PROBLEMS FACED BY FARMERS IN CHINA AND THREATS TO AGRICULTURE

PROBLEMS FACED BY FARMERS IN CHINA

20080316-longzhou- loggan berries Befain.jpgWhile conditions have improved for city dwellers and incomes are rising in the cities conditions for farmers has gotten worse. In many cases their incomes have dropped as their expenses have risen and food prices have dropped due to surpluses of crops and decreased demand from middle class Chinese. By some estimates the income gap between farmers and urbanites may be 1 to 6.

Farmers are poor but often pay proportionally more taxes than everyone else. One farmer from Anhui province told the Asahi Shimbun, “If were discharge smoke, we have to pay a pollution tax. When we get married they tell is we have to pay a marriage tax.” In some cases after they pay their taxes they have little or nothing left over other than the food they stashed away to eat.

Taxes that often eat up more than half of farmers’ annual incomes. The taxes are sometimes collected corrupt officials who are trying to enrich themselves. Often though they are collected by bankrupt governments desperate for revenues to provide basic services. In recent years farm taxes have been reduced and eliminated.

The government monopolizes grain harvests and often prevents farmers from selling their crops on the open market. Local officials have been described as “locusts” for they way they try to squeeze farmers for all the money they can. Government land leases have been called “chains on peasants.” Record harvests have caused more problems than they have solved. In some places the government charges farmers to store grain when they are under obligation to buy it.

More than 200 million farmers have left farming. Many are migrant workers or work at dangerous, low paying jobs. Between 300 to 400 million peasants are expected to have moved to the cities by 2020. Raising productivity is hard when only elderly people and women are working the fields.

Debbie Hu wrote on MCLC List: I'm worried that China's food economy is going down the same road as America's. All the media hype around food safety violations seems to have everyone shopping at supermarkets and asking for more government food regulation. It's becoming harder and harder for small-time farmers to sell their crops directly in the market; people like my grandma are willing to pay ten times more for vegetables sold at supermarkets because she doesn't trust small farmers. I'm betting these surplus profits aren't going to the laborers on these farms.

Websites and Resources

On Agriculture: Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Wconomy Watch.com economywatch.com ; Products List and Links made-in-china.com ; China’s Ministry of Agriculture Data english.agri.gov.cn ; End of Agriculture in China, NPR Report npr.org ; Library of Congress Report from the 1980s lcweb2.loc.gov ; Can China Feed Itself? iiasa.ac.at/collections ; Essay on Agriculture and WTO Membership mtholyoke.edu ; Changing Agriculture and Farmers sociology.cass.cn

Links in this Website: AGRICULTURE IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; AGRICULTURE IN CHINA UNDER MAO AND DENG XIAOPING Factsanddetails.com/China ; PROBLEMS FACED BY FARMERS IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; LAND SEIZURES AND FARMERS IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; CROPS IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; RICE AGRICULTURE IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; TEA AGRICULTURE IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; LIVESTOCK IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; SILK IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; POOR PEOPLE IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; RURAL LIFE IN CHINA 14 ; VILLAGES IN CHINAFactsanddetails.com/China ; MIGRANT WORKERS IN CHINAFactsanddetails.com/China ; ENVIRONMENT IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; GLOBAL WARMING IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; WATER POLLUTION IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; WATER SHORTAGES IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China

Hard Times for Chinese Farmers

David Pierson wrote in the Los Angeles Times, China’s farming households are struggling to capitalize on their nation's breathtaking economic development. While city dwellers are enjoying fast-rising living standards, much of rural China remains a hardscrabble landscape where average incomes of about $3,200 a year are less than a third of what they are in urban areas. [Source: David Pierson, Los Angeles Times, July 07, 2011]

Chinese farmers don't have crop insurance to protect them against disaster; government subsidies are minimal. Because they don't own their land, growers can't borrow against it and have little incentive to improve operations. Reliable market forecasts are hard to come by, leaving farmers to speculate about what to plant. Poor roads in many parts of the countryside force growers to sell their harvests locally or to middlemen who pocket much of the markup paid by city dwellers. Add rising costs for labor, seed, fertilizer and fuel, and many producers are seeing their profits squeezed even as retail prices soar.

"No one is going to get rich off farming," said Scott Rozelle, an expert on China's rural economy at Stanford University. "It's not going to happen until farm sizes get bigger. That's why millions of people are moving to the cities."

Chinese Farmers Fail to Prosper from High Food Price

David Pierson wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “With global food prices rising, particularly in China's cities, conventional wisdom had it that Chinese growers must be enjoying a windfall. After all, some U.S. farmers are profiting handsomely selling pork, soybeans, nuts and other agricultural products to hungry Chinese buyers. In some cases the high prices and government policy to spur the Chinese economy have hurt farmers by creating dangerous speculative bubbles. “China's central government was flooding the economy with easy loans to blunt the effects of the global financial crisis. Flush with credit, speculators drove up prices of real estate and other assets, as well as foodstuffs including garlic, apples and tea.” [Source: David Pierson, Los Angeles Times, July 07, 2011]

“Farmers quickly shifted to those products, abandoning staples such as cabbage, eggplant and cauliflower. Predictably, prices for those common vegetables rose as supplies dwindled. Rising food prices helped push China's measure of inflation to a 28-month high in November. That month, China's central planners appealed to farmers to plant more vegetables, especially because poor weather was compounding the nationwide shortages.

Suicide of a Chinese Cabbage Farmer

Reporting from Sijiazhuang in Shandong Province, David Pierson wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “Han Jin thought he had a foolproof business plan to get his family out of debt. He rented extra land next to his tiny farm here to grow heaps of cabbage at a time when the price of the leafy vegetable was soaring. But when it came time to harvest this spring, the hapless father of two discovered thousands of other farmers had the same idea. Wholesalers were flooded with greens. Prices plummeted. Left with a field of nearly worthless vegetables and owing more money than he earned in a year, Han locked himself in his bathroom in April and hanged himself. The 39-year-old's death garnered media attention across China. [Source: David Pierson, Los Angeles Times, July 07, 2011]

When Han planted his cabbages in January the wholesale price was hovering around 50 cents a pound---a figure he hoped would hold by the time he harvested in April or May. Han was desperate to pay back $3,000 he had borrowed a year earlier to raise sheep. That plan failed when the newborn lambs mysteriously died. He tried to kill himself after Chinese New Year in February, but his wife, Han Lixiao, stopped him. "He stopped talking," said Han Lixiao, who now lives in an aunt's house with her 7-year-old and 14-year-old daughters. "He was carrying a lot of pressure."

Broad-shouldered and solidly built, Han convinced himself the solution lay in the rich chocolate-colored soil he and his wife spent years working with not much more than hoes. Han planted about 3 tons of cabbage, far more than ever before. Thousands of other growers did the same. When it came time to harvest, wholesale prices had tumbled to an unthinkable 2 cents a pound. The government did not compensate farmers. "Everything was worthless," said Han Lixiao, a petite woman who often struggles to hold back tears.

National media descended on the village soon after Han's death; he had become a symbol of rural hardship. Donations poured in, some from as far away as Japan, which allowed Han Lixiao to pay off the family's debts. Months later, villagers in Sijiazhuang said they're still losing money from farming. Many are relying on their grown children in cities to send more money home. "We all suffered the same problems" as Han, said a neighbor, Han Cuixiang (no relation), standing in front of a small patch of wiry scallions next to her two-story farmhouse. "None of us are making any profit."

Han's widow said she's giving up farming and will seek a job in town. Her two daughters may have to live with relatives, a thought that leaves a knot in her stomach."I still have years of tuition that I have to pay for," she said. "I can't pay for it by farming. It's just not enough to support them."

Inefficiency of Chinese Agriculture

Much of the work that is done by machines in the United States is still done hand in China. There is a lack of storage facilities, refrigeration, and marketing. In many rural areas the roads and infrastructure are terrible. Many farmers lack the roads and vehicles means to get their crops from the fields to markets. Food often rots before it can reach markets. By one count it takes a Chinese farmer 58 days to produce a ton of rice while it takes an American less than a day and a half.

Problems that Chinese crop exporters need to address include the poor quality and shape of their agriculture products and the heavy use of fertilizers and pesticides. In some cases, entire fruit and nut orchards have to be torn up and replanted because the of poorly shaped and tasteless fruit they produced. Japan, China’s largest overseas market for agricultural goods, has rejected some crops such as broccoli because the amount of pesticides present exceeded safety levels.

Agriculture is still heavily subsidized. Farmers are often paid more than the international price. In the 1990s they were paid $463 per ton for sugar, compared to the international price of $272. For corn they were paid $102 per ton, compared to the international price of $76. Chinese grains, beans and rice often cost 40 percent to 80 percent more than on the international market.

Some think for improvements to really be made the price of grain has to be allowed to rise to make farming a more lucrative occupation. Chinese grain prices are among the world’s lowest. The government maintains huge grain stocks and bans some exports in order to keep food affordable to the masses Rice sell for only $350 a ton, less than half the going rate in Asia. .

Farmers producing non-grain crops that earn them the most money has resulted in grain shortage. Structural inefficiencies prevent large scale farming. Agriculture productivity is also being compromised by water shortages: falling water tables, drying rivers and polluted water sources. In the northeast overpumping of aquifers has led to declines of water available of agriculture. See Water

Only 10 percent of the 10,000 wheat varieties grown in China in 1949 are still in use. In some places pesticide have killed off bees and apple orchards have to be pollinated by people. It is estimated that it takes the work of 10 people to equal the work of two beehives.

Threats to Chinese Agriculture

The soil in China is rapidly deteriorating in quality, eroding or turning to desert. Chemical fertilizers have let its farmers defer their problems while extracting higher yields.

Lin Erda, a senior researcher with the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences projects a fall in agricultural yields of 14 percent to 23 percent by 2050 due to water shortages and other impacts. [Source: Jonathan Watts, The Guardian, March 5, 2009]

Northern China, which accounts for 58 percent of the country's food production, suffered its worst drought in 2009. Rising temperatures and over-use of water resources has continued to cause desertification, cutting the cropland available. [Ibid]

Chinese scientists have not reached a consensus about the potential impact of climate change on overall harvests. While some areas may be boosted by warmer, wetter growing conditions, other regions are likely to suffer droughts and floods. [Ibid]

Soil Erosion to Cut Harvests in China

A nationwide survey has found that almost 100 million people in south-west China will lose the land they live on within 35 years oil erosion and harvests could decline in China's breadbasket in the northeast by 40 percent if soil erosion continues at its currents rate. [Source: Tania Branigan, The Guardian, November 22, 2008]

Crops and water supplies are suffering serious damage as earth is washed and blown away across a third of the country, according to the largest study for 60 years. While experts said farming and forestry were the main causes of the problem in more than a third of the area affected, the research team said erosion was damaging industrial areas and cities as well as remote rural land. [Ibid]

Professor Mu Xingming of the Institute of Soil and Water Conservation, the bio-environmental security research team that carried out the survey, told the Guardian that overpopulation was largely to blame. He warns the poor will be worst hit, saying that almost three-quarters of them live in erosion-hit areas. [Ibid]

About 4.5 billion tons of soil are scoured away each year, at an estimated cost of $30 billion in this decade alone. The country's 80,000 reservoirs are also affected, with sand and mud reducing their storage capacity each year. Like soil deposits along rivers, that increases the risk of flooding. “If we don't conduct effective measures, erosion will cause major damage to social and economic development,” Chen Lei, director of the ministry of water resources, told the official People's Daily. [Ibid]

Soil Deterioration in China

Some scientists and academics warn that the deterioration of China’s overworked, polluted and artificially fertilized soil may cause a food shortages and even a food crisis as China struggles to feed its population. Han Jun, an expert on rural policy at the Development Research Center, told The Guardian that food security was a major challenge in the process of urbanization as farmers moved off their fields and into cities, where the consumption of meat, grain and diary products was higher. [Source: Jonathan Watts, The Guardian, February 23, 2010]

“The deterioration in soil quality is now a very important problem,” Han told reporters in Beijing. “I believe improving the quality [of soil] is of equal importance to protecting the amount of arable land.” The main causes of the decline are inappropriate farming techniques and industrial pollution. Han said more than twice as much nitrogen fertilizer is used on the average hectare of Chinese farmland as the global average and factory waste, including heavy metals and other toxins, has contaminated more than a tenth of the country's farmland. [Ibid]

Agriculture and Pollution in China

On the making of his documentary film Beijing Besieged by Garbage , photojournalist and filmmaker Wang Jiuliang said: In the summer of 2008, I returned to my hometown, a small rural village... I needed to find particularly clean natural environments to use as backgrounds for some photographs. But such places are hard to find now. Everywhere, covered by plastic tarps, there is the so-called modern agriculture, which has produced a countless number of discarded pesticide and chemical fertilizer packages scattered across the fields, ditches, and ponds. Herbicides and pesticides together have transformed the once-fertile natural environment into a lifeless one, and the rapidly developing consumerist lifestyle of the villagers has filled the village with piles of nondegradable garbage. The clean and beautiful hometown of my childhood memories---only a decade or two old---is nowhere to be found. [Source: Wang Jiuliang,, cross-currents.berkeley.edu, dgeneratefilms.com]

Peach Theft in China Destroys Research

Leo Lewis wrote in The Times: “A night-time peach-scrumping raid by an improbable trio of thieves in Henan province has dealt a blow to Beijing's economic policy and set Chinese horticultural science back by a decade. The theft, which was discovered, to the distress of scientists at China's Agricultural Science Academy, caused "inestimable" financial damage and involved more than 45 precious kilos of peaches. [Source: Leo Lewis, The Times, July 4, 2012]

The thieves - an opportunist group comprising a peasant, a fortune-teller and an incense merchant - saw their chance when roadworks gouged a hole in the outer wall of a peach farm in central China. One of the three, Li Yonggang, later told police that the scrumping party knew the farm was important but not that the peaches were the outcome of a ten-year hybridisation experiment by the Zhengzhou Fruit Tree Research Institute. [Ibid]

As night fell, the trio made its raid, stuffing the fruit into five woven plastic bags. Villagers alerted the institute and Niu Liang, an associate researcher, ran into the orchard to see the thieves disappearing through the hole in the wall. The peasant was caught but the incense salesman and fortune teller made off with three bags of fruit. In those bags were some 20 experimental breeds of peach cultivated as part of a national policy to improve the quality and yield of a fruit of which China produces 11 million tonnes a year, said Mr Niu. "Many of those peaches were national projects. This institute has been shouldered with the task of cultivating new breeds of peaches as part of the 12th Five-Year Plan period," he said, referring to the economic policies ordained by the Communist Party. "A huge number of cross-bred peaches have been stolen and this will have a direct effect on the experiments this year. If the project is delayed the loss will be beyond estimation."

As police continue their hunt for the two missing peach thieves, a terrified Mr Li told them that it was his first brush with fruit theft: "I knew that this place had something to do with science, but I really didn't know the peaches were so valuable," he said. Police in Zhengzhou must now decide if the matter should be treated as theft or industrial sabotage. An academic lawyer said that if the suspect did not know the peaches' value, there was little choice but to consider them normal peaches. The institute, he suggested, could pursue a civil case against the thieves, but might encounter difficulties because it had done nothing to protect the gap in its wall. [Ibid]

China’s first pollution census in 2010 revealed farm fertilizer was a bigger source of water contamination than factory effluents. More farmers are using nitrogen-based fertilizers instead of manure and are using less water in their fields. [Source: Jonathan Watts, The Guardian, February 23, 2010]

The risks of pesticides and fertilizers are well known. Han said farmers do not use pesticide, fertilizer and other chemicals on crops they grow for their personal consumption. [Ibid]

“It is possible for us to use less fertilizer, but impossible not to use fertilizer at all,” Hold told The Guardian. “We are now trying to guide farmers to use it in a more scientific way and to use more natural fertilizer from their households.” [Ibid]

Agricultural Land in China

Farm land is still owned and controlled by the state and leased to farmers. It can not be bought or sold only leased. Land essentially belongs to local governments, a holdover from the commune era. Reforms passed in the Deng era allowed individuals to contract land from villages. To be converted into non-agricultural land it has to be reclaimed by the government and rezoned.

Peasants often have little say on the fate of the land they work even thought it may have been worked by their families for generations.

Most farmland is measured in mu, which is roughly equal to a sixth of an acre. On average a household tends a plot of land measuring 1.2 acres but can be as small as an eighth of an acre.

These days farmers sign 30-year leases for the right to work a plot and but they no longer are required to pay harvest quotas or most agricultural taxes. They don’t own the land, they can’t sell it and they can’t use it for collateral on a loan.

A policy approved by the Communist Party in October 2008 that aims to end rural poverty gives farmers the right to trade, rent, sublet, subcontract, engage in joint stock ownership and transfer their land rights. If all goes according to plan the move will help impoverished farmers double their income to $1,200 by 2020 and provide them with money they didn’t have before and create a huge new reserve of private wealth that will stimulate domestic spending and growth.

Loss of Agricultural Land in China

20080316-agri-hillside-farm Nolls.jpg China lost 1 percent of its agricultural land---the equivalent of the Netherlands and Belgium combined---a year between 2000 and 2008 Beijing has promised to maintain a minimum of 12 million hectares of arable land but some think that limited has already been reached.

Since 1950, by some estimates, China has lost 20 percent of its arable land due to soil erosion, desertification, energy projects and land taken over by industry and housing development while its rural population has doubled. An area equal to all the cultivated land in Vietnam was lost in the 1990s alone.

The Chinese have increased arable land by terracing hillside and converting parks and cemeteries to farms and creating new land in waterways. Still this was not enough to make up for land loses. The amount arable land shrinks by 400,000 acres every year China is expected to lose 10 to 15 million more hectares by the year 2020 (land that could feed 125 million people).

See Erosion

Some environmentalist believe tat China's grain production will fall by at least 20 percent between 1990 and 2030 as a result loss of crop land due to industrial development and population increases.

Even available arable land is not in very good shape. More than 10 percent of China’s arable land is polluted with polluted water, excessive fertilizer, heavy metals and solid waste, posing a theat. too the food suppl and the situation is getting worse,

Loss of Agricultural Land to Development in China

Huge tracts of agricultural land are being lost to factories, residential areas, highways, railroads, industrial parks and golf courses. An estimated 6.7 million hectares of farmland was lost between 1996 and 2003 to industrial development. An estimated 3.6 million hectares (8.8 million acres) is expected to be lost to industrial development in the next six years.

By some estimates 10,000 square miles of agricultural land, an area roughly equivalent to the size of Maryland, is lost to development every year. Roughly one third of the deals for development are technically illegal, many of them orchestrated by local officials looking for a way to raise funds. In some cases prime farmland is dug up to make gold courses.

See Golf Courses.

The farm land that is developed is often very productive and easy to exploit commercially. So much agricultural land has been lost the government ordered a temporary freeze of development of farming land out of concerns that development was harming China’s ability to feed itself.

In the next three decades, Lin predicted the share of urban residents in China's population would rise from 47 percent to 75 percent, which would require the clearance of land for residences, roads and other infrastructure. With continued industrial and urban development, it will be a major task to be keep the area of arable land above 120 million hectares, the minimum that the government has long set for food security. Concerned about the loss of agricultural land, the Chinese government has imposed tight restrictions on land conservation. In 2008 it began prosecuting thousands of offenders. [Source: Jonathan Watts, The Guardian, March 5, 2009]

See Land Seizures, Below

Farmer Revolts in China

Farmers have revolted over high taxes, access to water and corruption of local officials. Thousand of villagers in Shandong rioted to gain access to drinking and irrigation water during a severe drought. In January 1999, 10,000 angry farmers confronted police in southern Hunan. One protester bled to death after he was hit in the head with a tear gas canister.

Farmers uses to particularly angry about taxes. In May 2001, farmers in Liushugouzi, a village in Shandong province, protested an effort by local officials to collect overdue taxes. The officials had set up “special courts,” that reminded some of the kangaroo courts from the Cultural Revolution, and hired thugs armed with electric batons to beat up farmers who didn’t pay. After ne farmer was badly beat up other farmers grabbed hoes and shovels and sticks and battled the thugs. The riot didn’t end until ambulances and more officials arrived. Afterwards, the farmers took the officials to court

There have been considerably fewer protests by farmers after the national tax was abolished.

Beijing has also began to control that multi-tiered systems that forced farmers to pay annual fees to village, county, municipal and provincial authorities,

See Tax Revolts.

Unfair Taxes in China

Excessive taxation, local corruption and declining incomes are problems faced by many people in the countryside. In many places officials impose high taxes and then siphon off the money for S.U.V.s and drinking, karaoke parties and prostitutes.

Under Chinese law, the government cannot tax farmers more than 5 percent of their income but that doesn’t stop tax collectors from collecting more. In some places where farmers only earn about $44 a year after they pay for fertilizer seeds and supplies. This means they should pay $2. Instead they are taxed $36. Farmers who resist have their food and cash crops taken by cadres and have high fines slapped onto their tax bills.

In some cases officials tear down homes and severely beat people who don’t pay their taxes. One man who demanded to see how his tax money was spent was attacked at home by thugs who took away his family's pigs and food supply.

Farmers are poor but often pay proportionally more taxes than everyone else. One farmer from Anhui province told the Asahi Shimbun, “If were discharge smoke, we have to pay a pollution tax. When we get married they tell is we have to pay a marriage tax.” In some cases after they pay their taxes they have little or nothing left over other than the food they stashed away to eat.

Taxes that often eat up more than half of farmers’ annual incomes. The taxes are sometimes collected corrupt officials who are trying to enrich themselves. Often though they are collected by bankrupt governments desperate for revenues to provide basic services. In recent years farm taxes have been reduced and eliminated.

Ian Johnson wrote in the New York Review of Books, “When I looked at rural unrest in China a decade ago , I was surprised that many farmers found out by watching television news that they were being overtaxed. Aware that local officials were overtaxing locals and causing riots, the authorities in Beijing broadcast new tax codes, making sure that people knew that it was not government policy to tax them to death. Some locals rioted and many others filed class-action lawsuits---but in the end local taxation was reduced (and eventually eliminated entirely). This wasn’t despite central government efforts, but because of them. The result is that rural protests, which were a regular feature of 1990s China, are far less common.” [Source: Ian Johnson, New York Review of Books, December 22, 2011]

Tax Revolts in the 1990s in China

In May 1998, unhappy farmers staged a demonstrations to demand tax relief. When a provincial Communist Party officials tried to negotiate he was taken hostage. A thousand riot police were called in before it was over numerous people were injured and 28 cars were damaged. Eleven people were arrested. A leader was given a sentence of 11½ years in prison.

In January 1999, a revolt broke out after a peasant committed suicide because he couldn't pay an arbitrary tax on slaughtered pigs levied by a local official to coincide with the Chinese New Year. Over 10,000 angry peasants marched on party headquarters, overturned the cars of Communist officials. The People's Armed Police had to called in to restore order.

Tax Revolts in the 2000s in China

In April, 2000 villagers in Jianxi clashed with police during a demonstration on taxes. Near dawn 500 armed troops and police fired into a crowd, killing two peasants and wounding 18 more. The peasants had been quarreling with officials for three years over excessively high taxes. Jiangxi had a series of problems. Much of it began in 1998, when farmers had their taxes raised even though many lost their crops to Yangtze River floods.

In August 2003, more than 10,000 farmers in Jianxi protesting high taxes rampaged through the offices and homes of Communist Party officials. In January 2004, villagers protesting high taxes in Yutang in Jiangxi were shot at by troops. Two men were killed.

The government is trying to help the farmers by offering more relief and cracking down on the officials that try to cheat them. In some places where reforms have been implemented farmers pay two third less than they used to. Taxes on smoking and marriage were eliminated. The problem is that local government bodies that relied on the money from the central government during the Mao era no longer receive it and have to make significant cuts or find ways to increase revenues.

Land Seizures and Farmers in China

See Separate Article

Improvement for Farmers in China

Farmers are doing better than they once were. Increases in food prices and a lowering of taxes has helped increase their farm incomes. In some places farm taxes have been abolished. Rich farmers and wealthy entrepreneurs are found throughout rural China. Economic growth and large amounts of money in circulation has helped raise prices for agricultural products and bring on more money for farmers. Many have side businesses.

In a speech in March 2004, Jiabao promised to lower taxes for farmers immediately and eliminate them by 2010 and subsidize grain producers with $1.2 bullion a year. The Chinese government also fought against U.S. pressure to reduce farm subsidies so that peasant farmer would not be dealt a further blow by trying to compete against mass-produced corporate agribusiness grain coming in from the United States.

In the mid 2000s the Chinese government launched a campaign o quell rural unrest and help farmers and other people in the impoverished countryside that included $42.5 billion in funds for rural development and promises to address the problems that lead farmers to revolt and leave for the cities. In some cases officials that seized land were punished rather than farmers who were protesting and farmers were given their land back or given better compensation packages.

In January 2006, rural reforms were given a high priority in the new five-year plan. The reforms included an end of rural taxes that were n some cases thousands of year old; free public education for peasant children; insurance to subsidize medical care, greater state investment in the countryside, guarantees to ensure stable grain production, and fair treatment of rural migrants in the cities.

Prices have risen for many crops. In July and August 2007, inflation rose to 5.6 percent and 6.5 percent respectively, the highest levels in a decade, primarily as the result of higher food prices, some of it the result of crop-damaging floods. The prices rises were good news for farmers.

Needed Improvement for Farmers in China

Many think that the thing that would help farmers the most and help spur the economies in rural areas would be a fulfillment of Mao’s vision to “turn over private ownership of land to the peasants.” According to the Economist, “This would ease rural strife, fuel growth, and help developed the genuine market economy, the leadership claims to want. Giving peasants marketable ownership rights and developing a legal system to protect them, would bring huge economic benefits. If peasant could mortgage their land, they could raise ,money to boost productivity.”

“Ownership would give them incentive to do so. And if peasants could sell their land, they could acquire sufficient capital to start life anew in urban areas. This would boost urban consumption and encourage the migration of unproductive rural labor into the cities. For China to sustain its impressive growth rate and reduce inequalities, getting the many tens of millions of underemployed peasant off the land an into wealth-creating jobs is essential.”

Concerns that hold back such reforms include worries about mass migrations to the cities and the ideology shock of abandoning of the last vestiges of “socialism” (collective ownership of land),

Image Sources: Beifan.com http://www.beifan.com/; Nolls China website http://www.paulnoll.com/China/index.html

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Page Top

© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated January 2013

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been authorized by the copyright owner. Such material is made available in an effort to advance understanding of country or topic discussed in the article. This constitutes 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. If you are the copyright owner and would like this content removed from factsanddetails.com, please contact me.