No.1 Central Document to guide all-around rural revitalization

By ZHANG JIE / 03-01-2024 / Chinese Social Sciences Today

A picturesque view of Dalong Village in Kaihua County, Quzhou City, Zhejiang Province Photo: TUCHONG

Scholars have praised the No.1 Central Document for 2024, released by the CPC Central Committee and the State Council in early February, noting that the document emphasizes drawing experience from the Green Rural Revival Program to promote rural revitalization across the board. According to them, this document has charted the course for work related to agriculture, rural areas, and farmers in 2024 and beyond. 

Exemplary program 

The Green Rural Revival Program originated as a major initiative for rural construction spearheaded by Comrade Xi Jinping during his tenure in east China’s Zhejiang Province. Launched in 2003 in response to severe environmental degradation, the program aimed to restore the environmental health of approximately 10,000 administrative villages within the province over a five-year period. Among these, around 1,000 villages were designated to be developed into moderately prosperous demonstration villages.

In a recent interview with CSST, Huang Zuhui, a professor from the China Academy for Rural Development at Zhejiang University, acknowledged the success of Zhejiang’s approach, saying that the Green Rural Revival Program has not only enhanced the living environment of the countryside, but also positively impacted the well-being and livelihood of rural residents. 

Huang remarked that despite starting from humble beginnings, the Green Rural Revival Program boasts a grand vision and has yielded substantial positive spillover effects. While revolutionizing the rural living environment, the program has fundamentally transformed the development philosophy, business landscape, industrial structure, provision of public services, and governance models of rural areas, as well as urban-rural relations.

The Green Rural Revival Program is a pioneering exploration for comprehensively advancing rural revitalization, and its successful experience serves as a practical example for other places to learn from, said Li Guoxiang, a research fellow from the Rural Development Institute at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. 

Addressing the realistic concerns of rural residents should be the cornerstone of applying the development philosophy, working approach, and mechanism of the program, Li said. He recommended pinpointing the starting point of rural revitalization and adopting a flexible, nuanced, and incremental approach to tailor the development trajectory according to local conditions. 

Tang Lixia, a professor from the College of Humanities and Development Studies at China Agricultural University, commented that the Green Rural Revival Program has opened up a path to modernization with Chinese characteristics featuring the mutual promotion of industry and agriculture, integrated urban-rural development, and the integration of the primary, secondary, and tertiary industries, and of agriculture, culture, and tourism. 

Holding the bottom line

The No.1 Central Document stresses ensuring national food security and forestalling any large-scale relapse into poverty. Tang said that these two aspects represent the bottom line that China should hold in work regarding agriculture, rural areas, and farmers. 

Consistently attaching great importance to food security, China has enforced a stringent arable land protection system and land use controls, increased subsidies for agricultural factors and investments to improve conditions for agricultural production, and promoted agricultural sci-tech research and development and the translation of research outcomes into tangible products to stabilize and augment grain output, thus sustaining grain output growth, Tang said. 

However, due to demand growth and structural transformation, total grain imports have continued to rise sharply. Without effective measures to ensure grain production and basic food security, China will be vulnerable to fluctuations in the international food market. This situation will pose grim challenges to the nation’s food security, Tang warned. 

Avoiding a large-scale return to poverty is fundamental to consolidating the achievements made in poverty alleviation. Tang told CSST that following the conclusion of the poverty alleviation campaign, China prescribed a five-year transitional period to prevent a sharp decline in the income of individuals who were lifted out of poverty due to policy adjustments. Moreover, the nation has also set specific objectives, including ensuring the income of formerly impoverished individuals outgrows that of local farmers, and that of farmers in areas lifted out of poverty increases more quickly than farmers nationwide. These measures are aimed at averting a significant relapse into poverty. 

Judging from realities in recent years, no large-scale return to poverty has yet occurred anywhere in the nation, Tang said, adding that related authorities are considering a regular assistance mechanism for low-income individuals.

Crucial paths

The document also makes systematic arrangements for enhancing rural industrial development, rural construction, and rural governance.

Mao Xuefeng, a professor from the School of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development at Renmin University of China, said that the “Three Enhancements” have clarified the crucial paths for all-around rural revitalization. He highlighted the need to fully leverage local specialties by relying on distinctive superior resources of agriculture and rural areas. Based on empowerment by technology, organizations, and talent, efforts should be made to build a modern agricultural system and upgrade rural industries. 

It is likewise necessary to shore up weak links in rural infrastructure and public services, push ahead with improving the living environment in villages, and advance ecological progress to construct a livable and business-friendly, green and beautiful, and civilized and harmonious countryside, Mao said. 

Regarding the enhancement of rural governance, Mao stressed adhering to the guidance of Party construction, and strengthening the primary-level governance system, which integrates self-rule, rule of law, and rule of virtue, thereby modernizing the capacity for rural governance.