CHINESE AGRICULTURE: PAST PERFORMANCE AND FUTURE OUTLOOK
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37 CHINESE AGRICULTURE: PAST PERFORMANCE AND FUTURE OUTLOOK* R. P. Sinha University of Glasgow Despite a technically well-advanced traditional agriculture, the basic problems inherited by the Communist rulers were typicalof developing countries, and arose from the system of land tenure and lack of employment opportunities. Land reform was regarded as a pre- requisite of development, beginning with redistribution among private holdings, and proceeding through several separate stages over 15 years to the present rural Communes. The paper describes organisa- tion within the Commune, and its economic relations with the State. The dislocatiom of the 'Great Leap' exposed the limits of traditional technology and reliance solely on labour, and since 1962 manu- factured inputs have been made widely available, especially fertilisers and pesticides. Reliance is placed on small and medium sized plants, spread over the whole country. The future outlook for Chinese agriculture Jeems reasonably optimistic. Historical background Traditionally Chinese agriculture has been well advanced technologically in terms of double cropping, rotation of crops, use of manures, seed drills and machines for irrigation. Per acre yield of various crops were high, by world standards, even before the Second World War. This was the reason why China could feed such a high population with a relatively low acreage under cultivation (Table 1). Since topography and climatic conditions were not particularly favourable, cultivation had to be restricted to almost a tenth of the total geo- graphical area (Table 2); this forced the Chinese to develop various methods of irrigation which enabled them to practise double-cropping on an intensive scale. Table 1 Number of persons dependent for food on one hectare of cultivable land in the 1930's and 1960's 1930's 1960's China' 5.0 7.7 India* 2 .o 3 -4 Japan 10.6 18.5 Soviet Union3 0.8 1.7 U.K. 9 .o 7.7 U.S.A. 1 -0 1.2 22 Provinces, Jehol, Manchuria, Sik& Sinkiang, Taiwan, Tibet. British ?rovinces and Indian Sates. Excl. Northern Provinces and Saghalien. * The author is grateful to R. J. Perkins (F.A.O.) for reading the draft and making some valuable suggestions. 38 R. P. SINHA Table 2 Land use in China 1967 (in million hectares) TOTAL PERCENTAGE OF TOTAL Total 956.1 100 Forests 76.6 8.1 Permanent meadows and pastures 177.0 1852 Agricultural area 110.30 11.54 Other land 592.20 61.94 Source: F.A.O., Production Yearbook, 1971, Vol. 25, Table 1 , p. 6. They were also able to develop appropriate social institutions for the construction and upkeep of sources of irrigation and distribution of water among individual farmers. In fact, evidence of direct government involvement in spreading and advancing knowledge about improved agricultural practices dates back to the Sung times (A.D. 950-1350). Historians suggest that in less advanced areas officials had pictures painted on the government office walls showing the peasants how to farm. They also had books printed and proclamations put out. Efforts were made to popularise and supply pumping equipment (e.g. treadle pumps) in areas still unfamiliar with it.* There is some further qualitative evidence to suggest that diffusion of improved practices and state participation in such a process continued throughout subsequent Chinese history. With increasing density of population and growing demand for land, the number of intermediaries (e.g. landlords), tenants and sub-tenants increased considerably. Between the seventeenth century and the beginning of the twentieth, increased commercialisa- tion of agriculture led to a break up of the Chinese traditional land relationships, creation of new classes of tenancies, an increase in the number of absentee landlords and passing of the control of land to Chinese money-lenders. How serious the problem was at the time of the Communist take-over is difficult to tell. Information on land ownership and tenancy relationships is conflicting and fragmentary. On concentration of land ownership, Western experts contest the Chinese claim that while the landlords and rich peasants who constituted less than 10 per cent of the rural population possessed more than 70 per cent of the total arable land, the poor peasants, farm labourers and middle peasants who made up over 90 per cent of the population possessed less than 30 per cent of the total arable land. Peter Schran, questions these estimates and in his own estimate based on Buck's Land Utilisation Survey in China, conducted in the early 1 9 3 0 ' ~ ~ suggests that the very rich peasants and landlords constituting nearly 12 per cent of farm families owned 46 per cent of 1and.t In spite of such disagreement about the exact magnitude of the problem, it is generally agreed that privately-owned land, which was held in large amounts by single landholders and leased to farmers, constituted one of China's important problems.$ While many landlords and rich peasants did not own much more land than the poorer peasants and sometimes even tenants, there were instances of landlords like Chang Hsin-hai in Wu An county who owned 40,000 mou (2,666 hectares) and had complete domination over eighty villages in which the majority of inhabitants were his tenants. 3 Myers mentions the case of a rural study of Chi-ming county in 1941 which showed that of the 420 * M. Elvin, 'The State, Printing and the Spread of Scientific Knowledge in China +950 - + 1350'. In: Youschkevitch, A. (ed.), Proceedings ofrhe XZII ZnternationaI Congress on the History ofScience (to be. published, p. 3). t P. Schran, The Development of Chinese Agriculture, 1950-59, University of Illinois Press, Urbana, 1969. $ J. L. Buck; Land Utilisation in China (Third Printing), Paragon Book Reprint Corporation, N.Y., D. 194.1968. D. Crook and Isabel Crook, Revolution in a Chinese Village, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, pp. 21-28,1959. CHINESE AGRICULTURE: PAST PERFORMANCE AND FUTURE OUTLOOK 39 absentee landlords, the ten largest owned over 3,000 mou (200 hectares).* Accord- ing to Bucks survey schedules 44 per cent of farmers were owners, 23 per cent part owners, and 33 per cent tenants.? Terms of tenancy contracts varied between regions. Long-term or permanent contracts were the dominant feature of the lower Yangtse and such other highly commercialised regions as Coastal Fukien and the main rice surplus areas of Hunan.: In North China, the tenancy contracts were generally short. Landlords did not encourage long-term contracts and frequently changed their tenants. g Kwangtung and mountainous areas of Hunan had short-term tenure extending from one to three years. At least three systems of payment of rent coexisted: nearly one-fourth of all tenant farmers paid cash rent; cash-crop (payment of a fixed quantity of crops or its money equivalent) was paid by a little over half and share-cropping contracts covered one-fifth of the farmers. I1 The percentage of crop paid in rent vaned widely between regions. For instance, the percentage of share rent was 33 per cent in wheat regions against only 14 per cent for the rice regions; cash-crop rents were as high as 65 per cent in rice regions against only 33 per cent for wheat regions. In North China, tenants paid between 30 and 65 per cent of the harvest to the landlord.7 On average, tenants paid almost half of the crop to the landlords in rent.** In the cases when the rent was regulated in terms of quantity of grain, but the payment was to be made in money, the price used for such calculations was not the market price but a rate of exchange arbitrarily determined by the 1andlords.tt Rarely did the landlord supply capital and credit to the tenant. Merchants, landlords and shops supplying credit to the farmers used to bleed the farmer to the limit.:: For instance, interest rates in Hopei and Shantung in the 1930s ranged between 2 and 4 per cent per month. Sometimes peasants were required to pay as much as 100 per cent over 20 days or 1,825 per cent a year. Cases of coercion to pay rent, arrests and foreclosures for non- payment of rent were not uncommon ; some landlords cheated the tenants through the use of inaccurate weights and measures, incidence of debt was high, and large numbers of small land owners lost possession of their land to the money- lender. Such pauperisation as Buck calls it, besides creating greater social inequality, led to further subdivision and fragmentation of already small and fragmented holding. Above all, the landed gentry was firmly in control of political power. They controlled the rural administrative structure, played a decisive economic role in the countryside; and had an intimate interlocking relationship with the official * Ramon H. Myers, Agricultural Development in Hopei and Shantung 1890-193.5, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1970. t Buck, op. cit. In his farm survey schedule, the percentage of owners was much higher (54 per cent) and the percentage of tenants was much lower (only 17 per cent). Bucks definition of tenant excluded those who cultivated rented land together with their own land. This would, in fact, underestimate the magnitude of tenancy problem. Dwight H. Perkins, Agricultural Development in China 1368-1938, Aldine Publishing House, Chicago, 1969. 5 Myers (1970), p. 229. 11 Buck (1968), p. 228. T[ Myers (1970), p. 228. ** National Agricultural Research Bureau (N.A.R.B.) estimate quoted in Shen, T. H.. Agri- cultural Resources in China, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, p. 96, 1951; see also Muramatsu, Y., A Documentary Study of Chinese Land-lords in the late Ching and the Early Republic Kiangnan, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, Vol. XXX, part 3,1966. t t Hsiao-Tung Fei, Peasant Life in China, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, p. 18. 1946, $$ Buck (1968), p. 18. $5 Crook and Crook (1959), p. 3. 40 R. P. SlNHA literati class responsible for the work of government in China.* The landed gentry together with the merchants controlled and manipulated the economic life of the peasants through rent, usurious money-lending, the commodity market of agricultural products and daily necessities. The whole apparatus of law and order, police, militia, army and civil administration were at the disposal of the landlords to enforce re-payment of debts or to confiscate property in the cases of defaulting tenants. In fact the power of the landlord class was strengthened during the Nationalist period as a result of the failure of the Nationalist government to provide adequate local government. This forced them to rely on the powerful landlords who dominated the new organs of elected local government and the local branches of the Nationalist party, and through them controlled the police, education, and the new farmers associati0n.t The frustrating experience of the Nationalist land reform programme is the best testimony to the political power of the landlord class in China. The rural population faced serious problems of unemployment. According to Buck only 35 per cent of working able-bodied men were in full-time work and 58 per cent were working only part-time. Idleness averaged 1-7 months per able- bodied men. The problem of seasonal unemployment during the winter was more acute. Thus the picture of pre-World War I1 China was typical of developing countries with high pressure of population on land, lack of employment opportunities, insecurity of tenure, lack of capital and heavy burden of debt to the extent that peasants had to mortgage land (even for their day to day necessities) ,which many of them invariably lost on non-payment of debt. Basically these were the problems of Chinese agriculture which the Communist rulers of China inherited. Over and above this was the problem of creating adequate infrastructure (e.g. transport and communication, irrigation, etc.), a significant part of which had fallen into disuse for lack of proper maintenance and repair during the politically disturbed years. In fact, China did not have a long stretch of political stability for nearly 100 years before the Communist take-over in 1949 and in spite of a long tradition of state aid to construction and maintenance of irrigation and flood control works, no substantial effort was made during the years between the Taiping Rebellion and the advent of Communism in China. Institutional reorganisation The Chinese leadership, both for the ideological and practical reasons felt that any major social and economic change could not be initiated without destroying the entrenched power base of the landlords. To the extent that agricultural develop- ment depended on mobilisation of underutilised human resources, it was essential to create a sense of participation among the masses. A radical land redistribution which provided some land to everyofie naturally won the sympathies of the rural proletariat which felt seriously deprived under the previous regimes. Thus in China, agrarian reforms came to be considered as a pre-requisite of the develop- ment of the productive power and industrialisation of the countryside. The Agrarian Reform Law of 1950 abolished land ownership by landlords, and confiscated their draught animals, farm implements, surplus grains and surplus houses in the countryside. But investment and other properties of the landlords and rich peasants in connection with industry and commerce were protected by law. A rich peasant was allowed to retain land for self-cultivation either by himself ~~ * Kuc-Chun Chao, Agrarian Poiicy of the Chinese Communist Party, Asia Publishing House, p. 3, 1960. t J. Gray, Political Aspects of the Land Reform Campaigns in China, 1947-52, Soviet Studies, Vol. XVI, No. 2, p. 216, 1964. CHINESE AGRICULTURE: PAST PERFORMANCE AND FUTURE OUTLOOK 41 or by hired labour. He was also allowed to retain his other properties and even to rent land, as long as it did not exceed the amount tilled by his own household.* The land and other property of the middle peasants was not infringed; the poor peasants and farm labourers received a portion of confiscated land. The land redistribution programme was basically completed in 1953. Harsh punishments were given to those who were guilty of sabotage activities like killing cattle, and destroying farm implements, houses, arable land and trees.t While the abolition of private property in land was the ultimate policy aim of the Chinese leadership, there was a clear recognition of the fact that the retention of the rich peasants was necessary for the recovery of agricultural production. Up to 1954 for all practical purposes agriculture continued to be managed on an individual, private basis, each household being responsible for production decis- ions and disposal of its own produce,$ except that the smaller peasants were encouraged to combine into Mutual-aid teams with a view to counteracting the shortage of draught animals and agricultural implements. However, Chinese peasants had traditionally pooled their draught animals and implements for ploughing and other agricultural operations and as such Mutual-aid teams were not a departure from age-old customs. Shortage of capital and other resources was really acute and as early as 1953 it was evidenced that poor peasants fell into debt and sold their land to rich peasants. This was one of the main reasons of early co-operativisation which was initially scheduled for the Second Five Year Plan period (1958-62). Starting with a modest aim of bringing only 53 per cent of the peasant households under semi-socialist co-operatives, the transition to Socialism was to be completed over 15 years. The organisation of Primary Stage Agricultural Producers Co-operatives did not abolish private property in land, draught animals and agricultural implements; of course these were transferred to the unified management of the co-operative except that a small private plot was left with the peasant households, according to its size and the quality of its land. Products from these plots could be sold privately. Initially the maximum allowed was 5 per cent of acreage under cultivation in each locality but this was raised to 10 per cent in 1957. Private property in land came to be abolished only after the emergence of Advanced Agricultural Production Co-operative between 1956 and 1958. Henceforth land was collectivised without compensation, and no rents were to be paid for the use of land; other resources were taken over by the collective, by paying mutually agreed prices. The private plots and private ownership of a limited number of pigs and poultry continued. In spite of some local or regional variations, the initial reforms in 1958 were radical; private plots and the private markets were abolished, side-line activities (pigs, poultry or handicrafts, etc.) were suppressed, common kitchens and messhalls were established and a part of food was given free irrespective of work done. Such radical measures encountered opposition from peasants and official policies came to be moderated in the early 1960s. Both private plots and pigs and poultry rearing, domestic crafts, as well as rural markets were revived in 1960-61 and came to be accepted as an essential and supplementary part of the Socialist agriculture. 5 Free supplies of food as well as the common kitchens were discontinued. There were some fresh attempts an a limited scale in 1969 and 1970 to merge production teams to form fewer larger units, and to abolish private plots or to reintroduce common kitchens. These measures are not yet popular with the peasants and in the last two years the authorities have been critical of leftist mistakes committed in the course of implementation of economic policies in agricultural areas and have been * Kuo-Chun Chao. pp. 95-97,1960. t Ibid., p. 100. K. Walker, Planning in Chinese Agriculture. Frank Cass & Co., London, p. 6, 1965. 5 A. Donnithome, Chinus Economic System, Allen and Unwin, London, p. 85, 1967. 42 R. P. SINHA reassuring the peasants that any drastic change in the current status quo is not being contemplated. The Commune Rural life in China is now organised around nearly 74,000 Communes,* which are multi-purpose units of management of agricultural, industrial, commercial, cultural and military affairs.t The basic philosophy is that agricultural policy must aim at improving all aspects of rural life and as far as possible on the basis of self-reliance and self-government. The resolution on some questions concerning Peoples Communes adopted by the Eighth Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party at its Sixth Plenary Session in December 1959, stressed that the Peoples Commune is the organiser of the production and life of the people and the fundamental purpose of the development of production is to satisfy to the maximum extent the constantly growing material and cultural needs of all mem- bers of society. In leading the work of the Commune the Party must give all-round attention to the ideological development, production and livelihood of commune members in order to do their work well, the commune must practise a high level of democracy, consult the masses on all matters, faithfully represent their interests and reflect their will. A Commune is sub-divided into production brigades, which in their own turn are sub-divided into production teams. An average team consists of 30 to 40 households and roughly coincides with a traditional village; for all practical purposes the village continues to be the basic social unit. A large village with over 200 households on the other hand, is analogous to a production brigade. Under the present set-up the production team is an accounting unit and is responsible for its own profits and losses and for organising its production and distribution of income. Ownership of land is vested in the production brigade but is given permanently to the production team for use. Draught animals and farm tools are owned by production teams, which are responsible for the repair and maintenance of such tools, while expensive tools like tractors, water pumps, threshing machines are more commonly owned by production brigades which also own forests and trees (with the exception of fruit trees near peasants homes) which they lease out to production teams on contract or on a share cropping basis. Industrial enter- prises are generally owned and managed by the Communes. Peasants own their homes which are heritable by children ; construction of homes can be privately undertaken. For all practical purposes permission to build new houses is rarely refused. Families, as indicated earlier, are allocated a private plot of land and although the ownership is not vested in the family, the right to use is heritable. They may also own a small number of pigs, poultry and ducks and can take part in private side-line occupations (e.g. basket-making, knitting, sewing, etc.) to add to income earned from collective work. In many Communes private sources of income constitute up to a quarter of the income of the household. Participation in collective activities is compulsory for Commune members and payment for labour is made mainly according to work done. Although there are several methods of work assessment, the work-point system is most common. By this method members are classified in grades according to their levels of skills and capacity, the more difficult (or skilled) the job, the higher the work points. For instance, carrying heavy loads on shoulder poles receives more work-points than * In the earlier stages of the formation of communes there were approximately 24,000 communes, each consisting on average of well over 5,000 households. (See also Aziz Sartaj, The Chinese Approach to Rural Development, paper presented to the S.I.D. Conference held in Oxford, September 1973 - where the number given is 76,000,1973.) t Donnithome (1967), p. 44. CHINESE AGRICULTURE : PAST PERFORMANCE AND FUTURE OUTLOOK 43 weeding of fields or picking vegetables. Women earn the same number of work- points as men for similar jobs. Invariably, however, more arduous jobs are given to able-bodied men: while an able-bodied man can earn as many as 10 work- points a day, able-bodied females earn only around 8.5. Some work-points are assigned for innovational activities and until recently for political consciousness which was largely assessed on the basis of attendance at political meetings. During the slack season when peasants are drafted for creating infrastructure like roads, irrigation works, etc., they continue to earn work-points from their own com- mune and only a small cash payment is made by the employing agency. However, the workers employed by the Commune industries, and jobs relating to livestock, earn a fixed salary and other fringe benefits as do their counterparts in urban industries. It is obligatory for the production team to meet the agricultural tax - effectively around 6 per cent - levied by the State and to deliver the quota of grains and cash crops to the State at a pre-determined price. Such a quota is fixed by the State, in consultation with the county and Commune Revolutionary Committees (manage- ment committees) which have representatives from the three groups of people (i.e. peasants, cadres and soldiers), and is communicated to the production teams. In fixing quotas, the production capacity, past performance and food needs of the team is taken into consideration. After meeting the tax and the State delivery quota, allowance is made for seed, feed and other production expenses; of what remains the total output of 8 to 10 per cent is allocated to the public accumulation fund (capital formation) for the purchases of machinery and other investments; and another 3 to 5 per cent to the welfare fund which is divided equally between education and public health.* The remaining 50 to 55 per cent of this gross output is distributed among members according to the total number of work- points credited to each member. Such payments are made both in cash and kind, with a cash component of around 70 per cent. Members have freedom to sell their receipts in kind, if they so desire, either to the State procurement agencies or to the private rural markets, where the prices are regulated by the State and are kept almost 10 per cent higher than the procurement price. Production teams can borrow money from the Peoples Bank, which charges differential interest rates. Rates for loans for major developmental purposes like buying tractors, or for construction of irrigation works are lower than those for running expenses. Peasants receive an interest of up to 1+ per cent on their bank- deposits and can borrow money for their individual requirements; loans for consumption and ceremonial purposes are charged punitive rates. Various organisational levels with the Commune are responsible for their own welfare activities, generally there is a hospital or a dispensary at the Commune level, a health clinic in each production brigade and a health worker called the bare foot doctor, in each production team. The bare foot doctor is a para- medical worker who has a short-term training, extending to nearly six months in public health, sanitation, rudimentary medicine and acupuncture. He is also responsible for family planning advice and distribution of free contraceptives and *The above figuresare based on the figures the author collected during his visit of five Communes. Since there are local variations it is difficult to generalise for the country as a whole. Sartaj Aziz who was on the Staff of the Pakistan Planning Commission from 1961 to 1971 and IS currently Director of the Commodities and Trade Division of the F.A.O. has visited China several times. He gives the following figures: Only about 50 to 55 per cent of the total gross revenue of the Commune is distributed among the Commune members. . . . About 20-25 per cent of the gross revenue of the Commune is set apart for current pro- duction and operational costs (including 2 to 3 per cent for administrative expensesj and about 15 to 20 per cent of the gross income of the Commune is transferred to the Accumulation Fund. . . . The Social Fund, which supports.welfare and cultural activities receives 2-3 per cent and the rest (about 6 per cent) is paid as unified agricultural tax. Aziz, op. cit. (unpublished). D 44 R. P. SlNHA pills, and some bare foot doctors are trained also to undertake abortions by the vacuum aspiration method. Minor ailments are handled by the Brigade Clinic and minor operations carried out in the Commune hospital which has three to four medically qualified doctors. Commune members are required to pay 1 *5 to 2-5 yuan per annum and the production team pays 2 yuan per head per annum out of the welfare fund into a co-operative medical insurance fund, which finances free medical treatment for everyone living on the Commune. In cases when a patient has to be moved to an urban hospital either for detailed medical examination or for treatment, payments for such services are met out of this medical insurance fund. Since the Cultural Revolution the production teams have been given more freedom with regard to the disposal of the welfare fund. Agricultural strategy In the Chinese official view institutional change was a pre-condition to techno- logical development of agriculture, in particular mechanisation; in fact it became a focal point of controversy between chairman Maos revolutionary line and Liu Shao-chis capitalist road to agricultural transformation. Mao felt that in the field of agriculture it was necessary first to have co-operatives before it was possible to make massive use of machines, while Liu felt that without industrial development and industrialisation, collectivisation basically could not be realised. A third voice, dissenting with both Mao and Liu, was Po-I-Po who put forward the labour surplus and factor proportions argument. In a party document he showed that mechanising agriculture in a labour surplus economy was completely useless. In 1956 several surveys were ordered to examine the contribution mechan- isation was likely to make towards increased output. The conclusions drawn from the surveys were somewhat conciliatory but the Mao line came out successful. A twelve-year National Programme for Agricultural Development (1956-67) which was formulated in 1956 (but approved only in 1960) set the guidelines for future agricultural development. This suggested twelve chief steps to increase output of grain, which had the priority, but the need to diversify the agricultural economy was clearly recognised. These twelve steps were the following: (a) con- struction of water conservation projects (flood control and irrigation) ; (b) expansion of fertilizer supply, both rural manure and chemical fertilizer; (c) improvement of old-style farming tools and popularisation of modern farm tools ; (d) extension of the uses of best and most suitable seedling strains; (e) expansion of multiple cropping areas; (f) planting of high yielding crops; (g) adoption of best farming methods (e.g. rotation of crops, inter-cropping, overlapping cultivation time for two crops, close planting, etc.); (h) improvements of soil; (i) preservation of soil and water; (j) production and breeding of draught livestock; (k) extermina- tion of insects, pests and plant diseases and (1) reclamation of waste land and expansion of cultivated acreage. Both the National Programme for Agricultural Development and Maos 8-point Charter recommended walking on two legs, i.e. combining traditional techniques with modern, but theemphasis on traditional techniques and intensive use of surplus labour was definitely more marked. A great reliance on massive use of rural manpower on projects for irrigation, drainage and soil improvement, according to official claim, resulting in comple- tion of nearly 14 million projects bringing an increase in potentially irrigable area of 13-4 million hectares* between 1953 and 1957; the climax of the policy of intensive use of labour came in 1958 with the Great Leap when nearly 100 million people were claimed to be engaged in conservancy projects. Within one year (1958-59) it is claimed that 13 million projects were completed, creating a further irrigation potential of 36-6 million hectares. Events later proved that much of this potential was not utilised. According to a New China News Agency report in * State Statistical Bureau, Ten Great Years, p. 68. CHINESE AGRICULTURE: PAST PERFORMANCE AND FUTURE OUTLOOK 45 1963 only about 33-5 million hectares could be irrigated three or more times a year. The rest of the arable land remained unirrigated.* For a time, intensifica- tion of surplus labour and reliance on traditional technology worked reasonably well. The output of grain increased from 154 million tons in 1952 - the year by which Chinese authorities claimed that their post-war recovery was completed - to 185 million tons in 1957. In fact, there was a substantial additional increase during the first year of the Great Leap. Even if one discounts the official claim of 250 million tons for 1958 (the original claim, in fact, was 350 million tons which, later, was drastically revised downwards) there is a general consensus among Western observers that the total food grain output was not less than 200 million tons in 1958. If this is the case then there was an addition to output of 15 million tons in a single year. Dislocations caused by the Great Leap coupled with con- secutive years of serious drought reduced food grain output to 162 million tons in 1961, i.e. almost to 1954 level. Selective agricultural development The authorities came to realise that the utilisation of traditional technology and intensive utilisation of labour alone could not bring about the major break- through in agriculture envisaged before the Great Leap. This led to a rethinking of the agricultural strategy. The Tenth Plenum of the CCP held in September 1962 advocated a new agriculture as the foundation policy which asked industry to produce and make available modern inputs like chemical fertilisers and pesticides on a large scale. It was also decided to increase substantially the import of chemical fertilisers. To provide incentives to the peasants some of the unpleasant aspects of Communes were discontinued. Now that modern inputs became the key variables, any conceivable scale of increase in their output could not meet the requirements, nor could such modern inputs be meaningfully utilised in all parts of China. Therefore a new concept of selective development emerged in the form of stable and guaranteed high yield areas. The idea - very much on the same lines of IADP (The Package Plan) in India - was to concentrate resources on such areas which had assured water supply and protection against floods. Increasing supplies of chemical fertiliser, pesticides, tube-wells and electricity, etc., have been allocated to such areas, which cover nearly 13 million hectares. With some temporary interruption during the Cultural Revolution, the agricultural strategy as outlined between 1962 and 1964 with its emphasis on selective development still continues. Supply of modern inputs Success of such a strategy requires a regular supply of modem inputs in large quantities. To make sure that this is done, large investments have been made in building up industrial capacity for producing chemical fertiliser. The location of medium and small plants, producing as little as 40,000 tons of urea per year, has been spread over the whole country so that each region has locally available sources of supply without putting too much strain on an already overworked transport system. It is claimed that in 1971 nearly 60 per cent of total domestic output of nitrogenous fertiliser was being produced by small p1ants.t Although information on the total domestic production of chemical fertiliser in China is fragmentary, it is obvious that there has been a substantial i~crezse in * N.C.N.A., November 30th. 1963. t New Leap in chinas National Economy, Peking Review, January 14th, 1972, p. 8. 46 R. P. SINHA output. All sources* indicate that the total output of chemical fertilizer which was less than one million metric tons in 1957 and probably did not exceed 2 million metric tons in 1961, jumped to over 8 million by 1965. If one accepts the recent official claim of 20 million tons in 1971, this represents a more than doubling of the output within the six preceding years. In the meantime imports have gone up from nearly 0.7 million metric tons in 1957 to over 7 million metric tons. Agricultural machinery Rapid strides have been made in the production and use of agricultural machinery. With a modest beginning in 1958, China was producing tractors to the extent of 68.3 thousand standard units in 1971. In 1965 the total number of tractors in use in China was 135,000,t but most of these were of the conventional type, mainly suited for the northern Chinese extensive cultivation. Japanese-type garden tractors began to be produced in 1964. It is estimated that in 1971 there were about 75,000 garden tractors suitable for paddy fields. Table 3 Estimated oroduction of tractors (in thousand standard units) YEAR CONVENTIONAL GARDEN TOTAL 1958 1 . I - 1-1 1962 20.9 - 20.9 .. _ _ 1966 1971 _. . 43.1 68.3 2.1 5.1 45.2 73.4 ~~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ 1 Standard units measure each type of tractor in terms of horsepower rather than physical units. China, as in the other Communist countries, converts each tractor into standard units of 15 drawbar horsepower, which is roughly equivalent to 50-70 per cent of their brake- horsepower, used by other countries. Source: Erisman, Alva Lewis, China Agricultural Development, 1949-71, in Jt. Selected Committee- US. Congress, Peoples Republic of china: An Economic Assessment, p. I39 Electric pumping capacity has grown enormously since 1960. Electric pumps rose from 1-07 million horsepower in 1960 to 3.47 million in 1966 and non- electric pumps rose only slightly from 4.33 million to 4.53 million horsepower. Electric power consumption in rural areas increased from 1-5 billion kWh in 1962 to 5.5 billion kWh in 1971. Domestic production of pesticides and fungicides, which was only 123,000 metric tons in 1963, has gone up nearly threefold. There is not a great deal of reliable information on the use of high yielding varieties of seed in China and although some Albanian strains of wheat and IR-8 was imported and experimented with there is no evidence of large-scale adoption of such varieties. Experiments with new seeds on the Communes are limited largely to traditional varieties which are brought from other regions of the country. Sophisticated agricultural farm experiments suffered somewhat during the Cultural Revolution. However, in recent months increasing mention is being made of hybrids and dwarf varieties. It has also come to light that the Chinese * Some of the important Sources are Liu, Jung-Chao, Chinas Fertiliser Economy, pp. 12-13; Chao, Kang, Agricultural Production in Communist China, p. 151; Dawsen, Owen L., Communist Chinas Agriculture, p. 129; lshikawa, S.. $mg Term Outlook of Economy in Mainland China (unpublished); Larsen, Marion, R., Chinas Agriculture under Com- munism. In: An Economic Profile of Mainland China. p. 246; Klatt, W., A Review of Chinas Economy in 1970, The China Quurterly No. 43, July-September, 1970; Snow, E., The Open Door. In: Angfo-Chinese Educutionaf Institute, Supplement, 1971 ; Peking Review No. 2, January 14th, 1972, p. 7 ; Erisman, Alva Lewis, China : Agricultural Develop- ment, 1949-71. In: Jt. Selected Committee of the U.S. Congress, Peoples Republic of China: An Economic Assessment, p. 140. t Peoples Daily, April 13th, 1966. CHINESE AGRICULTURE : PAST PERFORMANCE AND FUTURE OUTLOOK 47 authorities have accepted some improved seeds from the F A 0 for domestic propagation. Grain output and levels of consumption Estimates of grain output for the period since the Great Leap have become far more conjectural and widely differing estimates have been suggested. No system- atic official announcement was made by the Chinese authorities between 1960 and 1970. Occasionally the leaders made statements to journalists or visiting dignitaries and radio broadcasts have mentioned some figures for various provinces. There is a general agreement, however, that the recovery had already started in 1962 and by 1963 the total output of grain (this includes grain equivalent of roots and tubers at a ratio of 1 : 4) had recovered to 185 million metric tons. Since then, output seems to have continued rising until 1971 when the official sources estimated a total output of 246 million tons. Because of a serious drought in 1972 the output has gone down by nearly 6 million metric tons, i.e. by slightly over 2 per cent.* Presumably most of this is grain. Similarly, there is uncertainty with regard to population size and its rate of growth. The latest and only census under the new regime was taken in 1953 which gave a population total of 582.6 million and a rate of growth of nearly 2-25 per cent. There is no firm official estimate available for the 1960s and various govern- ment departments have used differing estimates as would appear from the follow- ing statement of Vice-premier Li Hsien-nien, in an interview with an Egyptian journalist: . . . We have been racing against time to cope with the enormous increase in population. Some people estimate the population at 800 million and some at 750 million. Unfortunately, there are no accurate statistics in this con- nection. Nevertheless, the officials at the supply and grain department are saying confidently, The number is 800 million people. Officials outside the grain department say the population is 750 million only while the Ministry of Commerce affirms that the number is 830 million. However, the planning department insists that the number is less than 750 million.t Adding further to the confusion, a small pocket atlas published in Peking in mid-1972 by another government agency (the China Cartographic Institute) which gives provincial distribution of population for 1970 suggests the total population for 26 provinces and three special cities as 697-2 million. Under the circumstances any estimation of average food consumption is bound to be only a broad approximation. Table 4 Net food supply per capita in nutritional terms PROTEINS YEAR CALORIES TOTAL ANIMAL FATS 1957-59 2120- ~ 60.4 7.6 29.9 1960-62 1870 54.7 8.1 29.0 1964-66 2050 57.2 7.9 31.1 Source: FA0 Production Yearbook, 1971, Vol. 25, Tables 136, 137 and 138. It is clear from these tables that after the set-back in the early 1960s food consumption has picked up, although even by 1964-66 it had not exceeded the 1957-59 peak consumption of cereals, starchy roots and fats. For most other products such as sugar, pulses, eggs, fish and meat the consumption in the mid- i960s was slightly higher than in 1957-59. Probably this wzs true of the early * N.C.N.A., September 23rd, 1973. t Cairo Al-Jumharivah. In: Arabic, p.a. as reported in F.B.I.S. Daily Report: Peoples Republic of China, p. A-8, December IOth, 1971. P 00 Table 5 Net food supply per caput (grams per day) POTATO STARCHY PULSES FATS ANDOTHER SUGAR NUTS AND OILS STAPLE AND AND (FAT YEAR CEREALS FOODS SWEETS SEEDS VEGETABLES FRUITS MEAT EGGS FISH MILK CONTENT) 1957-59 413 263 5 35 149 15 46 2 7 7 8 1960-62 352 223 9 35 148 15 49 2 10 7 I 1964-66 381 247 10 39 149 14 47 8 10 9 I Source: F.A.O., Prodirction Yeorbook, 1971, Vol. 25, Table 135. CHINESE AGRICULTURE : PAST PERFORMANCE AND FUTURE OUTLOOK 49 1970s as well, though a detailed food balance sheet is not yet available. Unofficial estimates place the calorie consumption for 1970 at roughly the same level as that for 1964-66.* Thus the average level of food consumption is still poor, and a little lower than the minimum requirement of calories for the regi0n.t Nearly 88 per cent of the total calorie consumption is provided by cereals, starchy roots and other plant sources. However, because of a more equitable distribution than in other developing countries, and price control and rationing of major food groups like rice, wheat, sugar and oil, the food consumption standards of poorer sections of the community are not as vulnerable as in other developing countries. Efforts to provide some employment and at least a basic minimum of food grains - which varies significantly between different regions - have led to the virtual elimination of malnutrition and deficiency diseases. Table 6 Index of agricultural production in China Period 1952 1962 1964 1910 1949-71 ( 1 957= 100) - -_ - - _ _ _- .. . . _ _ . - Grain Index 83.24 95.95 98.65 117.57 Food Production Index 83.24 95.95 98.65 117.57 Agricultural Production Index 82.94 90.0 96.04 115.85 ~~~ ~~ ~ Source: Ashbrook(Jr.), Arthur G., China : Economic and Policy and Economic Results- in Jt. Selected Committee of the U.S. Congress (1972), Peoples Republic of China: An Economic Assessment, pp. 4647. According to a recent estimate by the U.S. official sources, food production in China increased at an annual rate of nearly 3.5 per cent after the change in agricultural strategy in 1962-64. Of course part of this was a revival of output after the serious drought of 1960-62 when the index had dipped in 1961 to a low figure of 80-6 (1957 = loo).$ The population in this period was growing by anything between 1 -8 to 2.40 per cent - a rate of 2 per cent is probably quite accurate. Under the circumstances food and agricultural production was definitely rising faster than population growth, allowing for some improvement - in particular diversification - of diet. But, the problem of meeting the demand for * W. Klatt, A Review of Chinas Economy in 1970, The China Quarterly, No. 43, p. 118, July-September, 1970. t According to the recent recommendations of the F.A.O. and the W.H.O. (F.A.O.lW.H.0. Expert Committee, Energy and Protein Requirements. Geneva, 1973) If the calorie intake matches calorie requirement then protein needs (which has now, been reduced to .only 38 gr. per day) will be met. If, however, roots and tubers play a significant part in providing the calories, protein deficiencies will continue to exist even though calorie requirement is met. Since roots and tubers play a significant part of Chinese food consumption, existence of some protein malnutrition, at least in poorer areas cannot be ruled out. The overall rate of growth of agriculture between 1952 and 1970 over the five-year average for the period 1952-56 comes to only 1.8 per cent per annum which was much lower than the growth rates of many developing countries in Asia. Rates of growth of agricultural output in selected countries in 1970 over the average of 1952-56 ~ ~ FOOD AGRJCULTURAL COUNTRIES PRODUCTION PRODUCTlON China 1 .n 1.7 Korea, Rep. of 4.1 4-2 India 2.6 2.5 Indonesia 2.5 2.2 Pakistan 3.2 2.8 Philippines 3.2 3 *2 Sri Lanka 3.6 2.8 Taiwan 3.8 3.8 Source: Estimates based on The Economic Assessment, op. cit. and F.A.O. Monthly Bulletin of Agricultural Economics and Statistics, Vol. 21, No. 1. 50 R. P. SINHA food for the urban population remains to be solved. Right from the beginning the government has not found it easy to increase its grain procurement at a reasonable pace to cope with the demand for food from the urban population as well as deficit areas. As such there has been a need for imported grains. Table 7 Immrts of wheat in China (million metric tons) W A R 1961 6.2 1964 6.8 1970 4.7 1972 3-2 (Prelim.) Source: F.A.O., Trade Yearbooks, various numbers and Annual Supplementary Economic Statistics to F.A.O. Trade Yearbooks 1965-71. Imports of grain and other foodstuffs are financed by exporting agricultural products. For instance, in 1970 the total imports of foodstuffs and chemical fertiliser by China amounted to $580 million but she exported $645 million worth of foodstuffs. Part of the import of wheat is obviously to meet the quantitative shortage of grains, but part of this is by official design, because transferring food to the cities in coastal areas on already over-stressed land-transport routes is more expensive than to import food for such areas. Exporting rice, a high-priced item, to finance low-priced wheat is on the whole good economics. Between 1965 and 1969 China exported an average of 0.90 million metric tons of rice, the peak being 1966 when these exports touched an all-time height of 1-2 million tons. Whether this can be maintained over a long period is difficult to predict. Barring occasional failures of rain, the future outlook for Chinese agricul- ture seems reasonably optimistic. Continuation of an annual rate of growth of output of 2.5 to 3 per cent for the 1970s can easily be hoped for. As a result of the stress being laid on family planning, which will start to have some influence on rural fertility, in the second half of the 1970s population growth would probably stabilise around 2 per cent, and possibly 1.5 per cent by the early 1980s, and there- fore agricultural production will certainly rise somewhat faster than population growth allowing for further improvements in dietary standards. Demand for superior cereals is likely to increase faster with increases in per capita income. Since the switch in demand from roots and tubers to rice and wheat does not necessarily bring about a similar shift in production, particularly since superior grains require better land, which is scarce in China, grain imports will have to continue. According to F.A.O. Commodity Projections for 1980, the import requirement for grains is estimated at five million tons. Much of this would be required for urban consumption. With more rapid growth in income and consequent changes in food habits the demand for quality food will increase faster. For providing these the Government will have to redirect investments in creating a viable livestock industry, cold storage and refrigeration, and processing of fruits and vegetables. Some of this is, in fact, already being done, as shown by the import of breeding bulls from Britain. If there is a major imbalance between the demand and supply of these products this may have some implications for exports of such foodstuffs which earn substantial foreign exchange. The need for rapid expansion of industries producing agricultural inputs like chemical fertiliser, pesticides, agricultural machinery and electricity will continue. Expansion of rural transport and storage capacity will remain a high priority - much of the rural transport is based on human labour. With increasing demand for and supply of fruits and vegetables, quick transport will become necessary. Mechanised trans- port, together with more mechanised farming, will inevitably reduce the labour requirement while the absolute size of the agricultural labour force will continue CHINESE AGRICULTURE: PAST PERFORMANCE AND FUTURE OUTLOOK 51 to rise at least until the end of this century. Much of the labour-intensive irrigation work and other infrastructure has already been created, so the provision of employment for an increasing labour force would require further consideration. Inequality between the rural and urban sectors, between various regions, production brigades and teams, as well as between individuals within the same village, will probably increase somewhat, leading to disparities in food consump- tion levels. While the basic minimum will still be available to all, the households with more able-bodied adults have, in general, higher 'work-point' rating and consequently income. Since productivity, at low levels of incomes, is positively correlated with food consumption such households have an in-built advantage over those families who have less able-bodied adults. In the absence of progressive taxation and/or a discriminating pricing system such disparities are difficult to eliminate. The disparities between areas differing in natural endowment would present serious problems. High stable yield fields cannot be easily expanded to dry zones of China, dry farming techniques being still in their infancy. Therefore the rate of progress in levels of living and food consumption would be much slower in dry zones of China. Authorities seem to be fully aware of the problem of disparities in income and consumption levels and this is one of the reasons - and not neces- sarily scarcity alone - for which rationing of essential commodities still continues. It is likely that such rationing would continue in the 1970's for basically similar reasons. RCsumi: L'AGRICULTURE CHINOISE: SA PHYSIONOMIE D'HIER ET SES PERSPECTIVES FUTURES En dkpit d'une agriculture traditionnelle assez avancke technique- ment, les principaux problimes dont hiritirent les dirigeants communistes Ptaient de ceux typiques aux pays en dkveloppement et provenaient du systime de I'affermage et du manque de dPbouchPs d'emploi. La rkforme agraire f u t considprPe comme une condition prealable essentielle au dkveloppement et comrnenca par la nouvelle rkpartition des terres agricoles, pour continuer progressivement par Ptapes successives durant 15 ans jusqu'aux prisentes Communes rurales. Cette etude dPcrit le systirne d'organisation dans la Commune ainsi que ses relations Pconomiques avec I'Eiat. Les lacunes du 'Grand bond en avant' mirent en lumiire les limites de la technologie tradifionnelle et du sys f t m e dependant uniquement du fravail de I'homme et, depuis 1962, les agriculteurs disposent largement de fournitures professionnelles manufacturt!es, particulitrement d'en- grais et pesticides industriels. Con prkfire les industries de petite ou moyenne dimension, &parties sur I'ensemble du pays. L'avenir de I'agriculture chinoise peut Etre raisonnablement considkre' avec optimisrne. Zusammeufassung DIE CHINESISCHE LANDWIRTSCHAFT: LEISTUNGEN I N DER VERGANGENHEIT UND AUSSICHTEN FUR DIE ZUKUNFT Trotz einer technisch weit fortgeschrittenen traditionellen Land- wirtschaft waren die Hauptprobleme, die die kommunistischen Herrscher erbten, typisch f i r Entwicklungslinnder, und sie ergaben sich aus dem System des Landbesitzes und aus dem Mangel an 52 R. P. SINHA Beschiiftigungsmoglichkeiten. Die Landreform wurde als Vorausset- zung fiir eine Entwicklung angesehen und begann mit der Um- verteilung von privatem Grundbesitz, die in 15 Jahren in mehreren einzelnen Stadien zu den heutigen IEndlichen Kommunen fuhrte. Der ArtikeI beschreibt die Organisation innerhalb der Kommunen und deren wirtschaftliche Beziehungen zum Staat. Die Fehlent- wicklungen des 'Sprungs nach vorn' zeigten die Grenzen der traditionellen Technologie und des ausschliesslichen Verlasses auf Arbeit. Seit 1962 sind hergestellte Inputs verfugbar gemacht worden, vor allem Diingemittel und Pestizide. Man verlrisst sich auf kleine und mittlere Betriebe, die uber das game Land verstreut sind. Die Aussichten f i r die chinesische Landwirtschaft in der Zukunft sind einigermassen optimistisch.
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