Wen Jiabao (Premier of the State Council):
The issues concerning agriculture, rural areas and farmers are fundamental ones that have a bearing on the overall modernization drive. Building a new socialist countryside refers to putting agriculture and rural initiatives more prominently on the agenda of China's modernization drive.
We will implement a policy of getting industry to support agriculture and cities to support the countryside, strengthen support for agriculture, rural areas and farmers, continue making reforms in rural systems and innovations in rural institutions to bring about a rapid and significant change in the overall appearance of the countryside. This is a major fundamental step to be taken in the overall modernization drive.
Building a new socialist countryside should focus on developing a modern agricultural operation and improving comprehensive agricultural capacity. In order to build a new socialist countryside, we must accelerate development of rural infrastructure. We need to resolutely work to reorient investment by shifting the government's priority in infrastructure investment to the countryside. This constitutes a major change.
A new socialist countryside requires that we comprehensively carry out overall rural reform. This year, we will completely rescind the agricultural tax throughout the country, a tax that China has been collecting for 2,600 years. This is a change of epoch-making significance.
A socialist countryside depends on two principles. First, democratic rights of the farmers should be safeguarded, especially their rights on land contracting and management. We need to respect the wishes of farmers, oppose formalism and coercion, and avoid a herd mentality. Second, we should deliver tangible interest to the farmers and target practical results rather than formalism.
Jin Renqing (Finance Minister):
At present, agricultural and rural development is still on an uphill road, with agriculture and the countryside the weakest parts of China's economic and social development. In the future, departments of finance at all levels must adhere to the direction of "scientific development" proposed by President Hu Jintao, and make more efforts toward the policy of taking less from, giving more to and loosening control over farmers, and create a favorable policy and system environment.
The main measures we will adopt to accomplish this goal are: gradually increasing annual investment in agriculture and rural areas from the central and local government budgets and credit funds, integrating agricultural investment from all channels to improve capital performance, guiding farmers to invest capital and labor in public welfare facilities that benefit them directly, encouraging and guiding the investment of non-state funds in rural development, and gradually establishing an appropriate, stable and effective investment mechanism. If we work tirelessly, we can bring about a major improvement in rural infrastructure.
Zhang Hongyu (Deputy Director of the Policy Department under the Ministry of Agriculture):
To build a new socialist countryside we must reasonably use and protect agricultural resources. China's per-capita agricultural resources are low, particularly in farmland and water, so we must heighten our awareness in protecting resources. We should make raising usage efficiency the priority. The key areas involved in this are conserving water, land, energy and materials, and the circular usage of agricultural resources. We need to also promote sustainable development of agriculture in terms of policy, technology and management.
We should encourage the circular economy in agriculture, which is an important way to protect the ecosystem and use agricultural resources efficiently. It's also an important approach to realizing sustainable agricultural development and a basic direction to build a conservation-minded society. A circular agricultural economy should adhere to the ideas of harm-free, low discharge, zero damage, high efficiency and comfortable environments. The traditional method of production increase and the economic structure need adjustment, together with the adoption of modern technology to transform traditional agriculture. It is important to optimize regional economic planning and form a characteristic and coordinated agricultural layout.
Liu Jian (Director of the Poverty Alleviation Office of the State Council):
Building a new socialist countryside is not only the task for poverty-stricken areas in central and western regions, but also for the coastal developed areas. For poverty-stricken areas, we should continue the poverty alleviation measures being undertaken in rural villages. Measures of the following six aspects need to be addressed: First, more investment in infrastructure construction, such as water, roads, electricity, telephones, and radio and television signal transmission. Second, improve population quality through education, health care and labor training. Third, increase farmers' income through building industries. Fourth, improve cultural life. Fifth, safeguard farmers' democratic rights and raise their legal awareness. Sixth, strengthen Party leadership in poverty-stricken areas.
Dang Guoying (researcher of the Agricultural Development Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences):
The key to building a new socialist countryside is to improve investment returns in the countryside. At present, the government invests capital in the countryside in many channels, some directly in agricultural and rural economic construction and some in raising farmers' living standards.
If we take the total expenses into consideration, including support for the countryside and expenses on agricultural infrastructure and scientific research and technology, the average growth of the expenditure stood at 13.3 percent between 1995 and 2003, compared with only a 4 percent increase of agricultural output during the same period. Moreover, the contribution of science and technology to agricultural output was only 1 percent between 1995 and 2003, which further decreased to almost zero between 2000 and 2003. It means we still have a lot to do in improving investment returns in agricultural and rural restructuring.
Zhou Xiaozheng (professor with Renmin University of China):
The key to building a new socialist countryside is to mobilize farmers to make them more active, creative and more disposed to use their own initiative. This will ensure a better future for them. To a certain degree, the success of building a new socialist countryside depends a lot on the quality of farmers, technical capability and ideological standards. Therefore, farmers' knowledge and the technology they have access to are a basis for building a new socialist countryside. The priority, therefore, must be laid on helping farmers acquire knowledge and modern agricultural technologies.
Xiong Qinghua (Secretary of the CPC Baoshan City Committee, Yunnan Province):
The priority in building a new socialist countryside is to foster modern concepts, such as competition and cost, among farmers. The influence of modern concepts is much stronger than that of capital and material input. This is the foundation for lasting prosperity in the countryside.
At present most farmers live in areas poor in transportation and information, so they lack modern concepts matching a market economy. We can't teach farmers these modern concepts; they must learn these through practice. The important thing is we should help them understand the meaning of cost and let them learn that labor should be included in costs. These modern concepts are of great importance to the long-term development of the countryside.
Huang Yukui (farmer and deputy to the 10th National People's Congress):
In my understanding, a new socialist countryside means farmers have sources of income, a secured life, improved living standards and a better environment. This would mean farmers could enjoy the same lifestyle as urban dwellers. The most pressing task in building a new socialist countryside is to promote production step by step according to local conditions. The enormous difference exists not only between the city and the countryside, but also in the countryside itself. The government should give more support to those rural areas poor in basic conditions.
Liu Zhihua (farmer and deputy to the 10th National People's Congress):
Building a new socialist countryside is just hot air without some kind of material base. It will also just be empty talk if farmers are poor in their cultural life and lack innovative ideas. Improving the quality of life of farmers, therefore, is a must in building a new socialist countryside.