Move Faster to Build a Strong Agricultural Country and Advance Agricultural and Rural Modernization
Move Faster to Build a Strong Agricultural Country and Advance Agricultural and Rural Modernization
The main tasks of this Central Rural Work Conference are to fully implement the guiding principles from the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in October 2022, review our work this year on agriculture, rural areas, and farmers (hereinafter “sannong” work—translator), study and plan for our work of the coming year, and make strategic plans for acting faster to build China into a strong agricultural country.
After the conclusion of our Party’s 20th National Congress, I went on my first inspection trip to Yan’an in Shaanxi Province and Anyang in Henan Province to see the progress of rural revitalization. Along the way, I pondered how we could move faster to build up China’s strength in agriculture and strive to advance agricultural and rural modernization on our new journey to build a modern socialist country. With my speech at this conference, I aim to show the central Party leadership’s clear attitude toward strengthening “sannong” work and to send a strong signal for prioritizing and boosting agricultural development. Now, I would like to make a few points on making China strong in agriculture and strengthening “sannong” work.
President Xi Jinping delivers a keynote speech at the 2022 Central Rural Work Conference. The conference was held in Beijing, December 23-24, 2022. PHOTO BY XINHUA REPORTER RAO AIMIN
I. Carrying out agricultural and rural work while keeping the goal of building a strong agricultural country firmly in mind
While drawing up the grand blueprint for building a great modern socialist country at the 20th National Congress, our Party unveiled a general plan for agricultural and rural work. To put it briefly, our “sannong” work needs to advance rural revitalization in the next five years, basically realize agricultural modernization by 2035, and build China into a strong agricultural country by the middle of the century.
This plan of strategic importance was made by the central Party leadership with a view to building a great modern socialist country in all respects. To build a strong country, we must first strengthen agriculture; a country can only be strong if it is strong agriculturally. Without a strong agricultural sector, there can be no strong modern country; without agricultural and rural modernization, socialist modernization cannot be complete. We must gain a deep understanding of the central Party leadership’s strategic plan and give prominence to moving faster to build up China’s strength in agriculture as we work toward building a great modern socialist country.
President Xi Jinping talks with villagers at an apple orchard in Nangou Village, Yan’an City, Shaanxi Province, October 26, 2022. He toured the city of Yan’an and then the city of Anyang in neighboring Henan Province, October 26-28. PHOTO BY XINHUA REPORTER YAN YAN
A strong agricultural sector lays the groundwork for building a strong modern socialist country. Agriculture is our foundation, and if a foundation is not solid, the building above will not be stable. No matter how modern our society becomes, providing a stable supply of food and important agricultural products for our more than 1.4 billion people will always remain our top priority.
The people’s needs for a better life cannot be met without agricultural development. Building a modern socialist country is about making people’s lives ever better. As we move forward with modernization and our material circumstances grow richer, the people are becoming increasingly fond of the countryside’s green hills and clear waters, and apart from ensuring the supply of food and important farm produce, agriculture can play a greater positive role in ecological conservation, leisure and sightseeing, and cultural preservation. Agriculture is an industry that employs nearly 200 million people, and the countryside is the permanent home of almost 500 million rural residents. Only when we do well in our agricultural and rural work and our rural residents live and work in peace and comfort can they have a full sense of fulfillment, happiness, and security.
Achieving high-quality development also depends on agricultural development. We cannot maintain economic stability unless our agricultural sector is robust, our supply of farm produce is ensured, our prices are stable, and our people have peace of mind. In expanding modernization, agriculture and rural areas provide a broad stage on which much work can be done. Modernization 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. Facilitating smooth flows between industry and agriculture and between urban and rural areas is an important part of our efforts to ensure unimpeded flow in the domestic economy and to enhance the economy’s resilience and strategic depth. For boosting domestic demand, stabilizing economic growth, and promoting development, strengthening agriculture is a major focus and an important breakthrough point.
Agriculture is also the foundation of our national security. Agriculture provides security for life and survival and thus is vital for national security. In the world today, momentous changes unseen in a century are picking up pace, and the Covid-19 pandemic keeps resurging. Suppression and containment from the outside world continue to escalate, and uncertainties and unforeseen factors are increasing significantly. If something were to go wrong with our agriculture, our food supply would fall into others’ hands, and we would have to rely on others to feed ourselves. Then what use would there be in talking about modernization? Only when we build up our agriculture and make sure our food supply is completely guaranteed can we have the confidence and strategic initiative to maintain stability, respond to changes, and open up new prospects.
At present, agriculture and rural areas remain an area of weakness in our country’s modernization drive. Since the advent of the new era in 2012, the central Party leadership has followed the tradition of attaching great importance to “sannong” work. Building on the work done since the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949 and particularly since the launch of reform and opening up in 1978, the central Party leadership has fought a critical battle against poverty and implemented a rural revitalization strategy, working with limited resources to steadily solve the food problems of more than 1.4 billion people. As a result, all rural residents have shaken off extreme poverty and joined our society of moderate prosperity in all respects. China’s great achievements in “sannong” work have won worldwide recognition.
At the same time, due to inadequate resources per capita, weak foundations, numerous long-standing problems, and other reasons, “sannong” work is still an area of weakness. Compared with new industrialization, informatization, and urbanization, agricultural modernization lags far behind. This mainly manifests in the following areas: our agricultural production efficiency is relatively low, with labor productivity being only 25.3 percent of that in non-agricultural sectors; the comparative performance of our agriculture is poor; our farm produce is notably uncompetitive on the international market, and 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. These are important reasons the central Party leadership has given greater weight to advancing rural revitalization and moving faster to boost China’s strength in agriculture.
The basic requisite for building a strong agricultural nation is modernizing the agriculture industry. The strong agricultural country we want to build and the agricultural modernization we want to achieve contain elements that are common to other modern strong agricultural countries, but they are more characterized by features that are unique to the Chinese context. In terms of common elements, we need to follow the general laws governing agricultural modernization and build up China’s strengths in food supply, agricultural technology and equipment, systems of operation, industrial resilience, and international competitiveness. In terms of unique Chinese features, we must ground ourselves in our national context; we must act in line with our resource endowment as a populous country with limited arable land, stay rooted in our long history as a farming civilization, and respond to the call of the times for harmony between humanity and nature; and we must follow our own path, rather than copying other countries’ models of agricultural modernization.
In my opinion, the Chinese features of a strong agricultural nation should mainly include the following five aspects.
First, we must rely on our own strength to ensure food supply. With a population of more than 1.4 billion people, China must, at all times, ensure that its food supply is firmly in its own hands. We need to pay attention to both output and production capacity, both quantity and quality, and both agricultural production and ecological conservation, and we need to make our agricultural industrial and supply chains more resilient and stable.
Second, we need to rely on our two-tiered agricultural operation system to develop the sector. Given the basic reality that our agriculture industry is made up of a vast number of smallholder farmers, we should support both joint and individual farming operations, with household operations as the primary unit. We should provide extensive commercial agricultural services for smallholder farmers, foster new types of agribusiness, and develop appropriately scaled agricultural operations with Chinese features.
President Xi Jinping with people from various ethnic groups during a visit to Xinchengximen Village in the city of Turpan, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, July 14, 2022. He toured the region, July 12-15. PHOTO BY XINHUA REPORTER LI XUEREN
Third, we need to develop eco-friendly, low-carbon agriculture. We should see that our agriculture industry is green and that it is grounded in conservation. We must abandon the old ways of draining ponds to catch fish, pursuing immediate gains at the expense of long-term interests, overwatering and over-fertilizing crops, and large-scale demolition and construction. We should work to achieve positive interplay between agricultural production, rural development, countryside living, and ecosystem conservation; make eco-agriculture and a low-carbon countryside a reality; save resources and be environmentally friendly; and keep our waters clear and mountains green.
Fourth, we need to carry forward China’s farming civilization. Our country is based on a splendid, time-honored agricultural civilization, and we must ensure that its roots continue to grow. We should make sure our rural social models are complete and effective, keep alive and carry forward our cultural heritage and virtues, encourage exchanges between farming and urban cultures, promote coordinated material and cultural-ethical progress, and see that our farmers are confident, self-reliant, enterprising, and filled with inner strength.
Fifth, we need to make steady progress in pursuing shared prosperity. We 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 our farmers and enable them to lead happier and more prosperous lives. In addition, our efforts to build a strong agricultural country will also contribute to global endeavors to promote sustainable development and eliminate poverty.
Building China into a strong agricultural nation more quickly is our Party’s strategic plan for “sannong” work on our new journey in the new era. We must maintain strategic resolve and make sustained efforts to see it through. At present, it is imperative we concentrate on the goal of making China strong in agriculture and plan and advance “sannong” work in a scientific way.
First, we should strengthen top-level design. In devising plans for moving faster to build up China’s strength in agriculture, we should formulate roadmaps and work programs to meet the objectives for the next five years, 2035, and the middle of the century, respectively, and we should make sure these plans carry real regulatory force. We should align new plans with existing plans, maintain continuity in our efforts, and avoid constantly changing our policies and measures. Once made, these plans must be taken seriously and implemented strictly.
Second, we should move forward steadily step by step. The development of a strong agricultural country is a long and arduous task, and we must adopt an incremental approach and resolve to keep hammering away until our mission is accomplished. At present, we should focus on promoting rural revitalization across the board and do more things that build foundations and yield long-term benefits.
Third, we should tailor measures to local conditions and seek real outcomes. According to their available resources and stages of development, all localities should leverage their strengths, serve the overall interests, and make their due contributions. Starting with practical issues that are the most pressing for local agricultural and rural development and that are of the greatest concern to rural residents, they should give full play to the drive, initiative, and creativity of their farmers, take on tasks one at a time with the determination to see them through, and refrain from launching unrealistically grand projects or those solely for show.
II. Ensuring the stable and secure supply of food and important agricultural products will always be at the top of the agenda for building China into a strong agricultural country
Without agriculture there is no stability; without food chaos will reign. This has been seen repeatedly throughout world history. In ancient China, during the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC), there were two such examples. In one case, the State of Qi tricked the State of Lu into growing mulberries instead of grain crops and forced it to become its vassal as it ran out of food. In the other, Goujian, King of the State of Yue, boiled a gift of seeds before presenting it to the State of Wu as tribute; when Wu’s subsequent grain crops failed, Goujian easily conquered the vulnerable state. Since the Ukraine Crisis broke out in early 2022, more than 30 countries have restricted grain exports. As a result, some countries have experienced social turmoil or have even seen transfers of state power. Only when our food security is firmly in our own hands can we take the initiative to build up China’s strength and achieve national rejuvenation.
To be a strong agricultural nation, we must, first of all, be able to guarantee the supply of food and important agricultural products. For years, we have secured China’s food supply on our own, providing a sufficient volume and quality of food to more than 1.4 billion people. Now, as inelastic demand for food is increasing, our efforts to maintain the food supply are under great pressure. We must take holistic measures to consolidate the foundations for food security. We should strengthen our material foundations by improving farmland management and increasing the application of technology; we should also provide institutional safeguards to enhance production capacity, optimize structures, increase resilience, guarantee economic returns, and make sure that all parties assume responsibility.
Enhancing production capacity remains our primary task. Grain production in China has remained above 650 million tonnes for eight consecutive years, and the higher it goes, the more difficult it becomes to increase further. We need to launch a new round of initiatives to increase production capacity by 50 million tonnes, promptly formulating work plans and assigning relevant tasks.
In improving production capacity, farmland and seeds are two vital factors. We must ensure China’s total area of farmland stays above the red line of 120 million hectares, firmly putting an end to any attempt to use cropland for any purpose other than agriculture and adopting effective measures to prevent planting of non-grain crops on farmland designated for grain. In line with the general principle of reserving productive farmland for growing grain, fertile farmland should prioritize grain crops, while fruit trees and saplings should be grown in hillside fields to the greatest extent possible, and in producing vegetables and garden plants, we should rely more on protected agriculture and plant factories. Preventing non-grain production on grain cropland demands policy support and requires us to balance grain production against the need to supply important agricultural products and increase farmers’ incomes. This means that we should build in transition periods and improve policy guidance. In addition, we should develop all permanent basic cropland step by step into high-standard cropland, working out practical measures as soon as possible, providing necessary funds, taking action to ensure cropland quality, and putting in place management and maintenance mechanisms, so as to ensure that every upgrade is a success. As for seeds, we need to identify areas for breakthroughs and make unremitting and concerted efforts to see that the seed industry revitalization initiative delivers solid outcomes, thus keeping control over China’s major varieties firmly in our own hands. Bio-breeding is a major trend, and we should accelerate the industrialization of this field.
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. We need 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, we can stabilize farmers’ expectations and reduce production risks. We need to develop new ways of running grain production operations and extend the industrial chain to reduce costs and increase returns. We need to introduce effective measures to improve compensation mechanisms for major grain-producing areas and open up multiple channels for grain-purchasing areas to compensate producing areas. We must safeguard grain farmers’ profits and ensure that major grain-producing counties are duly compensated.
To ensure food security, we need to both increase production and reduce waste. At present, there are unnecessary losses in food collection, storage, transportation, processing, sales, and consumption, and the problem is rather severe. According to assessments by relevant institutions, about 460 million tonnes of food is wasted in China every year, accounting for more than 22.7 percent of our total food production. If we could reduce our waste by half, that would be enough to feed 190 million people per year. There is much to do regarding food consumption. In addition to preventing waste and carrying on with the Clean Your Plate drive, we should promote healthy diets for the public. Per capita consumption of edible oils and red meat in China is double and triple the amount recommended in dietary guidelines, respectively. Reducing waste can mitigate supply pressure and cut down resource consumption, which is of great benefit. We should foster a mindset in which cutting waste equals increasing output and reduce waste throughout the entire process from production to consumption. To this end, we need to establish sound, regular, and long-term working mechanisms, identify specific issues in each area, and put in the most effort where waste is the most severe. We should continue to carry out initiatives to save food, impose mandatory restrictions, work even harder, and pay attention to the smallest details to deliver better outcomes as soon as possible.
President Xi Jinping learns about experimental hybrid rice cultivation and the promotion of planting practices, June 8, 2022, at a high-standard rice cultivation base in the village of Yongfeng, Meishan City, during his tour of Sichuan Province. PHOTO BY XINHUA REPORTER XIE HUANCHI
To ensure the food supply, we should look beyond our limited farmland and adopt an all-encompassing approach to food. Besides grain, our diet includes things like meat, eggs, milk, fruit, vegetables, fish, mushrooms, and bamboo shoots. Beyond our farmland, we have more than 266 million hectares of woodland, nearly 266 million hectares of grassland, and numerous water resources such as rivers, lakes, and seas. This enables us to establish a diversified food supply system. While ensuring ecological conservation, our sources of food should be expanded beyond farmland to the entirety of our territory to make use of not only traditional crops, livestock, and poultry but also all of our rich biological resources. We should explore multiple channels to acquire food from forests, grasslands, rivers, lakes, and seas and harness energy and protein from plants, animals, and microorganisms. Protected agriculture is very promising. We should promote solar greenhouses, plant factories, and intensive animal farming, as well as land-based, open-sea, and deep-sea aquaculture, in an effort to expand space for agricultural production.
While ensuring food security, we must also maintain a stable and secure supply of other important agricultural products, with particular attention paid to soybeans and other oilseed crops, hogs, and vegetables. All this work has already been planned; the key is to ensure that it is fully and faithfully implemented.
Party committees and governments at all levels must shoulder their responsibility to ensure food security, an issue of vital importance to the country. Whether local officials are competent and qualified will not be assessed solely by GDP growth or their performance in managing projects. More importantly, they must act in line with the requirements of the central Party leadership, fully and faithfully apply the new development philosophy, subordinate the interests of their localities to those of the whole, and successfully accomplish the major tasks assigned by the central Party leadership, such as ensuring food security. We are clear in holding both Party committees and governments responsible for food security. The key now is to carry out strict evaluations and oversight to ensure that every locality truly shoulders its responsibilities.
III. Advancing rural revitalization across the board is a major task of building a strong agricultural country
To build a strong agricultural country, we must focus our present efforts on rural revitalization. The focus of our “sannong” work has undergone a historic shift, and we must now ensure that human, material, and financial resources are channeled toward advancing rural revitalization. This work has just begun, and more challenging tasks lie ahead; therefore, our efforts must never slacken and our focus must never wander. The general requirement remains unchanged: we must promote the revitalization of industries, talent, culture, ecosystems, and organizations in the countryside. These five types of revitalization complement, support, and reinforce each other, and they form an organic whole. We should make coordinated plans, ensure our work is advanced in lockstep, focus on key areas, and shore up weak links. And we should emphasize precise and differentiated measures according to specific individual circumstances. This will allow us to trigger multiplier effects and unleash catalysts for progress. Through these efforts, we will achieve greater efficiency in advancing rural revitalization across the board.
Industrial revitalization has a central place on our rural revitalization agenda, and it is the starting point of our work. Without industries, rural areas will find it difficult to attract talent, let alone retain it for the long term. They will be unable to expand channels for increasing income and will have trouble launching cultural activities. In pursuing industrial revitalization, localities should figure out how to develop their local specialties and industries.
First, localities should base efforts on their local conditions and develop local resources. They should become adept at analyzing new market environments and new technologies, leverage new marketing techniques, and broaden their thinking when it comes to making use of their local resources. They should attach great importance to developing new forms of agribusiness and to improving the ecological value of their rural areas by promoting ecotourism, local culture, and leisure activities.
Second, localities should highlight their local features and show off their local customs. Localities should try to view themselves from an outside perspective and work to foster popular and competitive specialties. Depending on their local conditions, they could, for example, become villages famous for their apples, towns famous for their mushrooms, or townships famous for their daylilies.
Third, localities should develop industries and foster industrial clusters. They should extend the industrial chains for agricultural products and develop agricultural product processing, fresh storage, transportation, and marketing in an effort to keep value-added income in rural areas and in the hands of rural residents. Industries are currently in the process of gradually relocating to different regions. Localities must seize this opportunity to develop their local industries.
In short, we should make full use of agricultural and rural resources, unlock the potential of developing multiple forms of agribusiness and tapping into diverse sources of rural value, and enhance efficiency by promoting the integrated development of primary, secondary, and tertiary industries. We should strengthen leading industries and enterprises, shore up points of weakness, develop new forms of business, and build brands. We should promote upgrades to all aspects of rural industries to increase their competitiveness and capacity for sustainable development.
To promote industrial revitalization, assistance policies for rural industries must be fully implemented. Recently, the National Audit Office carried out audits of the implementation of assistance policies for rural industries in key counties designated for receiving national rural revitalization assistance as well as the use of assistance funds. Audit results showed that some areas still lack strong foundations for industrial development, stable mechanisms for helping farmers become wealthier, or precise and effective implementation of supporting policies for industrial development. These problems hinder efforts to drive the strong development of rural industries and ensure stable income growth for people that have recently shaken off poverty. All localities and government departments must strictly implement the responsibility system for advancing rural revitalization, adopt effective measures to address the above problems, and take solid steps to ensure that all tasks for rural revitalization are implemented.
President Xi Jinping visits a seed laboratory in the Yazhou Bay Science and Technology City, Sanya, Hainan Province, April 10, 2022. He toured the province, April 10-13. PHOTO BY XINHUA REPORTER LI XUEREN
Consolidating and expanding our achievements in poverty alleviation is a fundamental task in advancing rural revitalization across the board. At present, new problems have arisen in this work as a result of Covid-19 as well as domestic and global economic slowdowns. We should continue to ensure that all responsibilities are fulfilled, that the monitoring and assistance mechanisms for preventing people from slipping back into poverty give early warnings and trigger response protocols when necessary, and that assistance policies and measures for areas and people that have recently shaken off poverty are better aligned and implemented, so as to secure a smooth transition from poverty reduction to rural revitalization and forestall town- or village-wide relapses into poverty.
We should devote greater energy to helping areas and people that have shaken off poverty build their own momentum for growth. We should focus on increasing these people’s incomes, on helping such areas accelerate their development, and on channeling all types of resources and assistance measures toward industrial development and job creation. We should foster a firmer sense of purpose, aspiration, and self-belief in people who have recently escaped poverty so that they can pursue development with their own efforts. We will give incentives to people who work hard to achieve prosperity, and we will discourage idleness. To this end, we should implement development subsidies, paying more for more work, less for less work, and nothing for no work. While promoting construction projects in rural areas, we need to define the responsibilities of local governments and farmers and put a stop to situations in which officials do all the work while farmers sit back.
Now, we are two years into the five-year transition period, and we should start planning for institutional arrangements to be implemented once the transition is over. We need to make sure that assistance policies for preventing relapses into poverty are aligned with regular assistance policies for low-income rural residents, provide regular assistance to all eligible groups, and work to establish regular mechanisms to help underdeveloped areas. In managing relief efforts, we should gradually begin to differentiate between people who rely on relief policies to meet their basic needs and those who can avoid relapsing into poverty through regular assistance.
We should regard increasing farmers’ incomes as the central task in our “sannong” work and explore all means to create more channels for increasing rural incomes. We should develop county industries that benefit locals and that have notable comparative strengths, powerfully drive local development, and employ large numbers of people. We should assist rural migrant workers in securing jobs through a combination of measures and tap potential for increasing incomes from business activities and nonagricultural work. We should improve the mechanisms for helping farmers become prosperous and enable them to benefit more from the development of rural industries and see their incomes grow. We should step up policy support to benefit farmers and help them become better off, and we should do everything we can to provide subsidies to farmers, raise social security benefits, and unleash the potential of all types of production factors and resources in rural areas. Through these efforts, we aim to help rural residents achieve prosperity and live better lives.
IV. Relying on technology and reform to build a strong agricultural country more rapidly
Building a strong agricultural country requires technology and depends on reform. We must make coordinated efforts to advance innovation in technology and institutions to open up new areas and new arenas and foster new growth drivers and new strengths. This will enable us to make faster breakthroughs in quantity and leaps forward in quality.
At present, our country’s overall agricultural technological innovation capacity ranks among the best in the world, but when it comes to the contribution of technological progress to agricultural output, we still lag fairly far behind the most advanced countries. Given our limited resources and the ever-growing demand for agricultural products in our enormous market, it is more imperative than ever to emphasize and rely on agricultural technological innovation. We must endeavor not only to shore up areas of weakness, but also to make good use of our latecomer advantages to overtake early comers. This requires us to closely follow the world’s latest developments in agricultural technology, greatly improve our agricultural technological prowess, and work faster toward greater self-reliance and strength in agricultural science and technology.
In pursuing innovation in agricultural technology, we must endeavor to improve the overall effectiveness of the innovation system by addressing prominent problems such as a lack of collaboration, redundant low-level projects, and infrequent application of technological advances. Keeping our eyes on key and core agricultural technologies and working to meet the urgent needs of agro-industrial development, we should concentrate our efforts on foundational technologies, core germplasm resources, key agricultural machinery and equipment, synthetic chemicals, farmland quality, agricultural water conservation, and other key fields. We should fully leverage the advantages of our new system for pooling resources nationwide at all levels and of all types, strengthen the principal role of enterprises in technological innovation, and put in place a tiered, collaborative system for agricultural technological innovation based on appropriate competition. We should build up China’s strategic strength in agricultural science and technology and support the development of major agricultural innovation platforms. The agricultural technological innovation lifecycle is relatively long; we must spare no energy and investment to ensure long-term stable support.
Real-world application should be what we work toward in agricultural science and technology. We should accelerate the application of our advances to see that academic papers produce real results on the ground. Single household operations remain the basic face of agricultural operations in China, so promoting agricultural technology will be a heavy task that requires the coordinated efforts of government and market. With regard to our efforts to promote agricultural technology at the primary level, we need to keep our ranks stable and help our officials improve their abilities so that they can focus on their primary duties and better provide public-benefit services. At the same time, we should encourage the development of all types of commercial organizations that provide agricultural technological services, and we should develop market-based models for promoting agricultural technologies, in order to ensure that technology makes it “the last mile” into our villages.
Reform provides us with the engines and energy we urgently need to build up our strength in agriculture more quickly. In furthering rural reform, we must continue to focus on properly handling the relationship between farmers and the land. We should not only strengthen the foundations of collective ownership and protect and realize the interests of farmers as members of collectives, but we should also bring into full play the role of resources and factors of production. Regarding collectively-owned rural resources and assets, we should ensure the proper distribution of rights and better enable farmers’ activities under these rights. All this will help farmers better share in the fruits of reform.
Across the country, second-round rural land contracts are expiring. We must make careful preparations for extending these contracts by another 30 years and ensure that the majority of households can hold onto their contracts and extend them smoothly. In places where conditions allow and farmers have volunteered to participate, we can explore joint improvement and management of contiguous small plots of farmland in order to address the issue of land fragmentation. Developing appropriately scaled operations is the direction of modern agriculture, so we should support capable small rural households in developing family farms, and encourage family farms to establish farmers’ cooperatives, and farmers’ cooperatives to run businesses according to their needs. To better serve small rural households and guide their development, we need to improve commercial agricultural services more quickly. We should take a measured approach to promoting transfers of land use rights for concentrated and appropriately scaled operations. We must never use administrative means to force transfers of land use rights, concentrate resources to develop unrealistically large or super-large operations, or forcibly collect land use rights for unified planning and re-contracting.
We should carry out trial reforms for rural residential land in a steady and prudent manner, and in this process, we should explore improving rights such as collective ownership rights, rural families’ entitlement rights, and use rights for rural residential land, as well as find better ways to distribute these rights. In this work, our focus should be on ensuring residential needs, controlling unauthorized construction, and putting idle residential land to use. We should advance pilot reforms to put rural collective land designated for business-related construction onto the market, improve mechanisms for the distribution of gains from appreciation in land values, and make reforms more systematic.
In reforming the rural collective property rights system, our key tasks should be to adapt to the requirements of the socialist market economy; put in place working mechanisms featuring clearly defined property rights, sound governance structures, prudent operation methods, and reasonable distribution of gains; fully leverage the resources and abilities of rural collectives; and develop new rural collective economies through a variety of means such as resource outsourcing, property leasing, intermediary services, and assets-for-equity models. In developing collective economies, we must respect the will of the people, follow the laws of the market, and avoid old approaches that have harmed farmers’ interests. We need to improve supervision systems for rural collective assets, strictly control risks in collective operations, resolutely curb new debt, and fully protect the rights of members of collectives to be informed, to participate, and to exercise oversight, in order to ensure that collective economies do not simply become sources of wealth for small numbers of individuals.
We need to adapt to the major trend of integrated urban-rural development, remove institutional barriers to equal exchanges and two-way flows of production factors between urban and rural areas, improve rural areas’ access to factors of development and services, and start with counties in our efforts to break down the urban-rural divide. While encouraging private capital’s investments and business operations in rural areas, we must also ensure that these endeavors focus on agricultural development and benefit farmers, and we must stop attempts to occupy land for other purposes. We should work faster to grant permanent urban residency to people who move from rural areas, improve the systems for providing basic public services to people in places where they permanently reside, and help people with the ability and will to move to cities better and more quickly integrate into city life. In addition, we should safeguard the lawful land entitlements of rural residents who have moved to urban areas and obtained permanent residency while also encouraging them to voluntarily waive such entitlements for compensation in accordance with the law.
In advancing rural reform, we must stay patient, taking action only when we are certain of the situation and avoiding rushing in when conditions are not ripe. When dealing with matters that involve the basic rights and interests of farmers such as land and farmland, and especially matters that have the potential to change ways of life and modes of production that have existed for thousands of years, we must proceed with extreme caution. We must ensure that land continues to be publicly owned, that the total area of farmland does not fall below the red line, and that farmers’ interests are not harmed.
President Xi Jinping conveys Chinese New Year greetings to local residents at a public square in Duancun Village, Fenxi County, Shanxi Province, and to all the Chinese people around the country, compatriots in Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan, and overseas Chinese nationals, January 26, 2022. He toured Shanxi Province, January 26-27, visiting primary-level officials and members of the public. PHOTO BY XINHUA REPORTER LI XUEREN
V. Vigorously promoting rural modernization
Rural modernization is an inherent requirement and essential prerequisite for building up China’s strength in agriculture, and having rural areas that are harmonious, beautiful, and attractive places to live and work is what it means to be a strong agricultural country. Agriculture springs up wherever humans settle, and villages cluster around agricultural activities. The countryside is not just a setting for agricultural production; it is also the ancestral home to countless farmers who grow up and live there. To build China into a strong agricultural nation, we must promote agricultural modernization and rural modernization in a coordinated way and improve rural areas both in form and in spirit.
In recent years, some progress has been made in rural development, but rural infrastructure is still underdeveloped, public services need to be improved, and much more needs to be done. We should carry out rural development initiatives with the goal of basically ensuring modern living conditions in rural areas. In particular, we need to accelerate the construction of public service facilities for epidemic prevention, elderly care, education, and medical care, put in place more complete rural infrastructure systems, make public services more accessible, and improve the rural living environment, so that rural residents can live in modernity and comfort.
We need to study and assess the trends of urbanization and the changes in overall urban-rural development in China and make sound plans for the layout of villages accordingly, so as to prevent wasting resources on “empty villages.” In rural construction, we should fully consider the sustainability of financial resources and whether projects are acceptable to rural residents, adhere to the principles that quality should come before quantity and substantive results should be prioritized over speed, and concentrate our efforts on providing inclusive services, meeting people’s essential needs, and ensuring basic living standards. We should give priority to projects that improve people’s living and working conditions and make sure that, although standards may vary, all the basics are accounted for. The layouts and landscapes of villages in different areas have formed as a result of unique local geographical, climate, and cultural conditions. We must respect history, culture, and ecology and strive to preserve rural culture and customs and remember our rural roots. Rural development is for the farmers, and therefore we must create bottom-up mechanisms to involve them, listen to their opinions, and take into account their feelings.
We should improve the rural governance system, which combines self-governance, rule of law, and rule of virtue under the leadership of Party organizations, so that rural areas are vibrant, stable, and orderly. We should continue to pay greater attention to the primary level, shift the focus of governance, services, and resources downward, and empower primary-level authorities. Meanwhile, we should integrate resources and improve the capabilities of our authorities at the primary level to ensure that they can exercise their power well and make good use of what they have available. We should further develop village self-governance under the leadership of Party organizations, create new practices for rural governance, and improve and promote the application of pragmatic and effective governance methods such as point accumulation systems, list systems, digitalization, and immediate handling of complaints.
In advancing rural modernization, we should enrich people’s lives both tangibly and intangibly. We should infuse our efforts to promote rural cultural-ethical progress with the best traditions of China’s farming culture and with the common values that our farmers intuitively apply in their everyday lives. We should champion the rural virtues of good neighborliness, looking out for one another, and sincerity and courtesy. We should promote legal literacy and guide rural residents in conducting their business, dealing with difficulties, and resolving their problems and conflicts in accordance with the law. In changing unhealthy rural customs and conventions, we need to make unremitting efforts, explore and adopt practical methods for progress, and make innovative and full use of village rules and folk conventions. If we combine measures that encourage with those that restrict, and if we stay consistent in our efforts to transform local customs, we are certain to see good results.
VI. Strengthening comprehensive Party leadership over efforts to build a strong agricultural country
Our Party has a pivotal role in advancing rural revitalization across the board and in moving faster to build a strong agricultural country. We must resolutely uphold the principle of Party leadership over “sannong” work and improve our leadership structure and working mechanisms, so as to guarantee that we can more quickly build up China’s strength in agriculture.
That Party secretaries at the five administrative levels of province, city, county, township, and village hold responsibility for rural revitalization is a clear requirement set by the central Party leadership. It is also an effective mechanism for more quickly building up China’s strength in agriculture. Party committees at the city and county levels must take “sannong” work as a priority and devote great effort to it, and county Party secretaries in particular must perform their roles as “frontline commanders-in-chief.” Party secretaries who neglect “sannong” work should be considered derelict, and those who cannot handle their rural duties should be considered incompetent. We must improve mechanisms for assessment and oversight and drive implementation of initiatives and policies by holding people to their responsibilities.
Party committees at all levels should step up training for officials engaged in “sannong” work to enhance their skills and improve their conduct. In this way, we will cultivate teams of officials who are politically committed, who meet the needs of the new era, and who can lead China’s efforts in building up its strength in agriculture. Party and government officials at all levels must have the basic ability to carry out investigations and research and stay realistic and pragmatic in their work. They must never become divorced from reality, take things for granted, or engage in guesswork. They should apply systems thinking and consider complex problems holistically, so as to avoid situations in which one problem is solved, but more problems emerge. All officials must maintain a people-centered mindset, carry out the mass line, make regular visits to rural households, take roots among the people, inquire into their needs, solicit their opinions, be there for them in their ups and downs, and attend to their difficulties and worries. We must judge our work by the reactions of our rural residents.
Talent is a resource of the highest value, and it is a foundational and strategic pillar for moving faster to build a strong agricultural country. The main reason some villages lag behind in development is that they lack talent; this includes people who can guide development, lead industries, and understand policies. Party committees and governments at all levels should both train local personnel and recruit outside talent. They should attract people with the countryside’s vast development opportunities and retain them with the countryside’s comfort and beauty.
In striving to train a pool of local talent, we should focus on village Party secretaries and leaders of new types of agribusiness. We should help our farmers improve themselves across the board and do a good job teaching and making the best use of our rural talent. Meanwhile, in striving to attract a pool of outside talent, we should adopt an orderly approach to encouraging college graduates and entrepreneurs to come to the countryside and skilled workers and migrant workers to return. By creating opportunities, opening channels, fostering conditions, and addressing apprehensions regarding career development and social security, we can make sure people are able to stay and start businesses. However, rural areas should also establish a short-term employment mindset and be ready to recruit people to work without asking them to stay.
County-wide talent exchanges should be promoted, and we should see to it that Party and government officials and technical professionals who are given special training are assigned to the countryside in a planned way so that they can take on responsibility and be tempered on the front line.
With efforts on all sides, we will build a contingent of rural talent that is solid, dedicated, and competent and thus develop intellectual support and a strong workforce for advancing rural revitalization across the board and more quickly building China into a strong agricultural nation.
Party organizations in rural areas are the cornerstone of our Party’s initiatives and strength in the countryside. We need to improve the village-level organizational system under the leadership of village Party organizations and see that Party organizations in rural areas become bastions of effective Party leadership. We need to closely unite village-level self-governance organizations, collective economic organizations, farmers’ cooperative organizations, and social organizations of all types around our Party, and we need to unite and lead rural residents in appreciating the Party and following the Party. This round of village Party branch and villagers’ committee elections has already come to a full close across the country. Comprehensive training should be provided for village officials to enhance their abilities to lead rural revitalization, and our pool of leaders should be improved constantly. We should dispatch competent first secretaries and resident work teams to villages and make good use of them, with a focus on selecting outstanding young officials to cut their teeth at the primary level. The exemplary and vanguard role of rural Party members should be given full play.
At present, village Party organizations and self-governance organizations are often led by single individuals, who sometimes also head local rural collective economic organizations. Therefore, we must ensure effective oversight and management to avoid major cases of low-level corruption and the emergence of lawless “village despots.” We must ensure that primary-level disciplinary inspection and supervision organizations are properly linked up with oversight committees for village affairs, thus extending rural coverage of disciplinary inspection and supervision work. We should make sustained efforts to ease the burdens of primary-level officials, continue to tackle pointless formalities and excessive bureaucracy, and cut back on the multitude of evaluations and inspections which have already lost their original purpose, thus giving our primary-level officials more energy to do real work for our farmers.
Comrades, a strong agricultural country is built from collective dedication and hard work. From now on, we must go all out and do our utmost to advance rural revitalization, accelerate the pace of agricultural and rural modernization, and forge ahead to build up China’s strength in agriculture.
This speech was delivered at the Central Rural Work Conference on December 23, 2022.
(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No. 6, 2023)