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Rural Reform Aims to Empower Villagers

Xinhua News Agency, October 17, 2013 Adjust font size:

Deciding what trees to plant on the street is not a bid deal, but it's an highly visible symbol of the many new powers villagers in Xiaogang have recently regained.

"They planted peach and persimmon at first, but the village council objected, so camphor was chosen instead," said Yan Lihua, a villager of Xiaogang, in Fengyang County, Anhui Province.

A symbol of China's rural reforms, Xiaogang became famous in 1978 after 18 of its farmers made a secret pact to resist the country's egalitarian agricultural system. The pact meant that after the farmers had handed a certain percentage of their produce to government, they were able to keep the rest for themselves.

The move turned out to be history making and unleashed farmers' productivity that had remained dormant under the collective commune system. The central government approved the new system and the model was adopted across the country.

"When villagers' basic material needs are satisfied, they hope to participate more in the management of their village," said Yan Jinchang, one of the 18 farmers and now a member of the village council.

The latest reform in Xiaogang now centers on power decentralization of the village branch of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and village committee, a self-ruling body whose members are directly elected by villagers.

The village council has the veto power on big decisions affecting the villagers, according to Zhang Xingyu, the village' party chief.

The council has 30 members. Each of them must get the support of 15 villagers to be elected.

"We want to make sure the council represents the will of the villagers," Yan Jinchang said.

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