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CPC’s valuable experience in rural construction

GUO JINFENG | 2021-07-29 | Hits:
(Chinese Social Sciences Today)

A bird’s eye view of a tea hill in Ersheng County, Chongqing City shows how the local rural vitalization programs help lead the county towards prosperity. Photo: CFP

Rural construction is the foundation for building a moderately prosperous society in all respects. As we start on the new journey and march towards the second centenary goal, it is necessary to review the arduous, century-long history of the Communist Party of China (CPC)’s leadership in rural construction, and summarize useful experience. This will allow us to learn from the past and better modernize our agricultural industry, rural areas, and aim for China’s 2035 vision. 

CPC leadership
We should uphold the CPC’s overall leadership in rural construction. Only the CPC can save China and lead billions of farmers to achieve complete success in rural construction. During the New Democratic Revolution (1919–1949), the Party combined rural construction and revolutionary mobilization, established revolutionary bases in rural areas, and carried out land reform. This revolution followed the logic of “encircling” cities with rural areas and seizing the political power by armed force. 
During the socialist revolution and construction in the 1950s, the CPC guided farmers through developing a collective economy, while prioritizing heavy industry through systems such as unified procurement and sales, household registration, and the people’s commune. 
After the reform and opening up, the CPC found a new way to conduct rural reforms with urban-rural coordinated development, a socialist market economy, the new socialist countryside, and rural vitalization. Consequently, absolute poverty has been wiped out in China, and China has completed building a moderately prosperous society in all respects. 
The history of lifting rural areas out of poverty and towards prosperity also reflects the CPC’s efforts in rural construction. Under the Party’s leadership, rural construction has been incorporated into the overall strategic deployment of national modernization. As we enter a new stage of development, we are faced with more complex external environments and more daunting tasks. Therefore, we must continuously improve the Party’s capacity and leadership, leverage its ability to mobilize and engage locals in rural areas, while pooling resources from all sectors of society to aid rural regions. 
We should always respect the will of farmers and let them play a central role in rural development. Throughout different stages of revolution, construction, and reform, the CPC has always respected grassroots wishes and initiatives. The Party values engaging farmers in the pursuit of a better life. 
During the New Democratic Revolution, the CPC transformed rural areas’ economic and social foundations through a land revolution, which improved farmers’ production and living conditions. During the period of socialist revolution and construction, the CPC’s implementation of “land to the tillers” as a reform mechanism, the promotion of mutual assistance and cooperation, received strong support from farmers and helped agricultural production recover rapidly. 
In the new era of reform and opening up and socialist modernization, comprehensive market-oriented rural reforms, including fixing farm output quotas for each household and developing village enterprises, responded to farmers’ ambitions and led to new emancipation in rural productivity. In the new era of socialism with Chinese characteristics, in response to farmers’ interest in retaining their land contracting rights and transferring their land management rights, the CPC carried out “separation of land ownership, contracting, and management rights,” which helped properly allocate rural resources while also engaging all market entities into the country’s rural construction endeavor. 
History shows that to best promote rural construction, it is essential to fully respect farmers’ dominant role, leveraging their initiative and creativity while also emancipating and increasing rural productivity. The core “three rural issues” of agriculture, rural areas, and farmers lies in the problems farmers face. The rural masses are the fundamental driving force behind the development of agriculture and rural areas. Agriculture can only have promising prospects when farmers have dignity and rural areas can only be vitalized when farmers are motivated. 
Putting people first
We should always prioritize people’s livelihoods. CPC has always made it its mission to seek happiness for the people. The land revolution victory allowed farmers, a major part of the population, to gain tangible economic benefits, which has helped stabilize and develop agriculture, the country’s fundamental industry. More than ten years after the implementation of an industrialization strategy, in order to protect the lives and health of the rural population, the CPC provided free treatment for schistosomiasis patients in rural areas whenever it could. [Schistosomiasis is a treatable but dehabilitating disease that used to disturb farmers when they worked in the fields, especially those in regions of rivers and lakes, such as Hubei and Jiangxi provinces.
As the country’s overall economic strength grows, the Party rapidly expanded its financial support for agriculture. Our national fiscal expenditure on agriculture, forestry, and water conservancy increased from 15.1 billion yuan in 1978, to 2.39 trillion yuan in 2020. Policies for agricultural support and protection have been constantly improved and the public service systems which benefit people in rural areas have also steadily improved. 
China always protects and improves the people’s wellbeing while growing the economy. We need to prioritize the improvement of people’s livelihoods and provide them with adequate financial support. During the period of socialist revolution and construction, the CPC led farmers in mutual assistance and cooperation, developed a collective economy, vigorously developed education and cooperative medical care in rural areas, and strove to provide basic rural social welfare for the rural poor. 
In the new period of reform and opening up and socialist modernization, the country’s industrialization and urbanization drives have gained pace. The CPC Central Committee suggested prioritizing the development of agriculture, rural areas, and farmers. Specifically, the CPC implemented a new rural construction strategy and rose to a new level in terms of rural livelihood protection. Meanwhile, CPC’s Central Committee further stressed poverty elimination when it launched the rural vitalization strategy to improve people’s livelihoods through development. 
National conditions
We should always accurately assess our national and agricultural conditions. An accurate understanding of national and agricultural conditions is the basis for the formulation of agricultural and rural policies and is also the epitome of CPC’s objective of seeking truth from facts. History proves that a correct understanding of the “three rural issues” of agriculture, rural areas, and farmers is based on seeking truth from facts and accurate research, while misunderstandings are mainly due to the rigid application of classical theories and detachment from reality. Through the First Revolutionary Civil War (1927–1936) and the Agrarian Revolutionary War (1927–1937), many dogmatic and erroneous instructions were given to the CPC by representatives of The Communist International, which were not in line with China’s national conditions, and brought great hardship to China’s revolutions. Therefore, Mao Zedong proposed a scientific method of adapting Marxism to the Chinese context, and developed a correct understanding of rural problems and China’s revolutionary path through in-depth investigations and practical activities. 
Since the reform and opening up, the CPC has always emphasized that practice is the sole criterion for testing truth. It has also abolished the people’s commune system, implemented a household responsibility system, and started a new journey of market-oriented reform in China. 
One fine tradition of the Party is to fully understand national and agricultural conditions based on investigation and research, in order to formulate policies to solve prominent contraditions and problems. We can only accurately understand the correct direction of rural construction and make strategic deployment of rural vitalization effective by an organic combination of a “bottom-up” reform and innovation and a “top-down” strategic deployment. If we want to catch up with developed countries in the West in terms of agricultural and rural modernization, as a latecomer, we must base our actions on our basic national and agricultural conditions of “a large country with smallholder farmers” and firmly follow the path of socialist rural vitalization with Chinese characteristics. 
We should always maintain a sound relationship between farmers and land. This is valuable experience gained from China’s revolutions and also the key to deepening rural reform. During the New Democratic Revolution, the CPC’s land reform was embraced by tens of millions of farmers. During the period of socialist revolution and construction, the implementation of collective ownership and land management played a huge role in improving conditions for agricultural infrastructure, promoting agricultural science and technology, and supporting industrial development. 
During the reform and opening up and the new era of socialist modernization, innovative forms of land management, such as implemented household responsibility systems with “collective land ownership and land management rights of farmers” greatly motivated farmers. In the new era of socialism with Chinese characteristics, a new land property rights system featuring “separation of land ownership, contracting, and management rights” has been established and improved in response to farmers’ new demands for land rights. Therefore, we must pay attention to the relationship between farmers and the land, and guarantee farmers’ collective ownership of the land. 
Guo Jinfeng is the director of Jiangxi Institute of Economic and Social Development Strategies at the Party School of Jiangxi Provincial Party Committee. 
Edited by WENG RONG