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Beijing Review Exclusive
Special> NPC & CPPCC Sessions 2009> Beijing Review Exclusive
UPDATED: February 13, 2009 NO. 7 FEB. 19, 2009
A Changing Village
Investigation into a small village in central China

The projects involve various aspects of infrastructure construction for the new countryside. During the past year, 27 villages have been connected by roads with a total length of 104 km, enabling more than 91 percent of the county's villages to have access to public transportation services; 1,210 family methane tanks have been built; eight drinking water projects have been completed, providing potable water for 16,700 people; trees have been planted in 24 villages; 197 rural garbage dumps have been set up; 2,270 cultural squares have been built; 24 sets of fitness equipment have been purchased; and 11 villages have opened new convenience stores. Moreover, fixed telephone services are available in 83 percent of the villages, and 71 percent of the villages are covered by mobile phone signals. Some rural families even have Internet service.

During the new countryside construction, infrastructure construction, which mainly aims to change the image of the countryside, improve farmers' living standards and enhance rural productivity, has been the focus of the Central Government's expenditures in recent years.

According to statistics released by the Ministry of Agriculture, the Central Government's expenditures on agriculture, the countryside and farmers have been increasing. As part of its 4-trillion-yuan ($584.8 billion) stimulus plan, the government will spend 370 billion yuan ($54.1 billion) on improving the livelihoods of rural residents and building infrastructure in rural areas. The No. 1 document jointly released earlier this year by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the State Council also indicates that the government will increase its expenditures on rural infrastructure construction.

Government funds for rural infrastructure construction are mainly used to remove garbage, sludge, roadblocks and firewood piles and transform roads, water facilities, kitchen ranges and sanitary toilets, with the aim of improving living and production conditions in rural areas. They have helped the country's rural areas achieve great effects. In 2004, a year before the strategy for the construction of a new countryside was put forward, about 46 percent of Chinese villages had no tap water facilities, 6 percent had no public transportation, 9 percent had no telephone service, and most of them had no sanitary toilets or bio-safety disposal facilities.

But now, only 28 percent of the villages have no tap water facilities, less than 4 percent have no access to public transportation and less than 2 percent have no telephone service. Currently, about 76 percent of rural villages nationwide have sanitary toilets, and 37 percent have set up garbage dumps.

More input is needed

According to the Central Government's target for its new countryside construction strategy, by 2015 more than 90 percent of rural villages and administrative townships should be connected by roads up to the state level, all villages should have cable TV service, and most villages and all townships should have multiple domestic energy supplies from biomass energy, natural gas, solar energy or wind power.

A report issued by the Institute of Industrial Economy and Technical Economy of the National Development and Reform Commission indicates that to reach this goal, the government must invest more than 3 trillion yuan ($438.6 billion). The report says that fund shortages are a universal problem for new countryside construction, but they are particularly acute in China's impoverished mountainous areas. Each farmer in suburban areas will require about 1,700 yuan ($248.54) of investment to reach the goal of new countryside construction by 2015, while each one in impoverished areas will need 4,900 yuan ($716.37).

In her blog, Sun Xiaolan, an economics researcher at the Party School of the CPC Central Committee, described two reasons for the shortage of funds for new countryside construction in impoverished areas. First, financial support and investment from the government is limited. Although the government has been increasing its financial support for poor rural areas, the amount has not been enough. Furthermore, during the process of establishing a market economy, the government invested most of its funds in southeastern coastal areas. Second, impoverished rural areas are inferior to developed areas in natural conditions, geographic locations and prospects for socioeconomic development, so they can do little to boost their own development. In some villages, farmers earn just enough to feed themselves and are unable to save money, which has further restrained private investment, Sun said.

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