Central document reinforces rural vitalization for beautiful China
By Rabi Sankar Bosu
There is an old Chinese saying, "agriculture is the foundation of human society." The 96-year-old Communist Party of China (CPC) is dedicated to serving the people and leading the nation to become a moderately prosperous society by the year 2020. In recent years, with the acceleration of industrialization, IT development, and urbanization, China's central government under the leadership of the CPC has attached unprecedented importance to agricultural modernization, as agriculture is essential to social stability in a country with a population of nearly 1.4 billion people. Consequently, the proper handling of issues concerning agriculture, rural areas, and farmers is of strategic significance to China's economic development and overall social stability.
Young people work in a corn field in Nongyong Village of Baosheng County, southwest China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, March 9, 2015.[Photo: Xinhua]
On February 4, 2018, the CPC Central Committee and China's State Council released a package of policies referred to as the "No. 1 Central Document". The first policy statement of the year, it provides a road map for rural vitalization as part of China's great rejuvenation. This is the 15th year in a row this traditional annual policy statement lists agriculture, rural community, and farmer-related issues as top priorities. Without doubt, the breadth and depth of this development strategy for agriculture, rural areas, and the well-being of the farmers in China which was rarely seen in past version of the No. 1 Central Document.
According to the document, China will deepen supply-side structural reform in agriculture, improving the structures of rural industry, promoting green production, extending the sector's industrial and value chain, boosting innovation, consolidating shared rural development, and enhancing rural reforms. The document is a major strategic shift on agriculture that will reenergize villages and improve the social status of farmers by establishing a sustainable and innovative industry.
The document pledges to make agriculture a promising industry, farming an attractive occupation, and rural areas beautiful places to live and work. It provides a three-step goal; firstly, for rural vitalization to lift all rural residents out of poverty by 2020; secondly, bringing into reality a basic modernization of agriculture and rural areas by 2035; and finally, a comprehensive rural vitalization by 2050. Undoubtedly, the No. 1 document will boost hundreds of millions of farmers' confidence in their future life with "thriving businesses, pleasant living environments, social etiquette and civility, effective governance, and prosperity."
It is worth mentioning that the 2018 No.1 Central Document is consistent with the rural vitalization strategy put forward by Chinese President Xi Jinping at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in October last year. According to the report, issues relating to agriculture, rural areas, and rural people are fundamental to China as they directly concern national stability and people's well-being. Xi stressed that China must prioritize the development of agriculture and rural areas, and consolidate and improve the basic rural management system. The rural vitalization strategy has heartened the farmers as they will embrace better life after the country speeds up the modernization of agriculture and rural areas.
The two-day Central Rural Work Conference, convened in Beijing on December 28 and 29, 2017, outlined rural vitalization as "a top priority task" for Party committees. Attending the conference, President Xi summarized the achievements and changes in agriculture and rural areas over the past five years, and expounded on the rural vitalization strategy and concrete requirements for the future. According to the statement released after the annual work conference, China has achieved "decisive progress" in the battle against poverty with more than 66 million people lifted out of poverty over the past five years.
Nonetheless, it should be noted that despite "decisive progress" in eradicating poverty, a development gap remains between urban and rural regions due principally to lack of quality and efficiency in agriculture. The principal contradiction facing Chinese society has evolved in the new era to be one between "unbalanced and inadequate development and the people's ever-growing needs for a better life." In order to tackle this issue, it is hoped that this year's No 1 document will eye to reshape urban-rural relations addressing the pressing issues of the "left-behind" elderly and children and weak grassroots governance. In this respect, the rural vitalization strategy should be seen as the stepping stone for handling work regarding farmers, agriculture, and rural areas at a time when Chinese socialism enters a new era.
Agriculture is the backbone of China, which has vast rural areas and a large rural population. It's a fact that the country's vast rural population has not fully enjoyed adequate development opportunities in comparison to urban China. As such, the strategy of rural vitalization is a "historic task" for accomplishing China's modernization goals and building a moderately prosperous society. By vitalizing its vast rural regions, China expects to see the development of a strong agricultural sector, a beautiful countryside, and well-off farmers. Han Jun, chief of the Office of the Central Rural Work Leading Group, said, "The document not only elaborates on the significance of the strategy, but also sets the tone, specifies the targets and policies, and makes requirements for governments at lower levels to achieve prosperity in rural areas."
On the other hand, Victor Gao, chairman of China Energy Security Institute and vice president of Center for China and Globalization, wrote in a commentary published on CGTN on February 5, "The income disparity between urban China and rural China has intensified; agricultural production has become fragmented; farming efficiency is low; and the lack of access to quality education, health care, elderly care, and cultural and recreational activities have resulted in the hollowing out of many rural villages in China." China cannot achieve its overall modernization without the modernization of its agriculture and countryside. The "Chinese Dream" cannot be realized without realizing the dreams of the Chinese farmers who make up over 40 percent of China's population.
China's reforms actually started in the countryside in 1978. But the development of rural areas has lagged behind rapid urbanization in the process of China's reform and opening up over the past 40 years. Although over the past five years, the production capacity and living conditions of China's rural residents has been improving, the development of agriculture, farmers, and rural areas is still unbalanced. Official figures reported by China Daily suggest that 3.3 million hectares of farmland in China have been contaminated with heavy metals, and nearly 200 million rural residents have no access to safe drinking water. As such, China will pay greater attention to resource and environmental protection in the dream of realizing a beautiful country.
Undoubtedly, the No. 1 Central Document in 2018 acts as a lighthouse to illuminate the hundreds of millions of farmers in China, providing a new roadmap for reinvigorating the countryside covering the economy, politics, culture, society, ecology, and Party construction. China Daily in an editorial rightly pointed out, "The No. 1 document gives the rural strategy flesh on the bones." Wen Tiejun, a professor at the School of Agriculture and Rural Development of Renmin University of China, told Global Times on February 4, "China's rural vitalization requires that CPC leaders understand agriculture, and love villages and farmers." Party members in the village should lend a helping hand to the poor farmers.
It is expected that China's central government will exert greater efforts towards reform measures that deal with bottlenecks hampering the healthy development of China's rural economy. Strong Party leadership will ensure that no one falls behind in China's drive to create a moderately prosperous society and future common prosperity. I hope that the more than 590 million rural Chinese people will enjoy the same benefits as their urban counterparts. And I hope that China will become stronger and stronger. The living standards of Chinese farmers will get better and better with the support of the "rural vitalization strategy."
(Rabi Sankar Bosu, Secretary, New Horizon Radio Listeners' Club, based in West Bengal, India)