As the Chinese economy soars ahead in the wake of the international financial crisis, more attention is being given to the country's industrial, financial, investment and trade figures. But the Central Rural Work Conference reiterated that the development of agriculture and rural areas as well as the improvement of rural living conditions will continue to be China's top priority, since they are the very foundation for the sustainable development of the Chinese economy.
China's grain production maintained positive growth for the seventh consecutive year in 2010, but supplying China's immense population with food continues to pose a serious challenge. Because the basis for comparison has risen to a new high, and as the occurrence of natural disasters increased last year, the growth momentum of grain production might not be maintained. In addition, the surge in prices of agricultural products has exacerbated domestic inflation pressure—it contributed 75 percent to the CPI growth in 2010.
Although farmers' income has kept increasing in the past few years, the growth rate is still far behind that of urban residents. The rural-urban gap has by no means shortened and a considerable amount of evidence shows that it is actually widening. In China, the population of farmers far surpasses that of urban residents. Therefore, the low income of farmers directly affects agricultural development as well as government efforts to expand domestic consumption.
Everyday problems for farmers, like education, medical care and social insurance, need to be addressed with great care. China can hardly achieve social stability and advancement without agricultural stability and advancement.
Judging by the current situation, China will face many new problems related to agricultural production, farmers' incomes and rural economic development in 2011. For instance, how will grain production remain positive with such a high comparison basis in 2010? And how can product supply and prices be maintained? The challenges and pressures, while present before, have not been as pressing as they are today.
The 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15) starts this year, and previous practice has demonstrated that the more complicated and difficult the macro-economic environment is, the more attention must be attached to agriculture, rural areas and farmers.
The Central Rural Work Conference pledged to adopt practical measures to preserve cultivated land and increase production. The Chinese Government will make sure that more funds are dedicated to rural and agricultural development. The government will also embark on a series of efforts to build more irrigation and disaster-relief facilities to maintain stable grain output.
The Central Rural Work Conference vowed to take more measures to advance farmers' skills and increase their incomes. Efforts will be pooled to improve the quality of drinking water and revamp infrastructure, methane facilities and dilapidated houses. Rural education, medicare system and the public cultural service system will also be updated. And the trial practice of a new type of rural social pension insurance system will be expanded, and other reforms in rural areas will be carried out to enhance rural development vitality.
If these policies are successfully implemented, the Chinese economy will sit atop stable ground for sustained development and be able to make further contributions to the world economy and global economic growth.