China issued the first document this year which focuses on needs of rural areas of the country. This year’s theme is “consolidating the foundation of agricultture.” Recent figures indicate while China’s population increased by 90 million over the past decade, per capital grain production froll from 412 kg in 1996 to 378 kg in 2006. Meanwhile, 220 million of the 990 million rural population began to work in urban and township enterprises. This resulted in a significant decline in the number of people available to harvest crops. The new document ensures more funding will go to rural areas in an effort to raise the level of crop harvests. There will be an emphasis on improving roads, water supplies and providing electricity.
An important neglected aspect of China’s dramatic rise to industrial and economic prominence has been failure to bring along rural people on this rise in income. The new document seeks to improve the quality of rural schools and work to ensure more of its graduates go on to colleges. There is even mention in the document of stimulating more private enterprise activities on the part of rural farmers in order to give people a greater stake in improvement of their farms.
A society in which 700 million labor in rural areas with lower quality schools and smaller incomes is a recipe for social disaster. At some point the rural population will become angry and demand equal rights in terms of being able to participate with the urban areas in becoming a modern society in which poverty is dramatically reduced.