Promote Rural Revitalization*
September 21, 2018
Rural revitalization is one of the major strategies put forward by the Party at its 19th National Congress in 2017. Focused on this topic, this group study session aims to further our understanding of the strategy so that we have a clear picture of the guidelines and improve our performance accordingly.
I. The Rural Revitalization Strategy – an Overarching, Historic Mission for Socialist Modernization
I have always emphasized that we will never have all-round modernization without the modernization of agriculture and rural areas. In the process of modernization, how we deal with the relationships between industry and agriculture and between urban and rural areas determines, to some extent, the success or failure of our modernization drive. The history of modernization tells us that in some countries failure to properly handle these relationships has resulted in underdeveloped agriculture and rural areas, short supply of agricultural products, and inability to effectively absorb rural labor. As large numbers of farmers without work flocked into urban slums, rural areas and the rural economy plunged into destitution, the progress of industrialization and urbanization halted, social order was disrupted, and the whole country eventually slipped into the "middle-income trap". The underlying problems lie in the systems of leadership and national governance. As a socialist country under the CPC's leadership, China should have the capacity and resources to properly handle the relationships between industry and agriculture and between urban and rural areas, and steadily steer socialist modernization.
China now has reached a historic stage at which we should properly handle the two relationships. After the founding of the PRC in 1949, faced with a seriously backward economy and a largely hostile international environment, we embarked on industrialization from scratch and, with the support of agriculture and rural areas, established a relatively complete industrial system and national economic system through our own efforts. Since reform and opening up was introduced in 1978, we have once again relied on rural labor, land, and capital input to give a powerful boost to industrialization and urbanization. Tremendous changes have taken place in China's cities and towns as a result. In this process, remarkable progress has also been witnessed in agriculture and rural areas, laying a solid foundation for China's reform, opening up and socialist modernization.
We have handled these two relationships appropriately and to good effect. With years of bumper harvests, farmers have increased their incomes, generally ensuring stability and harmony in rural areas. It is important to note that over a long period of time, hundreds of millions of migrant workers have traveled between rural and urban areas in an orderly manner and to good effect. They have not created social unrest but have provided essential support for our economic and social development.
However, we should also be aware that agricultural and rural development in China has lagged behind industrialization and urbanization. The imbalance in China's development is most visible between urban and rural areas, as rural areas suffered most from insufficient development. Since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, we have made up our mind to adjust the two relationships, and have taken a series of measures to support agriculture with industry, and rural areas with urban development. The Party put forward the strategy of rural revitalization at its 19th National Congress in order to handle the two relationships from an overall and strategic perspective.
It is an objective rule that in the process of modernization the share of urban development increases and that of rural development decreases. But we need to note that our country has a population of nearly 1.4 billion. No matter how far industrialization and urbanization go, agriculture always needs to develop, the countryside will never vanish, and urban and rural areas will continue to co-develop and coexist in China for a long time. This is also an objective rule. Even if China's urbanization rate reaches 70 percent, there will still be more than 400 million people living in rural areas. If these 400 million people are left behind in the process of modernization, there will be prosperous cities on the one side and destitute villages on the other, which is not in line with the mission of our Party or the essential requirements of socialism. We will not achieve real modernization in this way. Forty years ago we lifted the curtain of reform and opening up by introducing rural reform. Today, 40 years later, we should break new ground for integrated urban-rural development and modernization by revitalizing the countryside.
II. Implementation of the Rural Revitalization Strategy – Key to the Work on Agriculture, Rural Areas and Rural People in the New Era
In my report to the 19th CPC National Congress, I summarized the rural revitalization strategy, and proposed that we must prioritize the development of agriculture and rural areas, featuring thriving businesses, an eco-friendly environment, social etiquette and civility, effective governance, and prosperous rural population. We need to put in place sound systems, mechanisms, and policies for promoting integrated urban-rural development, and move faster to modernize agriculture and rural areas. Agricultural and rural modernization is the general goal of the strategy; prioritizing agriculture and rural areas is the general principle; thriving businesses, an eco-friendly environment, social etiquette and civility, effective governance, and prosperous rural population are the general requirements; and putting in place sound systems, mechanisms, and policies for integrated urban-rural development is the institutional guarantee.
The work on agriculture, rural areas and rural people in the new era must focus on the general goal of modernizing agriculture and rural areas. Over the decades, to make sure the people have enough to eat, we have expended a lot of energy on agricultural modernization and made considerable progress. At present, over 65 percent of the work on sowing, plowing and harvesting major crops has been mechanized, and technological advances in agriculture have accounted for more than 57 percent of the growth of agricultural output. Together with our per capita share of major agricultural products, they have all exceeded the world average. The supply of agricultural products is extremely rich.
However, compared to urban areas, rural areas lag far behind in infrastructure, public services and social governance. Rural modernization involves both material and people, and covers the rural governance system and governing capability. We need to design and implement agricultural modernization along with rural modernization, and transform China from a country with high agricultural output to one with a leading edge in agriculture.
The whole Party must address affairs related to agriculture, rural areas and rural people as a top priority. We have always emphasized that we should invest more in agriculture and rural areas, take less from farmers and reduce restrictions. But in reality, these commitments have not always been matched with action. We should no longer tolerate such negligence; we must take effective measures in terms of financial input, factor allocation, public services and assignment of officials, to bolster agricultural and rural development and narrow the gap between urban and rural areas. In so doing, we will make agriculture a promising industry, farming an attractive occupation, and the countryside an appealing place to live and work.
The general requirements of thriving businesses, eco-friendly environments, social etiquette and civility, effective governance and prosperous rural population reflect the inclusive nature of the rural revitalization strategy. At the beginning of this century, when China had just reached moderate prosperity in a general sense and was faced with the task of achieving moderate prosperity in all respects, the CPC put forth the general guidelines for building a new socialist countryside: more-developed production, better-off farmers, social etiquette and civility, a clean environment, and democratic administration. These were in line with the prevailing conditions of the time.
As socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered a new era, the principal challenges facing agriculture and society at large have undergone great changes. Higher expectations from farmers have set a higher bar for agriculture and rural development. Thriving businesses are the prerequisite for solving all rural problems. From "more-developed production" to "thriving businesses", the change reflects the new requirements for agriculture and the rural economy to adapt to changing market demand, speed up structural upgrading, and promote industrial integration. An eco-friendly living environment is an inherent requirement of rural revitalization. From a "clean environment" to an "eco-friendly environment", the change reflects farmers' desire for a beautiful environment and substantive progress towards an eco-civilization. Social etiquette and civility is an urgent need, and the emphasis is on carrying forward our core socialist values, protecting and continuing the best of traditional rural culture, strengthening public cultural services, helping rural people abandon outdated social mores and customs, and boosting their vitality as the countryside changes for the better. Effective governance is an important guarantee for rural revitalization. From "democratic administration" to "effective governance", the change reflects the need to modernize our rural governance for a vigorous, harmonious and orderly society. Prosperity is the main goal of rural revitalization. From "better-off farmers" to "prosperous farmers", the change reflects farmers' growing desire for a better life.
We can see that rural revitalization is a comprehensive drive that targets progress in businesses, the workforce, culture, eco-civilization and the organizational structure. It applies the principles of the Five-sphere Integrated Plan and the Four-pronged Comprehensive Strategy in our work on agriculture, rural areas and rural people. We need to make coordinated efforts to promote rural economic, political, cultural, social, and eco-environmental progress and strengthen Party organizations in rural areas, so as to upgrade agriculture, achieve overall growth for rural areas, and guarantee well-rounded development for the rural population.
III. Remaining Committed to Chinese Approach to Rural Revitalization
In order to implement the rural revitalization strategy, we must first of all establish rules based on practice. Rural revitalization has never been tried before in a country like China with a population of nearly 1.4 billion; it is a pioneering initiative that has no experience to follow but our own.
China has a large population and suffers from an acute shortage of arable land – the area of arable land per household is only 1/40 of that of the European Union and 1/400 of that of the United States. In many parts of the country, farmers work on small patches of land and individual households do not have enough land to till, which renders it impossible for China to develop large-scale and mechanized farming throughout the country as is practiced in Europe and the United States. Instead, we should, in most part of China, encourage small household farmers to engage in modern agriculture by improving agricultural service systems. Now and for the foreseeable future, we need to focus on farmers' cooperatives and family farms – two types of agricultural businesses that emerged in line with the two-tier system combining unified collective land management and individual household operations – to make agri-businesses more efficient.
China's long and rich agro-civilization is the root of traditional Chinese culture. Many villages go back hundreds or even thousands of years, and have been preserved well up to this day. Many customs and rules have deep cultural roots and still play an important role. We should give expression to morality and virtue while implementing law-based self-governance, so that our fine cultural and moral traditions support and enhance the rule of law, and vice versa. We need to continue to explore and spread good practices in this regard.
We must pursue integrated urban-rural development for the rural revitalization strategy to be successful. Our urbanization drive included rural towns when it was first initiated. The purpose was to promote integrated urban-rural development. We need to power the initiative with reforms and move faster to develop and improve institutions, mechanisms and policies for integrated urban-rural development. We need to enhance the multiple input guarantee mechanism, increase investment in agricultural and rural infrastructure, accelerate integration of urban and rural infrastructure, and promote the exchange of human resources, land, capital, and other factors between urban and rural areas. We should establish and improve institutions to extend basic public services to rural areas so that rural residents will enjoy equal access to these services with their urban counterparts. We need to further reform the household registration system, improve basic public services for farmers who have become permanent urban residents, and at the same time continue to protect their land contracting rights, their rights to use homestead, and their rights to share collective income of their villages.
Poverty elimination is the priority of rural revitalization. Poor villages and the counties and townships where they are located must focus on this priority and give it the utmost attention. We will have eliminated absolute poverty by the time we achieve moderate prosperity in all respects in 2020, but relative poverty will still exist for a long time. After 2020, the current measures aimed at eradicating absolute poverty will be gradually adjusted to regular support measures for helping the population in relative poverty, and integrated into the overall plans for rural revitalization. Early planning must be done to achieve this goal.
IV. Providing a Strong Political Guarantee for the Rural Revitalization Strategy
To implement the strategy of rural revitalization, Party committees and organizations at all levels must strengthen their leadership and bring together the strengths of the whole Party and all sectors of society. We must always follow the correct political direction, uphold the collective ownership of rural land, develop new types of collective economy, and take the road of common prosperity. We should give full play to the role of rural Party organizations, and strengthen these organizations with a strong leadership. Poor villages need strong Party branches to break new ground, and better-off villages also need capable Party branches to secure further progress. Human resources are the foundation of rural revitalization. We need to find innovative ways to improve the management of rural human resources, fully tap into the potential of the rural workforce, and attract more urban entrepreneurs and professionals of all kinds to rural areas.
In implementing the rural revitalization strategy, we should properly handle the following relationships:
First, the relationship between long-term and short-term goals. Rural revitalization is a long-term and arduous task. We must adopt a long-term perspective, and plan thoughtfully before taking action. We need to make rational plans, emphasize quality, and take our time to ensure efficacy. We need to focus on the tasks at hand, look for areas for breakthroughs, and set priorities. We will work away issue by issue, year in and year out, accumulating small successes and moving towards great achievements. We should have sufficient patience, and think ahead about problems that might emerge. We must not be overambitious or too impatient for success, and we must refrain from impulsive campaigns that might lead to missteps or about-turns.
Second, the relationship between top-level design and grassroots experimentation. With a clear top-level design for rural revitalization from the CPC Central Committee in place, all localities need to consider their own realities and make feasible local plans. Village plans should not be duplicates of urban plans, nor can all villages apply the same model. We should understand the differences between one village and another, and work out targeted plans and distinctive policies in line with local conditions, to make each a unique home. We should give full play to the principal role and initiative of hundreds of millions of rural people, mobilize their enthusiasm, creativity, and pioneering spirit, and summarize the creative experience at the grassroots level to constantly improve the top-level design.
Third, the relationship between the decisive role of the market and a better role of the government. We need to further free our minds and promote a new round of rural reform, beginning with the deep-seated problems in agriculture and rural development and focusing on the relationship between farmers and the land, between farmers and collectives, and between rural and urban residents. We need to define rural ownership more clearly, promote market-oriented allocation of rural resources, lend more effective support to agriculture, and modernize rural governance. We need to better organize ourselves and activate endogenous drivers of rural revitalization. We should extend supply-side structural reform and enhance the overall efficiency and competitiveness of our agriculture based on market demand. We should optimize the environment for creativity and entrepreneurship in rural areas, invigorate the rural economy with more flexible policies, and cultivate new drivers of rural growth. We need to give full play to the positive role of the government in planning and guidance, policy support, market supervision, and legal support. Rural reform cannot be completed overnight. We may have to endure temporary pain or make sacrifices, but we must not deviate from the correct course. I have always emphasized that no matter how rural reform evolves, we must never alter the collective ownership of rural land, reduce the size of arable land, weaken our grain production capacity, or harm the interests of farmers. We must stay true to these principles and never stray from this path.
Fourth, the relationship between enhancing the people's sense of gain and adapting to the current stage of development. We should focus on issues of the greatest concern to farmers and those affecting their most immediate interests, and improve areas of weakness in rural development and people's wellbeing, so that farmers will have a stronger sense of gain, happiness, and security. We need to rationally evaluate government revenues and expenditure, the strength of the collective economy, and public adaptability, determine the scale of investment, financing channels, and debt levels, and set goals, tasks and work priorities for different stages, so as to form a long-term mechanism for sustainable development. We must do the best we can. We should never extend our reach beyond our stage of development or set unrealistic goals, nor should we favor form over substance or indulge in showcase projects.
* Speech at the eighth group study session of the Political Bureau of the 19th CPC Central Committee.
(Not to be republished for any commercial or other purposes.)