In-depth Strategy for Rural Vitalization

By Chen Ming

 

What is the meaning of the newly released “No. 1 central document” to Chinese rural vitalization?

What is the key to rural management in China in the coming years?

 

The 15th action plan concerning agriculture, rural areas and rural people was released by the General Office of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and the General Office of the State Council on February 4. This document lays out a comprehensive roadmap for the rural vitalization strategy, clearly stating that the country should accelerate the modernization of agriculture and rural areas in support of socialist rural vitalization with Chinese characteristics.

Further to the rural vitalization strategy proposed in the report of the 19th National Congress of the CPC, the central rural work conference held on December 28 and 29 confirmed the strategy as the overall guideline for issues relating to agriculture, rural areas and rural people in pursuit of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a new era.

This emphasis means that from now on rural issues will be led by the rural vitalization strategy, which also means that this year’s No.1 central document will transcend the other general annual documents and become the guidance for all work relating to agriculture and rural areas for the foreseeable future.

The tasks of rural vitalization strategy are closely related to securing a decisive victory in building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, and the two-step approach to realizing the first centennial goal proposed at the 19th National Congress of the CPC.

The objectives for different stages of rural vitalization are specified in the document:

By 2020, the strategy should have established an institutional framework and policy. By then, no Chinese people will find themselves living below the existing poverty line, and rural productivity and agricultural supply will improve substantially.

By 2035, “decisive” progress will be made, with basic modernization of agriculture and rural areas. All Chinese, either in cities or rural areas, will have equal access to basic public services. Urban and rural integration will improve.

By 2050, rural areas should have strong agriculture, a beautiful countryside and prosperous farmers.

Institutional Supply is the Key to Strengthening Rural Vitalization

The concept of institutional supply was first raised in this No. 1 central document.

A series of institutional barriers have hindered the flow of factors among cities and rural areas, which has further impeded the modernization of agriculture and rural areas.

This new concept will break down the barriers hampering the modernization of agriculture and rural areas by promoting institutional innovation, overcoming institutional obstacles, and lowering institutional costs.

In terms of direct institutional supply for rural vitalization, the document has pinpointed in four requirements: consolidate and improve the basic rural operation system, advance reform of the rural land system, press ahead with reform of the rural collective property rights system, and improve the systems for supporting and protecting agriculture.

Among all these institutional requirements, the reform of the rural land system poses a significant challenge.

The document proposes that by separating the ownership rights, contract rights and management rights for homestead land, idle and disused homestead land can be better used to effectively boost the rural housing market. At the same time, in accordance with the general plan for land utilization, the document also allows county level governments to reorganize and utilize scattered reserved construction land to adjust and optimize their allocation.

This measure aims to partially delegate land management authority to increase the level of land reallocation and management, thereby improving the efficiency of allocating rural land resources.

However, the successful implementation of the said institutions also calls for a supporting surveillance and control system to prevent any misuse of land brought about by the delegation of power.

The Measures Defined to Safeguard Rural Vitalization

In addition, the document also defines several measures to safeguard the implementation of the strategy.

Villagers of the once impoverished village Dawan, Jinzhai, Anhui moved into new houses thanks to the implementation of Beautiful Countryside Construction.

First, the program.

The document proposes a national rural vitalization strategy (2018-2022) which emphasizes that actions should be taken according to the specific conditions and requirements of individual villages. This program is a key measure that links the rural vitalization strategy with the strategy defined at the 19th National Congress of the CPC.

Second, the rule of law.

The document requires that legislation relating to rural vitalization should be put on the agenda and attended to quickly, so as to legalize the effective policies under the strategy and fully deploy the momentum and safeguards offered by legislation.

Third, the personnel.

The document requires the design and implementation of a personnel training program, so as to comprehensively improve the ability of the cadre teams working with agriculture, rural areas and rural people. Since the 19th National Congress of the CPC, the Organization Department of the Central Committee of the CPC and the Department of Agriculture have organised personnel training for the rural vitalization strategy and made plans for implementation. It is believed that personnel training related to agriculture, rural areas and rural people will be further strengthened in the future.

How can Rural Areas be Well-Governed?

Rural governance is the cornerstone of national governance.

Modernized rural governance is an important component of rural vitalization; at the same time, it provides certain organizational foundations for the realization of rural vitalization.

Effective rural governance is the basis of rural vitalization.

Effective governance is an upgrade and improvement to the previous “democratic management of the new countryside”. The former emphasizes the result while the latter focuses on process. These two requirements are not confrontational; the process of introducing new governance ideas to replace old forms embodies the concept of democracy in itself.

It is essential that we combine modern governance ideas with traditional governance resources under the framework of the rule of law to attain effective governance, and the mindset that only focuses on concrete forms and process should be cast aside.

The coming one to two decades are crucial times for urban-rural integration and integrated urban-rural development. During this period, China must adopt the right organizational structure for rural governance, and deal with the relations of power and interests according to the conditions that apply.

The No.1 central document also makes specific provisions concerning the governance model in rural areas proposed at the 19th National Congress of the CPC, which is based on the “combination of self-governance, rule of law and rule of virtue”.

Stronger sanctions will be imposed to stop corruption at the grassroots, while better services and rule of law in the countryside and a deeper anti-crime campaign are significant measures to improve the current rural governance.

This year’s No.1 central document has two important features: one is comprehensive and the other is long-term.

Rural vitalization, on the basis of economic development, is a comprehensive strategy for the countryside that includes the development of rural culture, governance, living standards, and ecology.

Rural vitalization is a tough and protracted battle. As a major strategy of the CPC and China, it is also a long-term historic mission.

 

By Chen Ming, assistant research fellow of Institute of Political Science, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences

The article reflects the author’s opinion, and not necessarily the view of China Matters.