•China has secured its own food supply, providing sufficient volume and quality of food to more than 1.4 billion people.
•Modernisation for hundreds of millions of rural residents as a whole will unleash enormous creative momentum and consumption potential, giving great impetus to economic and social development.
While drawing up the grand blueprint for building a great modern socialist country at the 20th National Congress, the Communist Party of China (CPC) unveiled a general plan for agricultural and rural work. To achieve this objective, China needs to advance rural revitalisation in the next five years, realise agricultural modernisation by 2035, and transform into a strong agricultural country by the middle of the century.
This plan of strategic importance was made by the central Party leadership led by President Xi Jinping with a view to building a great modern socialist country in all respects. Xi believes that no matter how modern China becomes, providing a stable supply of food and important agricultural products for more than the country’s 1.4 billion people will always remain the government’s top priority.
Agriculture is an industry that employs nearly 200 million people, and the countryside is the permanent home of almost 500 million rural residents. Positive role in ecological conservation, leisure and sightseeing, and cultural preservation. Modernisation for hundreds of millions of rural residents as a whole will unleash enormous creative momentum and consumption potential, giving great impetus to economic and social development.
Compared with new industrialisation, informatisation, and urbanisation, China’s agricultural modernisation lags far behind. This mainly manifests in the following areas: agricultural production efficiency is relatively low, with labour productivity at 25.3 per cent of that in non-agricultural sectors, the comparative performance of the country’s agriculture is poor, farm produce is notably uncompetitive on the international market, domestic prices of food and other agricultural products are higher across the board than those on the international market, rural areas lag behind cities in terms of infrastructure and public services, and the income and consumption spending ratios between urban and rural residents are 2.5:1 and 1.9:1, respectively.
THE FARMING LANDSCAPE
Agriculture is an industry that employs nearly 200 million people, and the countryside is the permanent home of almost 500 million rural residents.
President Xi Jinping has given five Chinese features of a strong agricultural nation. With a population of more than 1.4 billion people, China must ensure that its food supply is firmly in its own hands. It must pay attention to both output and production capacity, both quantity and quality, and both agricultural production and ecological conservation.
Second, the country must rely on her two-tiered agricultural operation system to develop the sector. Given the basic reality that its agriculture industry is made up of a vast number of smallholder farmers, China should support both joint and individual farming operations, with household operations as the primary unit. It should provide extensive commercial agricultural services for smallholder farmers, foster new types of agribusiness, and develop appropriately scaled agricultural operations with Chinese features.
Third, China needs to develop eco-friendly, low-carbon agriculture. It must abandon the old ways of draining ponds to catch fish, pursuing immediate gains at the expense of long-term interests, overwatering and over-fertilising crops, and large-scale demolition and construction. China should work to achieve positive interplay between agricultural production, rural development, countryside living, and ecosystem conservation. It must make eco-agriculture and a low-carbon countryside a reality, save resources, be environmentally friendly, and keep waters clear and mountains green.
Fourth, China needs to carry forward its farming civilization. The country is based on a splendid, time-honored agricultural civilisation, and must ensure that her roots continue to grow. It should make sure her rural social models are complete and effective, keep alive and carry forward her cultural heritage and virtues, encourage exchanges between farming and urban cultures, promote coordinated material and cultural-ethical progress, and see that her farmers are confident, self-reliant, enterprising, and filled with inner strength.
Fifth, China needs to make steady progress in pursuing shared prosperity. It should work to achieve integrated urban-rural development, make basic public services equally available to both urban and rural residents, and ensure modern standards of living in rural areas so as to facilitate the well-rounded development of farmers.
To be a strong agricultural nation, China must guarantee the supply of food and important agricultural products. For years, China has secured its own food supply, providing sufficient volume and quality of food to more than 1.4 billion people. Now, as inelastic demand for food is increasing, her efforts to maintain the food supply are under great pressure.
Enhancing production capacity remains China’s primary task. Grain production in China has remained above 650 million tons for eight consecutive years, and the higher it goes, the more difficult it becomes to increase further. The country needs to launch a new round of initiatives to increase production capacity by 50 million tons, promptly formulating work plans and assigning relevant tasks.
To ensure food security, in addition to remaining vigilant in normal circumstances, we must also strengthen our emergency supply capacity by systematically identifying potential risks in grain production, processing, transportation, storage, and trade.
Grain production can only be guaranteed if it is profitable for farmers. China plans to set up sound mechanisms to protect grain producers’ profits, improve the integrated policy system for prices, subsidies, and insurance; and refine the mechanisms for ensuring the provision of agricultural production materials at stable prices. With these efforts, the country will stabilise farmers’ expectations and reduce production risks.
Stephen Ndegwa is the Executive Director of South-South Dialogues, a Nairobi-based communications development think tank.