In 1949, China’s
grain output was 113.18 million tons, and that of cotton 444,000 tons; the
agricultural foundation was fragile. Between 1950 and 1953, the Chinese
government carried out a wide-ranging land reform in the rural areas.
Peasants with little or no land were given land of their own, greatly
arousing their enthusiasm for production. During the period of the First
Five-Year Plan (1953-57), the yearly gross output of agriculture increased
by 4.5 percent, on average. This period was the first “golden time”
for China’s agricultural development.
From 1958 to 1978,
China’s agriculture developed slowly. During this period, China
practiced the cooperative and people’s commune systems in rural areas
successively, which emphasized the effectiveness of centralized and
unified management, but reduced the efficiency of resource utilization and
allocation. As a result, the peasants’ enthusiasm for production was
greatly dampened. In this period, the gross agricultural output value
increased by only 2.3 percent, on average, every year.
In 1978, China
introduced the household contract responsibility system, linking
remuneration to output, and started to dismantle the people’s commune
system, eliminating the links between organizations of state power and
economic organizations. Contracting land out to peasants altered the
distribution form of land and mobilized the peasants* enthusiasm for
production. In 1985, a second reform was carried out, which eliminated the
state monopoly of purchase and marketing of agricultural products, and
implemented the system of purchase according to contracts. The reform made
the market play a basic role in adjusting the supply and demand situation
for agricultural products and allocating resources, and aroused the
peasants’ creativeness and enthusiasm for production. Commodity
production and circulation in rural areas developed at an unprecedented
scale and rate. Meanwhile, through more than ten years of adjustment, the
industrial structure in rural areas is becoming more complete with each
passing day: the proportion of primary industry has declined markedly,
while the proportion of the secondary and tertiary industries has risen.
The proportion of agriculture in primary industry has also declined
markedly, while that of animal husbandry and fisheries has grown; the
proportion of cash crops in farm production has gone up, while that of
grain crops gone down. Meanwhile, the proportion of secondary industry has
dropped, while that of tertiary industry has risen.
For 21 years, the
average growth rate of China’s agricultural gross output value reached
6.5 percent, the highest being 12.3 percent in 1984, which surpassed the
world’s average development level for the same period. In 1999,
China’s agricultural production continued to develop in an all-round
way, and the outputs of grain, cotton and oil-bearing crops were 508.39
million tons, 3.83 million tons and 26.012 million tons, respectively,
increases of 66.7, 76.7 and 400 percent over 1978; the output of meat
amounted to 59.61 million tons, or seven times that of 1978; and that of
aquatic products 41.224 million tons, an increase of 8.8 times over 1978.
As a result, the chronic shortage of major agricultural products was
finally overcome. Now the annual average quantities of meat, eggs and milk
per person are 50, 17 and 6.6 kg, which are close to or surpass the
world’s average. The problem of shortages of food, which troubled
Chinese peasants for hundreds of years, has been solved at last.
rise of township enterprises has promoted the all-round development of the
agricultural economy. In 1987, the gross output value of township
enterprises exceeded that of farming; in 1990, the township enterprises
earned 13 billion US dollars from exports, about 23.8 percent of the
national gross value of foreign exchange earned from exports. Thousands of
towns are playing an important role in eliminating the differences between
urban and rural areas, and promoting the integration of urban and rural
areas. The per capita net income of peasants increased from 134 yuan in
1978 to 2,210 yuan in 1999.