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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 new countryside construction program in Lanxian appears to confirm this. In October 2005, when the Central Government introduced the new countryside construction strategy, the county government started to plan its own program, but a shortage of funds dealt it a blow. It was only last year that the county collected by itself part of the funds it needed.

Liu said that during the process of new countryside construction, farmers have contributed nearly nothing, because most have barely been able to eke out a living. He also said local farmers mainly have two sources of income-crops and their salaries from working in cities. Their income from growing crops is low but stable, while the salary income is a bit higher but unstable. Particularly with the present economic crisis, many migrant workers have less income now, because they have lost their jobs in cities and have had to return to their rural villages where there is little or no work for them, he said.

Liu said that considering such circumstances, the government needs to invest more funds in creating job opportunities for returned migrant laborers and provide training courses for them to learn new skills.

"The new countryside construction strategy aims at not only changing the image of rural villages, but also making farmers better off," Liu said. "When farmers become affluent, rural development will be naturally promoted. But now, increasing farmers' incomes is a big problem."

Lu Xueyi, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told Beijing Review that the differences between China's urban and rural areas and between various rural areas posed another problem that the government would have to address. Compared with urban suburbs and east China's coastal areas, impoverished rural areas have poor infrastructure, and their social services lag far behind those offered in cities. Rural residents also must deal with limited educational opportunities, high medical expenses and lower levels of social security. Unreasonable rural economic structures, outdated modes of agricultural management and small increases in farmers' income have become major factors that hold back new countryside construction, Lu said.

"Fortunately, the Central Government is gradually increasing its financial input in impoverished rural areas," Lu said. "In terms of rural infrastructure, the budgetary input for impoverished areas from the Central Government may surpass that of both eastern coastal areas and urban suburbs in 2009."

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