Archive for December 23rd, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

Paper: Improving Agricultural Production

Three authors – Hu Xiaoping (胡小平), Zhu Ying (朱 颖), and Ge Dangqiao (葛党桥) -, addressed the problems of low efficiency in agricultural production. .

Not only “surplus labor”, but workforce who would actually be needed in the countryside, too, have left China’s rural areas in the wake of reform and industrial development and urbanization, according to their paper, published by Guangming Daily (光明日报), and republished by China National Radio (CNR). The author found that labor shortage in agriculture and an aging workforce were problems that went hand in hand. That the workforce was becoming of age had also led to a situation where “the workers’ quality” (导致了从事农业生产的劳动者质量的下降) was deteriorating.

After stating the obvious – that it is mostly younger people who move into rural  [correction (20120308): urban] areas, and that the elderly tend to stay at home -, the article adds:

In our country, there are big gaps between the countryside and the cities, in terms of the economy, culture, public services, social welfare, etc.. To enjoy their share in the fruits of modern civilization and to pursue good opportunities of development, even though they won’t achieve the levels of income they hoped for there, the younger will still wish to move towards the cities. Once they are there, they won’t return to the countryside, unless they absolutely have to. In the cities, they are raising the second generation of migrant workers, and while they remain rural population in terms of household registration, these have never worked in agricultural fields, and will feel no desire to return to the countryside.

在我国,农村和城市在经济、文化、公共事业、社会福利等方面存在较大差距。为了分享现代文明成果和追求更好的发展机会,即使在城市中无法获得预期收入,农 村大量青壮年劳动力也会源源不断向城市转移。进城以后,他们除非迫不得已,都不会再回到农村。他们在城市养育起来的“农二代”,虽然在户籍意义上仍属于农 民,却从未从事过农业生产,今后也不愿回到农村。

Urban industries demand high skills, argues the article, and competition had driven many of those who left for the cities since the 1980s back into the countryside – but the next young generation was on its way into the cities again.

But age alone didn’t explain the low efficiency in agriculture, as a look at the situation in developed countries’ agricultural sectors showed. High prices on their produce, combined with state subsidies, agricultural efficiency wasn’t low in Europe, the United States or Japan, despite a rural population which had come of age there, too.

A survey in the U.S. in 2007 found that the average age of a farm owner there was 57.1 years, in Japan, in 2009, 61 per cent of those who worked in the agricultural sector were older than 65. This doesn’t explain why the agricultural sector’s efficiency should be comparatively low. Abroad, an aging population is no threat to agricultural production, because they have sound social services and a comparatively high level of mechanization there, which offsets labor shortages.


The central government had intensified its efforts since 2004, writes the author, with some positive effects on efficiency in the agricultural sector, but not to a degree which would have avoided labor shortages, or migration of the young into the urban areas.

Rather extensive management of arable land was one reason for the shortcomings. Land had been left barren. The older farmers preferred land close to their homes, and abandoned more distant arable land. And where two harvests per year had been the rule before, the frequency had gone down to only one harvest a year. Frequently, they only grew food for their own needs. The central government had defined a red line of 1.8 billion mu of arable land to be kept in use, and the extensive use of arable land was in conflict with that requirement.

Attracting skilled work was another problem. Dual structures of rural and urban environments kept potentially skilled workers in rural urban areas. Modern agriculture required technical and management understanding, mechanical skills, which the existing population with rather low educational levels could hardly provide. The phenomenon that many rural citizens moved to the cities temporarily and kept their land as a lifeline didn’t help to make agricultural use of the land more efficient, either. Each of them kept small fields which left no option to achieve economies of scale.

A third problem – and one people in the cities are only too familiar with, would be rising food prices, given that the supplies were rather inefficient. Even though the share of agricultural products in the consumer price index (CPI) had fallen from 60 per cent in the 1980s, to about 30 per cent in 2011, 60 per cent of this years CPI rise were caused by food prices. Under normal circumstances, one should expect that demand for agricultural products would only rise slowly, and expect little volatility, but the fast price rises suggested that there were serious supply shortages. Rises in pig (or pork) prices would suggest that supply would rise quickly, but older farmers were often neither prepared nor unable to raise pigs.  Here, labor shortage was causing the problem.

The paper (or the Guangming Daily article reflecting it)  makes three proposals:

Firstly, train professional farmers. Focus on attracting highly qualified staff into agricultural production, intensify farmers’ education, and create a beneficial environment for rural talents.

Secondly, improve agricultural mechanization. Encourage and support research and development that leads to mechanical solutions in line with the needs of agricultural production, increase the level of mechanization, and decrease the dependence of agricultural production on human labor. Continue to improve and enhance state subsidies for the purchase of agricultural machinery.


Thirdly, strengthen the building and investment in rural social services. Build and perfect social services to be provided before, during and after production [apparently kindergartens and pensioner facilities], accelerate agricultural production, the diffusion of agricultural technology, agricultural information systems, agricultural finance and insurance systems, and reduce the difficulties and risks farmers are facing.


Fourthly, change organizational and management methods in agricultural production. Change the traditional decentralized patterns of agricultural production, encourage the formation of professional guilds, cooperatives, specialized organizations and other forms of specialized economic cooperation, and increase the organizational levels in production. Encourage and support conditions which allow the achievement of appropriate economies of scale, based on reliable foundations of contract household responsibility systems.

其四,改变农业生产的组织经营方式。改变传统的分散经营的农业生产模式,鼓励农民建立专业协会、股份合作社、专业合作社等不同形式的专业合作经济组织,提 高农业生产组织化和产业化程度。支持和鼓励条件允许的地区,在稳定家庭联产承包责任制的基础上推进土地流转,进行农业适度规模经营。

The paper touches upon many related issues in economic, social, and ideological fields which are fairly frequently recorded on this blog. It also reflects existing confines of long-term and more recent restrictions on reform. I will try to build some links between these issues and this blogpost during Christmas.

Published without spell-checks or other corrections.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Chen Wei sentenced to Nine Years in Prison

Chen Wei (陈卫), a dissident from Suining, Sichuan Province, was sentenced to nine years in prison earlier today, for “inciting subversion of state power”. He had reportedly been in detention since February 20, and been formally arrested on March 28 this year. In detail, the charges were reportedly about “inciting”*) online articles.

Chen was one of the 1989 student leaders in Beijing, and a signatory to the Charter 08, in 2008.

Chen’s wife, Wang Xiaoyan (王晓燕), Wang’s older sister and his younger brother watched the  trial in the courtroom at Suining Intermediate Court. Mrs. Wang spoke with the BBC after the verdict. Wang probably won’t appeal, because he expected that the verdict would be decided in advance, and that there was no point in appealing.

Suining was named China’s outstanding tourism city in 2007, the country’s hygiene city of 2008, and a home of Guanyin culture, also in 2008.



*) Radio Taiwan International (RTI) quotes the charges as “subverting state power” (顛覆國家政權罪), which would seem to be more serious than incitementinciting subversion of state power”.



» “Subversion of State Power”, various posts
» “Information is Life”, Global Times, Nov 16, 2011


Friday, December 23, 2011

Christian Wulff and his Small-Minded Fans

Christmas is the time when you have to be nice to others. So I’ll need to hurry up, to get all the dirty chores done ahead of the season of love and understanding.

Federal President Christian Wulff has a problem – sort of a money problem. It’s not that he’d be cash-strapped – he seems to be extremely creditworthy, in fact. His actual problem is described here (including some links about the story’s beginnings).

That doesn’t make Wulff a dishonorable man. But in my view, it makes him a bad president. Then again, I’m biased. I believe that Joachim Gauck would have been the right choice, last year.

That’s why I’m not making a big fuss of the story here. Besides, this is a China blog.

But while I’m at it, this is what Migazin, an online magazine about migration in Germany, wants the press and the public “to leave our president alone”.

Politicians had to resign before, because of similar issues, writes the author. But, he argues, crimes with xenophobe backgrounds had been investigated much less resolutely.

This is a stupid paragraph:

Nothing is known that would amount to lies or deceit. Investigate if Christian Wulff, as Lower Saxony’s president, was in breach of the law. But leave our president alone! Like noone before him, Christian Wulff has managed to add weight to this office. A president who, for the first time, is one for all of us and not only – small-mindedly – these or those. Or is it this which disturbs “us”? The office’s prestige is stronger than ever – especially now -, thanks to Wulff.

Yes, Wulff said that Islam belongs in Germany. That was a good speech. Given that a federal president exercises little political power, good speeches are an important standard to judge a federal president.

But it doesn’t seem to dawn on the author how small-minded his own article is, just as he accuses “others” of the very offense. A federal president, just like any other public servant, needs to be accountable. A good speech in the past, no matter how much you may have liked it, changes nothing about that. To start reckoning – they looked the other way when xenophobic crimes were committed – is small-minded, too. When the president’s conduct is the issue, the president’s conduct is the issue. When xenophobic crimes are the issue, xenophobic crimes are the issue. That’s nothing to kick into one kettle altogether and to keep stirring until it has become  brown gravy.

Besides, the article reveals how short-lived memory is. In 1995, Roman Herzog, one of Wulff’s predecessors, lauded Annemarie Schimmel, an orientalist who was criticized for belittling crimes committed in the name of Islam. That criticism had little substance. It became a big brawl all the same. Herzog spoke up for her, and praised her achievements in helping Germans to understand Islamic culture. That took courage, and Herzog did it anyway.

But Migazin doesn’t seem to remember him. Yeah – Christian Wulff has managed to add weight to this office, like nobody before, huh?

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