Chinese leaders told to heed disgruntled farmers

LEADERS at all levels of the Chinese government should spend one to three months a year in the countryside to study and hear the views of disgruntled farmers, according to the head of the Chinese Communist Party.

Jiang Zemin, in a speech widely reported in the official media yesterday, said China's economic reforms had posed new contradictions and problems for agriculture. Their solution, he warned, had a direct bearing on the 'stability and prosperity of the whole country'.

His comments came as the central government is struggling to ensure that the peasants are properly paid for this autumn's harvest.

'Top leaders at all levels of government must personally take charge of agricultural and rural works,' Mr Jiang said. Most of the problems alluded to by the Communist Party chief, who is also China's President, have been in evidence for well over a year, but a high-profile official campaign to improve peasants' lifestyles has so far had limited success.

China's 900 million farmers, who were among the first to benefit from economic reform in the early 1980s, when they were allowed to take control of their land and sell produce on the open market, now find themselves rapidly slipping behind the fast-growing urban regions.

This wealth gap has been exacerbated by extortionate and arbitrary taxes levied on farmers by local authorities desperate to raise funds to invest in the speculative real-estate and business ventures that have sprung up with the economic reforms.

The most widespread source of rural misery has been the practice of using worthless IOUs to pay for the proportion of staple crops still sold to the state under the agricultural quota system. President Jiang's forthright warning, issued at a national conference on agriculture held by the Communist Party Central Committee this week, comes just as China's second harvest for the year is being collected and follows efforts by the central authorities to discourage local governments from issuing any more IOUs this year.

Rural protests over the past year have already resulted in near-riots by increasingly impoverished farmers in some areas. Concern about social stability and fears that Communist Party support is fast eroding among the peasants appeared to be behind Mr Jiang's announcement that grassroots government and party organisations would be re-established in rural areas within the next five years.

Last week the People's Bank of China's vice-president, Dai Xianglong, said that at least 110bn yuan (about pounds 10bn) would be needed this autumn to purchase the main agricultural products such as rice, maize, soya and cotton.

This month's harvest is better than expected: grain output will fall only 10 million tonnes from the 340 million tonnes produced during the same period last year, even though some farmers did not bother to cultivate their land because of the lack of financial incentive.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sheridan Maine: Accounts Assistant

£25,000 - £30,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you looking for a fantastic opportunity...

Neil Pavier: Commercial Analyst

£50,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you a professionally qualified commercial ...

Loren Hughes: Financial Accountant

£45,000 - £55,000: Loren Hughes: Are you looking for a new opportunity that wi...

Sheridan Maine: Finance Analyst

Circa £45,000-£50,000 + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a newly qualified ac...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor