The government should be determined
to increase financial support to help improve the plight of China's
750 million farmers.
This was a suggestion among a
package of policy measures raised by Chen Xiwen, deputy director of
the Office of Central Financial Work Leading Group, to speed up the
reform and development of China's massive rural regions.
"We should not only pay lip service
to the idea. We need action," Chen said, with the expectation that
his suggestions will be written into the draft of China's 11th
Five-Year (2006-10) Economic and Social Development Plan.
He said China's highest leadership
has already expressed political commitment when it stressed
recently "the country has entered into the era in which industry
should help promote development of agriculture and the cities
should help development of rural regions."
Since the founding of New China in
1949, China has stepped up favorable measures to develop cities and
industry, but attached less importance to farmers and rural
"Currently the financial support
given to China's rural regions is far from enough," Chen said,
adding that nearly 94 percent of investment from government coffers
at various levels is poured into cities. "Given the big population
in the rural regions, it's incredible."
Chen also suggested more investment
be earmarked for infrastructure construction, education, medical
facilities, and social security networks in the rural
Joachim von Braun, director-general
of Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute,
applauded Chen's package suggestion, saying "it's timely as the
country is drawing up its blueprint for the coming years."
He also said inequality between
farmers and urban residents is the biggest problem China faces. "It
should be addressed by combined methods."
Braun said that investment in
infrastructure such as irrigation systems is important, and that
building up the ability of poor farmers to adapt to the market
economy is essential.
He said the government should also
help farmers use modern science and technology to meet the
challenges of an increasingly commercialized and globalized
"We need science and technology to
improve productivity in an environmentally-friendly way," Braun
He also suggested that the
government invest more to make higher education accessible to rural
"Education can lift them out of
poverty. The government should go beyond just emphasizing primary
and secondary education in the rural regions," Braun said.
Commenting on the some of the
hardships that China's rural population suffers, Chen raised the
example of grain production. The nation's grain production this
year is expected to reach 475 million tons, up from 469.5 million
tons in 2004. There has been a continuous rise in production since
2003, when China's grain output hit 430 million tons, a 14-year
"Weather permitting, China is
heading for another bumper year, but farmers have been feeling less
happy," Chen said. "The country is still being challenged by a
grave situation in rural regions."
Chen said there is little chance of
a grain price rise, and coupled with a rapid increase of production
material costs, uncertainty in weather and frequent natural
disasters, this has not been a happy year for many Chinese
(China Daily September 26,