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Decision of the CPC Central Committee
on Several Major Issues Concerning Agriculture
and Rural Work

(Adopted at the Third Plenary Session of the   15 CPC Central Committee
on October 14, 1998)

   I.Basic Experiences in the 20-Year Rural Reform 
  II.Goals and Principles for the Trans-Century Development of Agriculture 
     and Rural Areas 
 III.Stabilizing the Double-Tier System That Combines Unified and Separated 
     Operations on the Basis of the Household Contract Responsibility System 
  IV.Deepening the Reform of the Farm Produce Circulation System and Improving 
     the Farm Produce Market System
   V.Accelerating Agricultural Capital Construction Centered on Water  
     Conservancy Projects and Improving Agricultural Ecological Environment 
  VI.Optimizing Agriculture and Rural Economic Structure Through Scientific 
     And Technological Progress 
 VII.Intensifying the  Effort to Achieve a Moderate Level of Prosperity and  
     Eliminating Poverty in Rural Areas 
VIII.Strengthening the Construction Of Democracy and Legal System at  
     the Rural Grass-Roots Level 
  IX.Promoting  Cultural and Ethical Progress in Rural Areas
   X.Strengthening the Building of Rural Grass-Roots Party Organizations  
     And the Ranks of Rural Cadres

The Third Plenary Session of the 15th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) analyzed the domestic and international situation, and studied the work concerning agricultural and rural development. It took into consideration the following:

—In order to meet the strategic plan set by the 15th National Party Congress and realize the grand trans-century goals, it is imperative to maintain sustained and steady development of agriculture and the rural economy. Of China’s more than 1.2 billion people, 900 million live in rural areas. This is the country’s basic national condition. The issues of agriculture, the rural areas and farmers concern the overall situation of reform, opening and the modernization drive. Without the stability of rural areas, there will be no stability for the entire nation; without the achievement of a moderate level of prosperity for farmers, there will be no better-off life for the people of the whole country; and without the modernization of agriculture, there will be no modernization of the entire national economy. By stabilizing agriculture, an important sector of the national economy, we will be able to have the initiative to control the overall situation.

—China’s reform first made a breakthrough in rural areas. It quickly spread throughout the country with world-recognized achievements. Earnestly summing up the rich experience accumulated in rural reform over the past two decades is of great significance for the Party to persisting in the line, principles and policies adopted since the Third Plenary Session of the 11th Party Central Committee in 1978, and further advancing the reform and development of rural areas and the country as a whole.

—Facing the current Asian financial crisis and the challenge of economic globalization, the effort to further develop agriculture, flourish the rural economy and enhance the farmers’ purchasing power will help expand domestic demand, keep the good momentum for the growth of the national economy, and enlarge China’s room for maneuver in international cooperation and competition. To expand the domestic market, particularly the rural sector, while making full use of the overseas market, is China’s basic stance for economic development.

—In the process of moving from adequately feeding and clothing the people to achieving a moderate level of prosperity and further to completing the modernization drive, the rural areas face many new problems in economic construction, cultural and ethical progress, the building of democracy and a legal system, and the construction of grass-roots organizations. In some localities, the Party’s rural policies have not been properly implemented, leading to slow growth in farmers’ incomes in recent years and dampening enthusiasm for production. In addition, agricultural infrastructure facilities remain weak, the ability to resist natural disasters is limited, and the pressure on population, resources and environment has kept increasing. Only when these problems are resolved in earnest, can all-round rural economic development and social progress be achieved, and a new socialist, prosperous, democratic and civilized countryside be built.

The session held that it is both timely and necessary to make the following decisions on some major issues in agricultural development and rural work.

I. Basic Experiences in the 20-Year Rural Reform

Rural reform has undergone a glorious course over the past 20 years. It has promoted the household contract responsibility system, abolished the people’s communes, breached the mode of a planned economy, and initially set up the framework for a new rural economic structure that meets the requirements for the development of a socialist market economy. This fundamental reform has emancipated and developed rural productive forces and brought historic and tremendous changes in rural economic and social development. The output of grain and other farm produce has increased by a big margin, replacing long-term shortage with a general balance in supply and a surplus in years of good harvests and basically resolving the problem of feeding the people of the whole country. Township enterprises, a new force, have promoted the reform of rural industrial and employment structures and the development of small towns, blazing a new road for building rural areas with Chinese characteristics. The farmers’ living standards have improved significantly and, in general, the rural areas are moving from the stage of being adequately fed and clothed to a moderate level of prosperity. Profound changes have taken place in farmers’ thinking and overall concepts in line with the requirements of the times, and noticeable results have been achieved in rural cultural and ethical progress and the construction of democracy and a legal system. Achievements in rural reform have made important contributions to the reform, development and stability of the nation as a whole, showing farmers the bright prospect of prosperity, and fortifying their confidence in following the CPC and taking the road of building socialism with Chinese characteristics.

The basic experiences in rural reform over the past 20 years include:

First, it is essential to recognize and fully guarantee the decision-making right of farmers, and take the mobilization of the initiative of the masses of farmers as a primary starting point to formulate rural policies. This is a major issue concerning the taking of a correct political attitude toward farmers and the consolidation of the worker-farmer alliance. It is also a fundamental guarantee for rural economic and social development. In mobilizing the farmers’ initiative, the key lies in guaranteeing the material interests of farmers and respecting their democratic rights. This basic principle will be followed at any time and in any issue.

Second, it is essential to develop diversified forms of ownership, with public ownership serving as the main form, and explore effective forms for materializing this in rural areas to let the relations of production facilitate the development of productive forces. The collectivization of land should be practiced, with operation based on household contract, and the utilization right separated from proprietary right. The double-tier system that combines unified and separated operations will be established to straighten out the basic relations of production in rural areas. This is an effective way to achieve rural collective ownership that can greatly promote the development of productive forces.

Third, it is essential to adhere to the market-oriented reform to inject new vitality into the rural economy. It is also necessary to establish the status of farming households as an independent mainstay in the market, encouraging farmers to develop production of commodities geared to the market and enter the circulation area. In the reform of the circulation system of farm produce, focus should be laid on the formation of prices based on the market, so as to develop the fundamental role of the market in resource allocation under State macro-control. This control over the special commodity of grain should be strengthened and improved, so as to protect the farmers’ enthusiasm for production and ensure supply and basic price stability. The rural economy has already been shifted onto the track of a socialist market economy. To enhance farmers’ enthusiasm to a higher level under this new condition is of significance to the comprehensive realization of the specialization, marketization and modernization of agriculture.

Fourth, it is essential to respect the farmers’ pioneering spirit and rely on the masses of farmers to advance the great cause of reform. Contracting output quotas to households and township enterprises are the great creations of Chinese farmers under the leadership of the Communist Party of China. The basic work line of  “from the masses, to the masses” should be upheld. In line with the criteria of the “three favorables” (favorable toward promoting the growth of the productive forces in a socialist society, increasing the overall strength of the socialist state and raising the people’s living standards), we should encourage experiments, allow time for these to develop, refrain from arguments, timely sum up experiences, strengthen guidance, and adhere to what is correct and rectify what is wrong, so as to constantly deepen the rural reform.

Fifth, it is essential to proceed from the overall interests and attach high importance to agriculture, so as to achieve the joint and coordinated development of rural and urban reforms. We should persist in taking agriculture as the foundation of the national economy, and energetically support agriculture in terms of policy, science, technology and input. Launching reform first in rural areas, relying on rural reform and development to promote urban reform, and then relying on urban reform and development to support rural areas—this is a successful road taken by China in reform.

The success of rural reform represents a great victory of Deng Xiaoping Theory. Our most valuable experience is to persist in taking Deng Xiaoping Theory as the guidance, emancipating the mind and seeking truth from facts. This theory enables us to shatter the shackles of the rigid system and outmoded concepts, and make new explorations for the construction of socialism with Chinese characteristics. To continue to promote rural reform, we must firmly grasp this powerful ideological weapon.

II. Goals and Principles for the Trans-Century Development of Agriculture and Rural Areas

China’s initial stage of socialism is an underdeveloped one, especially in the rural areas. This is manifested by backward productive forces, with manual labor as the main means; low level of marketization, with the economy of self-sufficiency and partial self-sufficiency accounting for a considerable proportion; a huge rural population and tremendous pressure on employment; backward science, technology, education and culture, and a fairly large number of illiterates and semi-illiterates; relatively low living standards for the farmers, with several tens of millions of people still living in poverty; and a large gap between urban and rural areas, and uneven development in rural areas as well. These characteristics determine that we must permanently take the development of the rural economy and the enhancement of rural productive forces as the center of the rural work, that all policies should be conducive to increasing rural economic vitality, and that we must go all out to rely on the farmers to change the backward outlook and constantly improve their material and cultural well- being.

The 15th National Party Congress set the basic program for the primary stage of socialism and the goals for the first decade of the next century, charting the road for the modernization of China’s agriculture and rural areas. The goals for building a new socialist countryside with Chinese characteristics from now on to the year 2010 are as follows:

—Economically, adhering to taking the public ownership as the main form, coupled with the development of diversified forms of ownership, and constantly emancipating and developing rural productive forces. A rural economic structure suited to the requirements for developing a socialist market economy will be basically established, which is based on the household contract responsibility system, and is supported by the rural socialized service system, farm produce marketing system and the State’s agriculture-aid and protection system. The agricultural scientific, technological and equipment level and comprehensive production capacity will be enhanced significantly to let farm produce better meet the demands of economic development, population growth and improved living standards. The rural industrial structure will be further optimized, and the urbanization level increased considerably. Farmers’ income will increase constantly, and the entire rural area will achieve a moderate level of prosperity and gradually advance to a higher level.

—Politically, adhering to the CPC’s leadership, promoting rural socialist democratic politics, further expanding grass-roots democracy and ensuring the farmers directly exercise their democratic rights in accordance with the law. Efforts will be made to promote in an all-round way the self-administration of villagers and perfect the township people’s congress system. Township governments should be kept small in size and be highly efficient; a complete village-level organization with the Party branch at the core should be formed; and a closer relationship between cadres and masses should be established. It is also necessary to intensify the rule by law to maintain a good social order and public security environment in rural areas.

—Culturally, continuing to promote socialist cultural and ethical progress in rural areas, and cultivate a new generation of farmers with lofty ideals, moral integrity, good education and discipline. Efforts will be made to intensify ideological and ethical education and cultivate healthy and civilized social mores; develop educational undertakings, universalize the nine-year compulsory education, eliminate illiteracy among the young and middle-aged and popularize scientific and technological knowledge; develop rural health care and sports and enable farmers to enjoy elementary health care service; and build rural cultural facilities to enrich the farmers’ spiritual and cultural life.

To achieve the trans-century goals for agricultural and rural development, the following 10 principles should be adhered to.

1. Permanently giving top priority to agriculture in the development of the national economy. Agriculture is the foundation of the national economy. Energetically developing agriculture is not only a must to guarantee the people’s livelihood, but also a requirement to advance industry and the tertiary sector. The distribution pattern of the national income should be readjusted to increase input in agriculture, and agricultural legislation and law enforcement should be strengthened to support and protect agriculture.

2. Stabilizing basic rural policies. It is imperative to adhere to the fundamental economic system that takes public ownership as the main form, while developing diversified forms of ownership simultaneously. It is also imperative to adhere to the double-tier system that combines unified and separated operations based on the household contract responsibility system, and the distribution system that gives first place to incomes from labor and is supplemented by the distribution in accordance with production factors. On this basis, rural reform will be deepened in line with the requirement for building a socialist market economic structure.

3. Continuing to firmly grasp grain production and actively developing a diversified economy. While steadily developing grain production, we should readjust the rural industrial structure, develop farming, forestry, animal husbandry, sideline occupations and fishery in an all-round way, and combine the development of a diversified economy with the promotion of grain production, so as to ensure the effective supply of farm produce and increase the farmers’ incomes steadily.

4. Implementing the strategy of revitalizing agriculture through science and education. The fundamental way out for agriculture lies in science, technology and education. We must combine agriculture with science and education, strengthen the research and universalization of agro-technology and science, attach importance to the cultivation of agronomists and shift the focus on the growth of agriculture and rural economy to a reliance on scientific and technological progress, and enhancing the quality of laborers.

5. Achieving sustainable agricultural development. We must strengthen infrastructure construction and forestry development with the focus on water conservancy, strictly protect cultivated land, forest vegetation and water resources, and prevent soil erosion, land desertification and environmental pollution, so as to improve production conditions and protect the ecological environment.  

6. Energetically developing township enterprises and transferring the surplus rural labor force through diversified channels. Based in rural areas, township enterprises should expand production in both depth and breadth. Efforts will also be made to develop secondary and tertiary industries, and build small towns. While exploring the broad channels of employment in rural areas, we must guide the rational and orderly flow of rural labor force in accordance with the objective need of cities, towns and developed areas.

7. Taking practical measures to lighten the burden of farmers. This is an important issue concerning the protection of the rural labor force and the stability of rural areas. We must adhere to the principle of giving more assistance to and obtaining less from the farmers, so as to grant them more practical benefits. In the construction of all rural projects, the will of the masses should be respected, and the work proceed in accordance with local ability.

8. Carrying out the State basic policy of family planning. The key and difficult point of controlling excessive population growth lies in rural areas. We should energetically encourage the farmers to have fewer and better births, to make the rural population growth commensurate with socioeconomic development.

9. Promoting the development of grass-roots democratic politics in rural areas. Economic restructuring is closely related with political restructuring. We should adhere to and improve the leadership of grass-roots Party organizations in rural areas, improve township political power and the self-administration organization of villagers, and safeguard the farmers’ right to make decisions on their own affairs in accordance with the law.

10. Attaching equal importance to building a material civilization and promoting cultural and ethical progress. Only when success is achieved in both, can the rural areas make coordinated economic and social progress, and a new socialist countryside with Chinese characteristics emerge.

III. Stabilizing the Double-Tier System That Combines Unified and Separated  Operations on the Basis of the Household Contract Responsibility System

The implementation of the household contract responsibility system conforms to the law that the relations of production will meet the needs of the development of productive forces. It grants farming households full decision-making right in operation, thereby greatly mobilizing their initiative and helping emancipate and develop rural productive forces. It also conforms to the characteristics of agricultural production. It enables the farming households to make timely decisions in accordance with the market, climatic and environmental conditions and the growth of farm crops, thereby ensuring the smooth progress of production. It also helps farming households arrange surplus labor force and surplus labor time on their own and increase incomes. This system, conforming with both traditional farming which mainly relies on manual labor and modern farming which uses advanced science, technology and production methods, has extensive adaptability and vitality, and will be persisted in for a long time to come. Contracted operation based on households, as a layer of operation within the collective economic organization, is the foundation of the double-tier operational system, and will not be separated and set against the unified collective operation under the thinking that only unified operation can be regarded as a collective economy. Practical measures will be taken to safeguard the land contract right, production decision-making right and operational profit right of farming households, and turn them into independent mainstay of the market.

Rural collective economic organizations should well manage collective properties, coordinate interest relations, organize service to production and the development of collective resources, and enlarge economic strength, with the focus on enhancing functions of service to resolve difficulties that can hardly be resolved by individual households.

To stabilize and complete the double-tier operational system, the key lies in stabilizing and improving the land contract relationship. Land is an essential production factor for agriculture and also an essential living guarantee for farmers. Only by stabilizing the land contract relationship, can we guide farmers to treasure the land, increase input, enhance soil fertility and gradually increase output. It will also enable us to relieve the farmers’ - worries behind and maintain the stability of rural areas. This cornerstone for the Party’s rural policies should never be removed.

We should firmly carry out the policy of extending the land contract period by another 30 years. Meanwhile, we should spare no effort to formulate laws and regulations that ensure the stability of the rural land contract relationship for a long time to come and grant farmers long-term and guaranteed land use right. Erroneous practices should be resolutely corrected, such as violation of the policy by shortening the land contract period, retrieving contracted land, marking off extra land for emergency use and raising contract fees. The rational transfer of the land use right should be practiced on a voluntary basis with compensation in accordance with the law, and farming households should not be compelled to transfer the right on any excuse. In a few places with appropriate conditions, diversified forms of land operation with a moderate level of economy of scale may be developed, on the basis of an enhanced degree of intensive farming and the farmers’ free will.

It is a major subject of rural reform and development to actively explore concrete methods for the achievement of agricultural modernization, on the basis of the household contract responsibility system. The industrialized operations in rural areas, not confined by departments, regions and ownership, have linked up the production, processing and marketing of farm produce, creating organizational forms and operational mechanisms that are organically integrated and mutually promotive. This practice will not weaken the foundation of household operations and infringe on farmers’ rights and interests over their properties. Instead, it can effectively resolve the problems of letting millions of farmers enter the market and use modern science and technology to expand the scale of production. Enhancing the efficiency and the level of marketization of the agricultural economy is one of the realistic ways for China’s agriculture to gradually achieve modernization. To develop industrialized agricultural operations, the key lies in fostering leading enterprises with the capacity to explore the market, conduct intensive processing of farm produce, provide services for farmers and bring along farming households to develop commodity production. Such leading enterprises should be guided to form rational interest relations with farmers, to let the farmers receive practical benefits and develop jointly with them. The existing farm produce processing and marketing enterprises should be fully used to avoid blind construction of new projects and redundant construction.

Proceeding from the status quo and the development demand of the rural economy, we should continue to improve the ownership structure. While actively developing the public ownership, we should adopt flexible and effective policies and measures to encourage and guide the further development of individual, private and other non-public forms of ownership in rural areas. Diversified forms of trans-ownership and cross-regional association and cooperation that suit production and market needs should be developed. The supply and marketing cooperatives and credit cooperatives should continue to deepen reform and provide agriculture and farmers with better service. The. farmers’ practice of establishing economic entities through various forms of joint- stock cooperation is a new issue that should be actively supported, correctly guided and gradually improved. We should especially encourage the development of the collective economy that relies mainly on the alliance of labor and capital of farmers.

IV. Deepening the Reform of the Farm Produce Circulation System and Improving the Farm Produce Market System

It is imperative for the sustained and steady development of agriculture and rural economy to further invigorate the circulation of farm produce, quickly form an open, unified, competitive and orderly farm produce market system, and provide farmers with a sound market environment. We should adopt corresponding methods and steps in line with the different characteristics of farm produce and the situation of supply in the reform of the farm produce circulation system.

Grain is a strategic material which has a close bearing on the national economy and the people’s livelihood. Establishing a grain circulation system suited to a socialist market economy and China’s national conditions is of great and far-reaching significance to maintaining the country’s food security, economic development and social stability. To deepen the reform of the grain circulation system, importance should be attached to the following aspects:

First, retaining the starting point to ensure the basic self- sufficiency of grain, protect the farmers’ enthusiasm for grain production and promote the steady increase in output.

Second, effectively managing the grain purchasing market to ensure State control over grain resources. This is of cardinal importance to enhancing the State’s macro-control ability and maintaining the stability of the grain market.

Third, opening the grain retail market and exercising multi- channel operation, so as to form competitive mechanisms and meet diversified market demands.

Fourth, establishing the grain risk fund, grain reserves and the system of purchasing grain at protective prices so that the State can regulate grain supply and protect the interests of farmers and consumers.

Fifth, deepening the reform of State-owned grain enterprises by separating government and enterprise management, strengthening internal management, increasing efficiency by reducing the number of employees, and strictly abiding by State laws, regulations and policies related to grain purchasing and marketing.

At present, all localities and relevant departments should follow the deployment of the central authorities and act under unified thinking. They should firmly carry out the three policies to the effect that the farmers’ surplus grain should be purchased without restriction at the protected price, that grain purchasing and storage enterprises should sell grain at profitable prices, and that the grain purchasing fund should be operated in a closed way. The State- owned grain enterprises should expedite their own reform and establish new mechanisms for independent management and• responsibility for their own profits and losses. All this aims to ensure the reform of the grain circulation system progress smoothly and achieve expected results.

With regard to the reform of the cotton circulation system, the State will, under the premise of effective management of reserves, imports, exports and quality, liberalize the purchasing price, expand circulation channels and gradually establish a new mechanism for the rational allocation of cotton, which is under the State macro-control and mainly relies on market mechanisms.

We should also deepen the reform of the circulation system of tobacco, silkworm cocoons, wool and other industrial raw materials, while continuing to open and invigorate the circulation of meat, poultry, eggs, vegetables, fruit and other fresh and live farm produce. We should continue to develop varied forms of primary market, with the focus on developing regional or national wholesale markets in farm produce distribution areas, and actively explore new forms of circulation, such as direct link between producer and seller, chain management and ~listribution centen We should nurture the farmers’ own circulation organizations an enhance the organizational level of farmers to enter the market. W should also strengthen the construction of market facilities an improve the information collection and announcement system, si as to provide the farmers with timely and accurate marke information. Moreover, we should complete market laws ani regulations, maintain market order and oppose blockade an monopoly.

We should strengthen the construction of rural commercia establishments and networks, reform the agricultural capital good circulation system and actively explore the rural market Meanwhile, we should guide the standard development of rura markets for capital, technology, labor and other production factors.

V. Accelerating Agricultural Capital Construction Centered on Water Conservancy Projects and Improving Agricultural Ecological Environment

While floods remain serious disasters persistently obsessing the Chinese nation, the shortage of water resources is increasingly becoming a factor restricting the country’s agricultural and socioeconomic development. The whole Party should attach high importance to the problem. We should heighten the whole nation’s awareness of water-caused troubles, and mobilize all social forces to participate in the construction of water conservancy projects. In the construction of water conservancy projects, we should adhere to the principles of overall planning with due consideration to all concerned, treating the problems by looking into both the root cause and symptoms, and seeking comprehensive harnessing of resources. Efforts should be made to promote what is beneficial and eliminate what is harmful, attach equal importance to increasing income and reducing expenditure and lay equal emphasis on flood control and combating drought. While building major water conservancy projects, we should make long-term, comprehensive and careful plans and conduct scientific selection and comparison. The imminent task is to increase input to expedite the treatment of major rivers and lakes, such as Yangtze and Yellow rivers, and enhance flood-control ability. Great efforts should be made in the coming yehrs to reinforce major flood-control dikes on large rivers and lakes, fortify existing problematic reservoirs to eliminate dangers and enable them to fully play their roles, and remove silt and blockages in rivers and lakes to fully resume their floodwater storage and discharge capacity. We should speed up the construction of the Three Gorges, Xiaolangdi and other major river-control projects and raise the floodwater regulation and storage capacity. We should also strengthen the construction of urban flood-control projects and sea dikes and attach importance to the harnessing of small rivers. We will improve meteorological, hydrological and flood-control service systems, make persistent efforts to improve farmland irrigation capital construction and strive to eliminate the problems of drought and water shortage. We should also quicken the pace in the repair and improvement of facilities in existing large and medium-sized irrigation areas. Rural collectives and farming households should be encouraged to build and operate small irrigation facilities through diversified methods. Water conservation policies should be formulated to energetically develop water-efficient agriculture, promote water-efficient irrigation as a revolution, enhance the water utilization rate by a large margin and expand farmland efficient irrigation areas.

Improving the ecological environment is a long-term program concerning the subsistence and development of the Chinese nation and also a fundamental measure to prevent and resist droughts, floods and other natural calamities. We should energetically raise the forest coverage rate and bring under control soil erosion areas suitable for treatment. Construction of ecological projects should be combined with land treatment, industrial development and regional economic progress. In national ecological environment construction, emphasis should be laid on the upper and middle reaches of the Yellow and Yangtze rivers, sandstorm-stricken areas and grasslands, and endeavor~ are called for to plant trees and grass, improve afforestation by prohibiting hunting and grazing on mountains, expedite the comprehensive treatment of drainage areas, strengthen the conservation of water sources and water and soil conservation, enhance the sandstorm-prevention capacity and revert the situation of serious silt in river beds and the desertification of grasslands. Forest resources should be protected in accordance with the law. The main operation of forest industrial enterprises should be readjusted right away to switch from felling to afforestation. Felling in natural forests should be stopped in a planned way, and practical measures should be adopted to protect forest vegetation on the upper reaches of main rivers. Reclaiming farmland by destroying forests and grasslands or enclosing lakes for cultivation are forbidden. The excessively reclaimed land should be returned to forests, grasslands and lakes in a planned way. Desertification and alkalization leading to the deterioration of grasslands should be curbed, and the construction and development of grasslands strengthened. The pollution of land and water resources caused by irrational utilization of chemical fertilizer, insecticides and plastic films by industry, households and agriculture should be controlled. Protection of the coastal water environment and fish resources should be strengthened. In addition, we should formulate policies to promote the practice of contracting, leasing and auctioning of the utilization right of waste mountains, gullies, hills and tidal land, accelerate their development and harnessing, and earnestly guarantee the legitimate rights and interests of developers.

Given the fact that China lacks land reserves, we should base the enhancement of the comprehensive productive capacity of agriculture on the protection and renovation of existing cultivated land. Limitations on converting farmland for construction purposes should be carried out in accordance with the law, and the basic farmland protective region system strictly implemented. Comprehensive agricultural development should give priority to the transformation of adjoining medium- and low-yield land in a concentrated way. In plain areas, we should strive to ensure most cultivated land reaps stable and high yields despite drought or excessive rain, while in hilly areas, the target of 0.5 mu (15 mu=l hectare) of high-grade basic farmland per person should be achieved. Comprehensive development of mountainous areas should proceed in accordance with local conditions. Continuous efforts should be made to intensify the construction of commodity production bases for major farm produce.

The agricultural investment and financing system should be reformed and improved. While taking the input of rural collectives and farming households as the basis, we should gradually increase the State treasury’s investment in agriculture and guide more credit funds and social capital to be invested in the sector. The utilization of foreign capital’ in agriculture should be expanded. Both central and local authorities should increase input considerably in the construction of large-scale water conservancy and ecological projects, rural highways and power grids, grain depots and other infrastructure facilities.

VI. Optimizing Agriculture and Rural Economic Structure Through Scientific And Technological Progress

The transformation from traditional to modern agriculture and from extensive to intensive operation requires major development and a new revolution of agricultural science and technology. China, as a large agricultural country, should make agricultural science and technology a key point in its entire scientific and technological work and strive to catch up with advanced world levels. To promote the revolution of agricultural science and technology, we should, on the basis of extensively applying farm machinery, chemical fertilizers, plastic films and other industrial technological results, rely on bioengineering, information technology and other new and high technologies to achieve the substantial leap of China’s agricultural science, technology and productive forces and gradually establish an agricultural scientific and technological innovation system. We should persist in the combination of basic and application research, high and conventional technology, independent research and technology imports, and scientific research and the spread of results. We should formulate a comprehensive plan and strive to make breakthroughs in the selective breeding of animals and plants, the efficient utilization of agricultural resources, modern intensive cultivation and breeding technology, the prevention and treatment of agricultural biological disasters, and technologies related to the storage, transport and processing of farm produce. We should reform the agricultural scientific and technological system, readjust the division of work and distribution of research institutes, give priority to key areas, encourage innovation and make joint efforts to tackle difficult problems. Advanced applicable technology geared to agriculture, rural areas and farmers should be promoted energetically through experiment and demonstration, with the focus on the “seed project” and dry-land water- conservation agro-technology, ‘so as to constantly enhance the contribution of science and technology to the growth of agriculture. Greater efforts should be pooled in the construction of the rural agro-technology promotion system, and the support of rural special technology associations and other non-governmental specialized service organizations. Scientific research and teaching institutions should be encouraged to develop and spread agro- technology and establish high-tech agricultural enterprises.

In the effort to readjust and optimize the rural economic structure, while taking into account the trend of accelerated development of global agricultural science and technology, as well as China's national conditions of a large population and limited land resources, we should meet the needs of both domestic and overseas markets, rely on scientific and technological progress, bring into play the comparative advantages of different regions, enhance market competitiveness, and improve the quality and efficiency of the agricultural economy. In accordance with the principle of seeking high output, high quality and high efficiency, we should develop farming, forestry, animal husbandry, sideline occupations and fishery in a comprehensive way, with the focus on the processing of farm and sideline products, the development of advantageous products, and the readjustment > and enhancement of rural industries. Energetic efforts should be made to develop tertiary industries in combination with the construction of small towns.

In grain production, endeavors should be made to ensure the steady growth, of total output, enhance per-unit output, improve quality and quickly phase out unmarketable varieties. We should improve the quality of main cash crops and rationally readjust their regional distribution. In the effort to build up the “vegetable basket project”, we should develop high-quality products and new varieties, lower costs, enhance efficiency and achieve balanced supply. We should strive to create name-brand agricultural products. With the constant increase in agricultural production and the residents’ consumption level, we should put animal husbandry in a more important place and promote the further development of the cultivation and processing industries. We should active1y develop livestock breeding in pastoral areas and expedite the development of animal husbandry in agricultural  regions. While developing pig breeding steadily, we should also stress development of herbivorous and grain-saving animals and poultry. Efforts should be made to improve the strain of animals and poultry, enhance breeding, and epidemic disease prevention and treatment technologies, and develop the animal feed industry. We should also expedite the development of aquaculture, stabilize offshore fishing and expand deep-sea fishing.

Township enterprises constitute an important force that hasbrought forth a new upsurge in the national economy. They have tremendous potential in technological progress, product upgrading and the exploration of both domestic and overseas markets. At present, township enterprises have entered an important stage of structural readjustment and the creation of new management systems. Party committees and governments at all levels should, from the overall interests and a strategic perspective, energetically support township enterprises, make rational plans, give guidance based on the different categories of enterprises and exercise management in ancordance with the law. Township enterprises should meet the needs of industrialized management of agriculture, with the focus on the development of the processing, storage, preservation and transport of farm and sideline products. To facilitate the readjustment of the entire industrial structure, these enterprises should intensify technological renovation and management, improve product quality and enhance competitiveness. Township enterprises in eastern regions should attach importance to enhancing their scientific and technological level and developing products with high added value and an export-oriented economy. Central and western regions should give priority to developing labor-intensive and resources processing industries, while doing their best to utilize new technology and enhance quality and efficiency. We should actively advance the reform of township enterprises and give the masses a free hand so that they can proceed from reality to explore and select the operational and organizational forms of enterprises. We should also enhance the vitality of enterprises, mobilize the initiative of investors, operators and laborers, and maintain and increase the value of collective properties. The evasion and invalidation of the debts to financial institutions are strictly banned.

The development of small towns is an important strategy to promote the economic and social progress in rural areas. It is conducive to developing township enterprises in a relatively concentrated way, transferring surplus rural labor force on a larger scale and preventing their blind flow into large and medium-sized cities, improving the quality of farmers and their living quality, expanding domestic demand and propelling the fast growth of the national economy. We should formulate and complete policies and measures to promote the sound development of small towns and further improve the household registration management system in small towns. Small towns should be rationally distributed and scientifically planned. Importance should be attached to infrastructure construction, economy on land and environmental protection.

VII. Intensifying the Effort to Achieve a Moderate Level of Prosperity and Eliminating Poverty in Rural Areas

It will be of an epoch-making significance to ensuring that Chinese farmers live a better-off life. To achieve a moderate level of prosperity in rural areas means the masses of farmers becoming better fed and clothed and enjoying richer means of livelihood, along with some improvement in their living conditions and further enhancement of their health and educational levels. All localities should promote the construction for achieving a moderate level of prosperity in rural areas, in accordance with the actual conditions, economic development and the bearing capacity of farmers in each locality.

Increasing the income and reducing the burden of farmers constitute the basic condition for achieving a moderate level of prosperity in rural areas, and are also of great importance to tapping the rural market and expanding domestic demand. It has always been a major task for agricultural and > rural work to seek every possible way to increase farmers’ income. We should expand employment opportunities through the development of production and the optimization of industrial structures. While attaching importance to the production of grain, cotton, edible oil and other staple farm produce, we should rationally develop and use various resources to develop a diversified economy. We should combine cultivation and breeding with processing, storage and transport, in order to enhance the added value of farm produce. In the effort to organize farmers to engage in construction in other places, we should ensure infrastructure construction projects funded by the State use as many rural laborers as possible, so as to increase the cash income of farmers. To reduce the burden of farmers, we should look into both, the root cause and symptoms. With regard to rational charges, we should stick to the limited amount of fixed items, ensuring they maintain relatively stable and remain unchanged for three years once set. Unauthorized charges, arbitrary collection of fees, indiscriminate fares and apportions on various excuses are strictly forbidden. Various erroneous practices of increasing the farmers’ burdens through disguised forms should be corrected, and those in violation of stipulations should be dealt with seriously. We should gradually reform the tax system and accelerate legislation on the charges and labor services borne by farmers.

To achieve a moderate level of prosperity in rural areas throughout the country, we should focus on accelerating agricultural and rural economic development in central and western regions. The State will intensify efforts to materialize financial transfer payments, readjust the distribution of the processing industry and give priority to arranging key infrastructure construction projects to support the economic development in central and western regions. These regions should give play to their advantages in the production of grain, cotton, edible oil and animal by-products, develop farm and sideline products processing industries and become the nation’s major farm produce commodity bases. The eastern regions and suburbs of large and medium-sized cities should enhance the development level of their rural economy. Localities with appropriate conditions should take the lead in basically achieving agricultural modernization and, through economic association and cooperation, help and bring along the development of the rural areas in central and western regions and gradually achieve common prosperity.

To resolve the problem of feeding and clothing the rural poor is an imminent and arduous task. The fact that most live in remote and border areas with tough natural conditions has added to the difficulty in the work to thoroughly eliminate poverty. Hence, we should intensify endeavors in the work. We should adhere to the principle of poverty relief through production development and ensure the work be materialized in each household. We should increase input in poverty relief by a large margin through diversified channels and improve the work-relief program, with focus on improving basic production and living conditions and the development of cultivation and breeding undertakings. Development through resettlement will be practiced in a planned way for the few poverty-stricken people living under extremely harsh conditions. Economic development should be combined with intellectual development, and poverty-relief carried out through scientific and educational progress. We should summarize and promote the experience in effectively providing poor families with small amounts of loans and other poverty-relief funds. We should also strengthen the supervision and examination of the utilization of poverty-relief funds and strictly ban the utilization of the funds for other purposes. All quarters of society should be mobilized to participate in the poverty-relief work, and various government departments and localities in eastern regions should improve their counterpart poverty-relief work in the central and western regions. We should continue to implement the provincial (autonomous regional and municipal) leadership responsibility system in poverty-relief work. While tackling difficult problems, we should stick to the principle of seeking truth from facts and should not raise excessive demands that deviate from reality, nor should we lower standards for the sake of quickening the speed, to say nothing of resorting to formalism and deception. After the problem of feeding and clothing the poor people is resolved, to consolidate the results of the poverty-relief work and thoroughly change the outlook of poverty-stricken areas will remain a long-term task.

VIII. Strengthening the Construction Of Democracy and Legal System at the Rural Grass-Roots Level

To expand rural grass-roots democracy and exercise self-administration of villagers are great creations of the Party in leading millions of farmers to build socialist democratic politics with Chinese characteristics. We should farther expand rural grass roots democracy, in order to further mobilize the enthusiasm and initiative of the masses of farmers and advance various reforms and the all-round development of various construction undertakings in rural areas.

—Comprehensively advancing village-level democratic elections. Village committees should be elected directly by villagers on schedule strictly in accordance with laws and regulations, as well as the principles of justice, impartiality and openness. This will ensure the entrance to the leading body of people who are genuinely supported by the masses, honest and upright, have a certain level of education and capacity, and will serve the masses sincerely.

—Comprehensively advancing village-level democratic policy decision. All important issues that concern the interests of vilIages should be submitted to the meeting of all villagers or villager representatives for discussion, and decisions should be made in accordance with the opinions of the majority. These issues include the utilization of funds collected and retained by a village, the number of village cadres to receive work-loss subsidies and the standard amount involved, the utilization of profits made by village collective economic entities, the contributions of villagers to village-run public undertakings, and plans for land contract, the use of house sites and contracts for collective economic projects.

—Comprehensively advancing village-level democratic management. Rules for self-adminisiration and village provisions should be formulated on the basis of discussion of all villagers in line with the Party’s principles and policies, State laws and regulations, as well as local conditions. They should make clear stipulations of the villagers’ rights, interests and obligations, the relationship between various village-level organizations and their work procedures, and requirements related to economic management, social security, local customs, marriage and family planning. All this aims to heighten the self-administration, self-education and self-service of villagers.

—Comprehensively advancing village-level democratic supervision. All major affairs and issues drawing the public concern in a village should be open to the villagers. The key for opening village affairs lies in the opening of finance. Village committees should extensively listen to the opinion of the masses and rectify practices opposed by the majority of villagers. Village cadres who are found unqualified through the democratic appraisal of villagers should be removed in accordance with stipulated procedures.

The foundation for the good practice of self-administration of villagers lies in institutional construction. Emphasis should be put on the establishment and completion of the village committee democratic election system, the democratic discussion system with the meetings of all villagers or villager representatives as the main form, and the democratic supervision system mainly composed of the opening of village affairs, democratic appraisal and the regular work report by the village committee. Village affairs should be operated in accordance with rules, and the self-administration of villagers institutionalized and standardized.

Township-level democratic construction is an important component of the rural grass-roots democracy. We should adhere to and complete the system of the direct election of deputies to the township people’s congress. The township people’s congress should seriously fulfill all responsibilities prescribed by law. The township government should transform its functions in earnest, streamline administration, and reduce redundancy. At present, resolute measures should be taken to cut employees beyond the manning quota. Moreover, the township government should exercise administration in accordance with law and regularize management. All township organs of political power should open their administrative affairs, perform their duties to the convenience of the masses and accept public supervision.

To advance rural grass-roots democracy, we must closely combine the effort to implement the strategy of rulingt the country by law and that to complete the legal system. We should see to it that there must be laws to abide by, the laws must be strictly observed and fully enforced, and any violations against law must be dealt with. Laws and regulations that ensure the farmers directly exercise their democratic rights should be completed. Resolute actions should be taken to investigate and deal witth acts that suppress and sabotage democracy and encroach on the democratic rights of farmers. We should strengthen the education and publicity of the law, in order to enhance the rural cadres’ legal conscioousness and their ability to perform their duties in accordance with the law; and enable the masses of farmers to understand and abide by the law, implement their due obligations and use the law to protect their legitimate rights and interests. We should intensify the comprehensive rectification of rural public order and sternly crack down on all criminal activities and evil forces, so as to create a sound public security environment for the production and livelihood of farmers. We should also appropriately handle the contradictions among rural people in the new historical period and be adept in using legal, administrative and economic means and ideological education to ease contradictions, resolve disputes and promote stability and unity.

Expansion of grass-roots democracy in rural areas should be proceed in a step-by-step and orderly way under the Party’s unified leadership, and the role of township- (town) and village-level grass-roots Party organizations as the nucleus of leadership should be brought into full play. We should timely sum up and promote good experiences that facilitate the farmers to act as their own masters, organize the work carefully and give necessary guidance based on the division of categories, so as to promote the sound development of grass-roots democratic politics in rural areas.

IX. Promoting Cultural and Ethical Progress in Rural Areas

A fundamental task to promote socialist cultural and ethical progress in rural areas is to comprehensively enhance the farmers’ ideological, ethical, scientific and cultural quality, so as to provide rural economic and social development with a powerful spiritual motive force, intellectual support and ideological guarantee.

While promoting this cultural and ethical progress, we should persist in taking Deng Xiaoping Theory as the guidance, closely focus on the goals of developing the economy and achieving a moderate level of prosperity, and combine the effort with rural economic work, construction of grass-roots democratic politics and comprehensive rectification of the social order. The building of  “civilized households” and “civilized villages and townships” will be the main form of the program. We should rely on the masses, have our feet firmly planted in the grass-roots, attach importance to implementation and seek practical resuIts. There must be education of patriotism, collectivism, socialism, the Party’s basic line, principles and policies, social morality, professional ethics and family virtue for farmers. Ideological and ethical education should penetrate all mass activities for promoting cultural and ethical progress. We should also conduct education of national defense and improve the work related to the militia, reservist service and the program to support the army and give preferential treatment to families of revolutionary soldiers and martyrs. We should guide the farmers to change old habits and customs and abolish outmoded practices. Feudal superstitious activities should be opposed, and pornographic activities, gambling and drug abuse banned. We should comprehensively carry out the Party’s religious policies and crack down on heresies and illegal activities camouflaged as religion. Greater endeavors should be made to construct rural cultural facilities, expand the coverage of radio and television broadcasts, do a good job in organizing cultural, scientific, technological and medical workers to go down to rural areas to serve the farmers, and encourage and support the farmers’ amateur cultural and sports activities. Continuous efforts should be made to control the number and improve the quality of the population, and combine the family planning work with rural economic development, helping farmers to escape from poverty and embark on the road of prosperity, and building civilized and happy families. In addition, we should complete rural health care facilities and steadily develop cooperative medical services, in an effort to improve the health of farmers.

The development of rural educational undertakings is the key to the implementation of the principle of invigorating agriculture through science and education and to the improvement of the quality of the rural population. We must, from the perspective of the long-term development of rural areas, and the overall progress of China’s modernization drive, fully understand the importance and imminence of the development of rural education. Efforts should be pooled to energetically advance the comprehensive reform of the rural educational system, plan elementary, vocational and adult education in a unified way, and further complete the rural educational system.

High impprtance should be attached to the implementation of compulsory education in rural areas, particularly in ethnic minority and poverty-stricken areas, and practical measures should be taken to resolve the problem of discontinuation of study by school-age children, girl students in particular. Rural primary and middle schools should pay close attention to comprehensive qualification education, and add, in due course, agricultural and other practical technological education to their curricula. The structure of secondary education should be rationally readjusted in accordance with the economic development of each locality and social demands. Energetic efforts should be made to develop multi-level and diversified forms of vocational education, manage well secondary and higher schools of agronomy and expand satellite broadcast television education, with the aim of cultivating a large number of specialized technical personnel for rural areas.

We should attach great importance to rural adult education and intensify the efforts to eliminate illiteracy. In close combination with the practice of production, we should organize the farmers to learn advanced and practical cultivation, breeding and farm produce processing technologies. The job training of farmers engaged in industry should be strengthened, so as to enhance their technical know-how and ability and knowledge of safe production. Farmers should also be guided to learn and master knowledge of commodity production and maketing and management expertise through various means.

We should run schools through diversified channels, increase input in rural education and mobilize social forces to support education. Conditions of rural schools should be improved gradually, and a time limit should be set for the renovation of dangerous school buildings. We should attach high importance to the cultivation of rural teachers, and encourage urban teachers and cadres to render teaching services, in rural areas on a voluntary basis. We should give political and material encouragement to teachers who have worked in ethnic minority, remote, mountainous and poverty-stricken areas for a long time, and improve their work and living conditions in real earnest.

X. Strengthening the Building of Rural Grass-Roots Party Organizations And the Ranks of Rural Cadres

To build a new socialist countryside with Chinese characteristics, the key lies in strengthening and improving Party leadership, fully displaying the role of township (town) Party committees and village Party branches as the nucleus of leadership, and building a high-quality contingent of rural grass-roots cadres.

The Party’s rural grass-roots organizations are the foundation of the Party’s entire work and combat force in rural areas, and the nucleus of the leadership of various organizations and tasks in rural areas. Concentrated training and consolidation in recent years have achieved noticeable results. However, since the construction of rural grass-roots organizations is a prolonged and arduous work, we should persist in these efforts on a continuous basis. We should comprehensively strengthen the construction of village Party branches and township (town) Party committees, and simultaneously display the role of the Communist Youth League, women’s federations, militia and other mass organizations, in an effort to enhance the overall level of rural grass-roots organizations. Rural Party members should take the lead in implementing various policies of the Party and State, lead the masses to seek common prosperity and play an exemplary role in the construction of material civilization and the promotion of socialist cultural and ethical progress.

Rural grass-roots cadres constitute the backbone to unite with and lead the masses of farmers to get rid of poverty and seek a better life. They have made important contributions to rural reform, development and stability, and are totally reliable. The overall quality of this contingent, however, cannot totally meet the needs of the new situation and new tatks. Some cadres, failing to correctly understand the Party’s rural policies, tend to follow their own wills in implementation, while some young cadres are unfamiliar with the process and policies of rural reform. Others, with a low educational level and outmoded concepts, lack methods to lead the masses to develop the economy. Still others, lacking moral integrity, perform their duties in an unfair, simple and rude way and even abuse their power to seek personal gain and violate State law and Patty discipline. These problems must be dealt with seriously.

The general requirements for building a contingent of high quality rural grass-roots cadres are: deepening the study of Deng Xiaoping Theory and the spirit of the 15th National Party Congress, sticking to the faith of building socialism with Chinese characteristics and enhancing the consciousness in implementing the Party’s line, principles and policies and in abiding by State laws and regulations; seriously practicing the fundamental principle of serving the people wholeheartedly and learning ways to do a good job in the work among farmers under new historical conditions; and striving to master the knowledge of the socialist market economy, science, technology, culture and law, so as to heighten the ability to lead the farmers to develop the economy and promote both material civilization and socialist cultural and ethical progress.

Enhancing the policy level is an important link to strengthen the construction of the contingent of grass-roots cadres. The Party regards its policies as the lifeline. Rural grass-roots cadres should seriously study and comprehensively understand the Party's policies and carry them out to the letter. They should correctly publicize and explain various policies to the masses and turn them into conscious actions by the masses. They should also carry out policies in accordance with reality, encourage creativeness and avoid absolutism. They should carry out the Party’s policies in an exemplary way and do a good job first in issues which they require the masses to accomplish. We should intensify the training of rural grass-roots cadres, establish a complete system of regular training in rotation, fully display the role of county and township level Party schools and compile teaching materials that are easy to understand. We should combine political an theoretical training with the training of applicable technologies, and stress the education of policies and law, in an effort to enhance the grass- roots cadres’ ability to correctly carry out policies, persist in performing their duties in accordance with law and be adept in the mass work.

To close the relationship between the Party and the people and between cadres and masses is an imminent task to intensify the construction of the contingent of rural grass-roots cadres. Rural grass-roots cadres must serve the masses sincerely and oppose the practice of deviating from the masses and refraining from practical work. They should persist in seeking truth from facts and oppose dishonesty and being prone to boasting and exaggeration; persist in building the countryside through hard work and oppose extravagance and waste; consult with the masses when matters arise and oppose coercion and commandism; correctly exercise their power and oppose the abuse of power to seek personal gain; and strive to unify the fulfillment of the tasks set by the upper authorities and the effort to safeguard the interests of the masses, and oppose the practice of disregarding the overall interests and infringing upon the interests of the masses. With regard to the problems in the rural grass-roots cadres’ ideology and style of work, we should intensify education and deal with them seriously. Those who abuse their power and trample on laws and disciplines should be dealt with resolutely. We should combine the strict demand on rural grass-roots cadres with the concern and care of them, and publicize, commend and reward grass-roots cadres who have made outstanding achievements and are supported by the masses. We should attach importance to cultivating and selecting township cadres from among exemplary village cadres. A sound environment should be created for village cadres in carrying out their work, and all acts that attack and retaliate against them should be checked. We should also support and encourage government department cadres, army officials transferred to civilian work, and college and secondary vocational school graduates to work at township and village authorities.

It is a tradition and also a major principle of the Party to run the rural work. The whole Party should attach high importance to agriculture and rural work. All Party committees and governments from the central to local levels should place the work in an important position, and all sectors should support agriculture. Prefectural and county authorities should devote their main energy and work emphasis to agriculture and rural work. They should unremittingly carry out the Party’s basic policies in rural areas, and appropriately guide, protect and display the initiative of the masses of cadres and farmers. We should correctly understand the issue of farmers under the new situation and be adept at handling the relationship with the farmers through such methods as persuasion and education, guidance through demonstration, and providing services. We should respect natural and economic laws, exercise democratic and scientific decision-making and combine the consciousness of constantly making explorations and progress with the spirit of seeking truth from facts and doing practical work. Party committees and governments at all levels and relevant departments should improve their leading methods and style of work, do more practical work for and refrain from adding to the burden of the grass-roots and give up impractical competition and appraisal activities. Leading cadres at all levels should get down to the realities of life, strengthen investigation and study, and sum up and promote experiences created by farmers in practice. They should particularly go to poverty-stricken and backward areas to help resolve difficulties and protruding problems.

The session called on the whole Party to be mobilized, unite the people of all nationalities in the country and, under the leadership of the Party Central Committee with Comrade Jiang Zemin at the core, hold high the great banner of Deng Xiaoping Theory, earnestly carry out the spirit of the 15th National Party Congress, work hard, do all work in a down-to-earth way, strive to create a new situation of China’s agricultural development and rural work and advance the great cause of building socialism with Chinese characteristics to the 21st century in an all-round way.

(From text published in bilingual form in Bejing Review, November 23-29, 1998,
pp. 35-55. Slightly edited by Dr. Rˇbinson Rojas)