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China extends rural reform and development
Latest Updated at 2008-October-20 09:50:48

The Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee issued a landmark policy document on Sunday (Oct 19)聽as a guideline to further rural reform and development.

LIBERALIZING FARMLAND USE

One of the biggest moves was to allow farmers to "lease their contracted farmland or transfer their land use right" to boost the scale of operation for farm production and provide funds for them to start new businesses.

"This breakthrough is necessary," said Xu Xianglin, an economics department professor at the Party School of the Central Committee of the CPC. "It meets the need of industrialization and urbanization in the current stage."

According to the full text of the document, markets for the lease of contracted farmland and transfer of farmland usage rights shall be set up and improved to allow farmers to sub-contract, lease, exchange and swap their land-use rights, or joined share-holding entities with their farmland.

Such transfers of land-use rights must be voluntarily participation by farmers, with adequate payment and in accordance with the law, the CPC Central Committee said.

In the past, however, farmland was collectively owned and meted out to farmers in long term leasing contracts.

Some experts said the new policy on land use could help absorb capital to the countryside so as to speed up modernization in agriculture, and accelerate the process of urbanization with more farmers going to seek jobs in cities.

PUSHING RURAL-URBAN INTEGRATION

While anti-corruption has always been the focus of the central government's work, the CPC has also pledged to balance urban and rural development and push the integration process of these areas.

Comprehensive planning would be conducted in fields including industrial development, infrastructure construction, public service as well as employment, with the needs of both rural and urban areas taken into account.

According to the new document, the government would endeavor to optimize industrial structure in rural areas, foster enterprises owned by villages and townships and channel capital and talent to the countryside.

The government would also help build the human resources market to help farmers go to cities for work, and migrants to start their careers in villages. It vowed to enhance safeguarding the rights of migrant workers, ensuring them the same wages and benefits in term of their children's education, public health and housing as citizens.

Li Chenggui, a research fellow with the Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, was supportive.

He said the Ministry of Agriculture statistics showed that in China there were currently about 126 million migrant workers away from their hometown and that most were having difficulty becoming residents of cities.

Migrant workers are always called a "vulnerable group" in facing wage arrears, a lack of social security and facing prejudice, among others. They are also blamed, usually unfairly, for causing social problems.

"We couldn't have their farmland-use rights effectively transferred if they don't become (urban) residents," Li said.

BETTER LIFE FOR FARMERS

Apart from these measures, the document also underscored food safety, the establishment of a modern agricultural industrial system and the modernization of rural finances as well as security systems.

"There is an old saying in China, 'food is as essential as the heaven for people,'" said Ke Bingsheng, the China Agricultural University president who previously worked for the Ministry of Agriculture.

"That's why so much importance was attached to issues involving agriculture, farmers and rural areas," he said.

In the past, the CPC Central Committee plenary sessions always stressed agricultural issues, the milestone being the third plenary session of the 11th CPC Central Committee in 1978 that put forward the policy of reform and opening up.

China currently boasts 950 million registered farmers, with 750million living in the countryside. But the income gap between this majority and urban residents has kept widening over the years.

In 2007, the income of urban citizens was more than three times that of farmers, historically, the biggest gap.

In March, the central government allocated 562.5 billion yuan (82.2 billion U.S. dollars) as a budget related to agriculture, rural areas and farmers. This was a year-on-year increase of 130.7billion yuan, said Premier Wen Jiabao in his work report at the opening of the first session of the 11th National People's Congress (NPC), the top legislature.

"Now that China has achieved fast development, it is time that farmers, who made great contribution to the economic miracle, share the fruit with (urban) citizens," said Professor Xu Xianglin of the Party School.

Research fellow Li said "our ultimate goal is to have some farmers become citizens, while the rest live a life no worse than the former."

SOCIAL WELFARE

The document urged聽to improve social welfare enjoyed by the country's 900 million rural population.

RURAL CULTURE AND EDUCATION

The document urged for further cultural development in the country's rural areas, quoting that "rural cultural development is of great importance to building a new socialist countryside."

It demanded TV, radio and movies be more accessible in the rural areas, and more community cultural centers to be set up in the villages along with countryside libraries.

Cultural products based on rural lives and activities, which the farmers are willing to participate and have easy access to should be encouraged, the document said.

It urged urban organizations to go to the countryside to spread scientific and literacy knowledge and offer medical services to farmers, and help them break away from superstitions and build a harmonious society that advocated gender equality and honesty.

The document also said efforts must be made to improve the education level in rural areas, especially for the left-behind children, those whose parents are both working in the cities, and children from economically-challenged families.

Professional trainings should be provided in townships to train farmers, while college students were encouraged to go the countryside to work.

Quality of teachers in the rural areas would be improved, along with their salaries and working conditions, the document said.

SOCIAL WELFARE AND RURAL INFRASTRUCTURE

In addition, efforts must be made to ensure all farmers can enjoy basic medicare service by sticking to the rural cooperative medical system, the document said.

It demanded every county and township should have its own medical institution, while villages in the rural areas were also encouraged to set up medical stations to provide "safe and inexpensive medical service" to farmers.

Endemic diseases, infectious diseases and disease that affects both human beings and livestock must be closely guarded against, with the focus on prevention of such illness.

The one-child policy must be adhered to in the countryside to retain a low birth rate in the rural areas, and to deal with a disproportional sex ratio, the document said.

It also demanded to accelerate the construction of a comprehensive social welfare system in the countryside.

A new old age insurance system in the rural areas should be established in the countryside with the premiums paid by the beneficiaries and the collective and government subsidies. Authorities should find ways to incorporate the system with the urban old-age insurance system, it said.

In addition, the livelihood of farmers whose land had been requisitioned must be guaranteed before the requisition procedure, the document said.

The rural minimum living allowance system must be perfected with larger subsidies from the central and provincial budget, to cover all applicable with improved benefits.

Living standards of those who receive five guarantees, namely food, clothing, medical care, housing and burial expenses provided by local governments for their lack of relatives and working abilities, should be in accordance with the average living standards of the neighborhood, the document demanded.

It also urged to improve the relief system to help farmers affected by natural disasters and boost social welfare for the old, the handicapped, the poor and orphans.

Prevention of disability and rehabilitation for the disabled must also be strengthened in the countryside, the document said.

The document highlighted the importance of infrastructure construction in the rural areas.

The committee vowed to ensure villagers to have safe drinking water within five years and townships be connected by cement roads by the end of 2010.

Efforts should be made to develop renewable energy resources, including methane, wind and solar energy, it said, adding Internet service would be accessible for more farmers.

POVERTY REDUCTION AND DISASTER RELIEF

The committee pledged to provide more low-income farmers with financial aid and give more assistance to people in remote areas, revolutionary bases, ethnic minority regions and poverty-stricken places.

International cooperation should be enhanced to fight poverty in the countryside, it read.

To install an upgraded natural disaster forecasting system and raise farmers' awareness of emergency response and relief was also one of the document's high points.

The capacity of forecasting disastrous weather, ecological disasters and monitoring earthquakes should be strengthened and more needs to be done to promote farmers' disaster prevention and relief awareness, it said.

The paper also set the direction for public facility safety standards, saying schools and hospital buildings should all be safe and up to construction standards.

All-out efforts should be made to restore the agriculture work in the area struck by the May 12 Sichuan earthquake and more measures need to be adopted to heal and improve the ecological conditions in the quake-hit region, it noted.

HARMONIOUS SOCIETY IN THE COUNTRYSIDE

It also emphasized the importance of maintaining a "harmonious" and "stable" environment in the countryside.

More channels should be opened to solicit farmers' opinions and address their complaints and problems, said the paper, adding leaders should pay frequent visits to farmers and solve villagers' problems at the grassroot level.

The committee further underscored ethnic relations. The equal, united, mutually-aided and harmonious ethnic relations should be consolidated and developed, it said.

Interference with village affairs by any religious groups or clans would be objected; evil cults in villages were prohibited and any mafia-style force would incur severe crackdown, it said.

Editor: 寮犺幑

By: Source: China View website
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