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Urban interaction will aid rural progress

( chinadaily.com.cn )

Updated: 2018-03-12

In the Government Work Report he delivered to China's top legislature on Monday, Premier Li Keqiang mentioned "village" at least 24 times and agriculture nine times, urging governments at all levels to make unswerving efforts to revitalize the countryside.

The report echoes the village revitalization plan published by the central authorities last month, which pledges to modernize agriculture by 2035 and comprehensively revitalize rural areas by 2050. The plan, not only sets an explicit deadline to achieve the targets but also says how they will be achieved, and it is expected to serve as a directive for governments at all levels for rural work till the middle of this century.

The timetable is ambitious, but there are some conditions in its favor. First, the anti-corruption campaign launched in late 2012 has markedly enhanced the management of the funds allocated to villages, and improved local governments' efficiency, because the latter now consider it to be a compulsory task.

For instance, Sun Zhigang, Party chief of Southwest China's Guizhou province, where the provincial government has vowed to lift the 2.8 million farmers who still live on less than $1 a day out of abject poverty by 2020, has urged government officials at all levels to carry out "a profound industrial revolution in the countryside economy". Sun is the first provincial leader to signify the task as "a revolution", and has laid out a set of rules for officials, which include training and accountability, to fully implement the plan.

Although the per capita disposable income gap between urban and rural residents has remained as wide as it was 40 years ago, farmers today have access to more channels to get resources from the cities. Which makes the modernization plan for rural areas an interactive project with urban areas.

The tourism boom in the countryside reflects the huge potential that villages hold, which, for instance, has prompted the farmers in Guizhou to rename the mountains that had separated them from the outside world for generations as a "vertical agricultural system", indicating the changes in their concept and vision.

The cities are expected to transfer capital, management and talent to the countryside, where the farmers are being encouraged to participate in the management of agriculture, tourism and related industries as both shareholders, thanks to their land, and employees. In this process, the more than 300 million migrant workers will play the important role of being a bridge between urban and rural areas.

Due to the government's unswerving efforts to protect farmland and farmers' homesteads over the past 40 years, rural residents have maintained tight control over their basic means of production, which can serve as the foundation for the rise of the rural economy.

That more than 90 percent of the villages are accessible by road, and nearly half of the rural residents are regular internet users are the other conditions favoring the revitalization of rural areas. Roads and the internet are crucial channels for the two-way flow of production factors between cities and villages.

The central government started encouraging college graduates to work as officials in rural areas in 2004. The hundreds of thousands of college graduates who have worked in villages since then-more than 100,000 are still working in remote rural areas-have benefited many rural locations through their knowledge and vision.

China implemented the nine-year compulsory education plan in 2008. And China's basic medical care insurance covers 98 percent of the population, and almost all rural residents are eligible to receive a basic pension. Thanks to such programs, the quality of life of rural residents has improved over the past years, which will serve as the foundation for the revitalization of rural areas, which in turn will help realize the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation.

The author is a writer with China Daily. liyang@chinadaily.com.cn

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