timely movement of commodities between markets and between food surplus and deficit areas has played a key role. The development of express ways has been particularly remarkable, with the total length increasing from 147 kilometers in 1988 to 25,130 kilometers in 2002, equivalent to an average annual growth rate of 44%. China currently boasts the longest Speed Train railway in the whole world.
3.4.2 Poverty Alleviation
In the late 1970s, nearly two thirds of the Chinese population was classified as poor according to the World Bank standard of a dollar a day. However, since 1978 and as a result of the economic reforms, the number of impoverished people without enough food and clothing has declined from 250 million to 26.1 million in 2004, with the proportion of the population living in poverty falling from 30% to 2.8% by the same World Bank standard. China has already achieved the first Millennium Development Goal of halving poverty well ahead of the 2015 timeline. At the same time, conditions for economic activity as well as living conditions in poverty-stricken areas have greatly improved. The World Bank cites China as a model for the developing world, where the majority of the poor live in rural areas and survive on agriculture as the only source of livelihood. China's rapid growth in agriculture and its self sufficiency in food production have been instrumental in the decline of rural poverty from 53% in 1981 to 8% in 2001.
Challenges and Government's Responses 挑战与政府的回应
With the ever increasing population, there are constrains from both resources and demands. The increased demand has led to depleted resources hence making it difficult for the government to maintain sustainability in supply of mainly the basic needs of its population especially food, water and health care services. More than half of the natural resources are scattered in mountainous areas which are unsuitable for living. This has compelled the introduction and application of new technologies and improved varieties of crops and animals and continuous provision of technical support.
Lagged social development, poor education, poor sanitation and poor health service delivery and high Illiteracy rate is about 8.7% (approximately 85 million people) in rural areas has still remained a big challenge to economic development. Some scholars argue that there has been unfavorable treatment of the rural residents by the central government as compared to urban residents. They argue that; first, government has spent less on infrastructure investment in rural areas than in urban areas. It invested only a limited amount to improve agricultural productivity. Second, it provided less welfare benefits including health care and education subsidies to rural residents. Although much labor mobility was allowed for farmers to move to urban areas to find work, those working in the urban areas are subject to discrimination under the government policy (introduced in the 1950s) of separating the residence status and thus the entitled benefits of the urban and rural populations. The migrating workers do not have residence permits in the cities and cannot receive the services provided such as health care and schooling for their children. Third, although the Commune system was abolished, procurement of farm products by government agencies has continued and the procurement prices were often set below market prices. In the mean time the farmers were not allowed to sell their products to private traders as private trading and transportation of grain were prohibited. Thus the market economy does not function in the distribution and pricing of grain for the benefit of the farmers, (Chen et al, 2005).#p#分页标题#e#
The following policies have been undertaken: shifting focus of infrastructure development to the rural areas, implementing the Strategy on Strengthening Western China development, balance regional development and reducing the development gap between the coast and inland. More focus on education is being undertaken though government support for education.
Ensuring sufficient provision of major agricultural products is still a main challenge. This is mainly due to continuous reduction of arable lands, and shortage of freshwater. With increased agricultural production costs caused by global warming and increased extreme severe weather, food production regularly keeps fluctuating. Big fluctuation of agriculture and grain production has directly always affected the national economy and the overall development of the society. The structure of Agriculture's factor requirement has also changed, capital has substituted labor. This has further increased production costs. Government is therefore faced with a huge challenge of reducing farmers' burdens while safeguarding their interests. More incentives and adequate investment in grain production is being provided to farmers. However, effective measures should be taken to ensure a constant increase in farmers' net income.
Environmental Degradation is still not under control. Statistics show that severe soil erosion and desertification continue, the main sources being industrial point pollution and agricultural non-point pollution. In Western China, there is severe degradation of the ecological environment (71% of the total land areas of China, but 80% of the total soil erosion, and 90% of total new desertification). This poses a great threat to human and animal health and hence food production. These adverse activities should be regulated thoroughly and laws put in place. Industrial waste management systems should also be streamlined.
Poverty still remains a challenge especially in the rural areas with about 148,000 poor villages. Institutional development, financial support, education and development of township enterprises will help reduce the poverty levels.
5.0 Conclusion 结论
Overall, huge challenges remain in future agricultural and rural development. On top of the favorable results from previous reforms, China needs to explore new reform ideas and establish effective institutions and mechanisms to address these challenges.
Today however, China is the world's largest agricultural economy and one of the most varied. It tops the rest of the world in the production of rice, cotton, tobacco, and hogs and is a major producer of wheat, corn, millet, tea, jute, and hemp. The abundance of production, led to China's position as both the world's largest producer of meat, pork, and aquatic products as well as a primary consumer.#p#分页标题#e#
With the current achievements in food production, regardless of what the critics say, technological advancements offer China limitless possibilities in the near future as far as the agricultural sector is concerned.
The Chinese approach should serve as a model that many developing agriculture based countries should adopt if they are to reduce poverty and eliminate food insecurity.