The program of building a new countryside of Jiangsu province should be halted immediately
On February 19, 2006, the Daily Telegraph of the Xinhua News Agency posted a message: “Jiangsu Province will go all-out to cany on the town-village distribution program. According to the plan, 240 thousand natural villages in the province will be reduced to more than 40 thousand.” A person concerned at the Provincial Department of Housing and Urban-Rural Development said:
At present, the rural population in Jiangsu is 40 million, which is distributed in 240 thousand villages. The natural villages are small in scale with a low population density. [. . .] Residence dispersion has resulted in waste of land, which is unconducive to both infrastructure and environmental construction in rural areas. Only concentrated residence can facilitate the construction of public infrastructure such as drainage, communication, roads, sewage, and garbage disposal in an integrated manner.
This is an obvious violation of the Central Committee’s policy of soundly promoting the construction of a new socialist countryside. It is seriously divorced from reality, is contrary to the wishes of the broad masses of fanners, and will do harm to their interests. The program is just a figment of the imagination of a few people. It is very disadvantageous to the building of a new socialist countryside currently under way. If such a program of making decisions for fanners is earned out, it would not only go down badly with the 40 million fanners in Jiangsu province, but also mislead the construction of a new countryside across the country, cause trouble, and lead to serious consequences. Therefore, the program should be stopped immediately through explicit order.
First, to build a new socialist countryside, we must have an overall plan for urban and rural economic and social development, and persist in taking economic constnrction as the center. We must promote rural economic, political, and cultural constnrction and party building in a coordinated manner. We should promote the development of production in rural areas along a path of civilized development featuring sound ecology and an affluent life. At present, the priority is to promote the development of productive forces in an all-rotmd way. Plans have to be made for this. Plans should also be made to cany' out production and construction, and increase the income of fanners in one’s own province, comity, township, and village. In the 20-character guideline for the construction of a new countryside, increasing production and achieving affluence in life are the first, the most crucial, and the most important. They are also the starting point and end result of building a new countryside. Only when the economy develops, and the income of fanners rises, can the development in other aspects be accomplished. Jiangsu Department of Housing and Urban-Rural Development intends to cany out such a program already at the beginning of the new rural construction. The so-called program of abolishing and merging the natural villages is a move starting at the wrong end, and obviously runs counter to the Central Committee’s policy concerning the construction of a new socialist countryside.
Second, building a new socialist countryside is a program that will win people’s hearts and bring benefits to 900 million fanners. We should start with what fanners care most about, demand most urgently, and most directly related to their interests. We should constantly bring tangible benefits to and motivate fanners to actively participate in the building of a new countryside. This is an essential guarantee for achieving success of this policy. Now, the program has just started. Jiangsu Department of Housing and Urban-Rural Development has already made it clear to “go all-out to cany' out the town-village distr ibution program,” and spread words that “240 thousand natural villages in the province will be reduced to more than 40 thousand.” What would the 40 million fanners think when such a plan is conveyed to rural areas? Before obtaining any tangible benefit, they are already faced with the coming dismantling of their houses inhabited for generations, occupation of then residences inherited from ancestors, and moving to the so-called concentr ated residential areas. Chinese farmers have always had the traditional habits of being unwilling to leave a place where one has lived long and gold nest, sil
ver nest, none is as good as one’s own nest of grass (East, West, home’s best). Can fanners accept such a plan of large-scale relocation? If this plan is the first move of building a new socialist countryside in Jiangsu province, will the broad masses of fanners be positive about it? Will they actively participate? This so-called progr am, which runs counter to the wishes and harms the interests of the overwhelming majority of the fanners, will directly dampen their enthusiasm for participating in the building of a new socialist countryside. Once implemented, it won’t be a program that wins the hearts of the farmers and brings benefits to them, but rather one that will hint them and directly harm their interests.
Third, building a new socialist countryside and achieving the goals of development in production, affluent life, civilized styles of living, clean and tidy villages, and democratic management, the contents are comprehensive and rich, covering all aspects of building a new socialist countryside. We should stick to the right direction, obtain ideological clarity, focus on the first priorities, steadily make solid progress, and do a good job of handling this important matter that has a bearing on the overall socialist modernization drive. It should be made clear that building a new socialist countryside is by no means the construction of new villages, nor is it just to make villages look better. It is even less to give primacy to the improvement of village appearances. In some regions at present, there are already signs and a tendency to misinterpret the construction of a new
The program should be halted immediately 51 socialist countryside as the constmction of the look and appearance of villages. Some have proposed that villages with fewer than 300 inhabitants should be dismantled or merged. Some townships with nearly 10,000 inhabitants are to be divided into four villages. One county of nearly 1 million fanners is drawing up a plan for building over 100 centralized residential areas. When this major issue of building a new socialist countryside was first discussed, some leaders feared that it would lead to an unhealthy trend of large-scale demolition and large-scale construction, and become a pretext for a new round of image projects. Now this unhealthy tendency has emerged in some rural areas. The program drawn up by Jiangsu Department of Housing and Urban-Rural Development is an indication of this rising trend. Imagine that this plan of merging 240,000 natural villages into 40,000 concentrated residential areas were actually implemented, what would it be like? The result would be that about five-sixths of the 10 million farmhouses (about 8.30 million households) among the 40 million fanners in Jiangsu province would be demolished and new houses would be built up in their place. Isn’t this unprecedented large-scale demolition and large-scale construction? Isn’t this demolition and reconstruction of basically all the houses of fanners, rural buildings, and rural culture that have been built on the 100,000 square kilometers of land in Jiangsu over the past 2,000 years? Those who have made such a program should really get out of their offices in Nanking, go to the villages and think about it carefully, whether your blueprint for building a new socialist countryside is in accord with the wishes of the broad masses of fanners. Is it in line with the policy of the Party Central Committee? Is it possible to implement it at all?
Fourth, building a new socialist countryside is a huge ongoing project of systems engineering. In today’s China with diversified social interests, people from different strata have different attitudes and behaviors towards the construction of a new countryside. Judging from the message posted by the reporter from the Xinhua News Agency, we fear that the real purpose of the plan to demolish and merge 240,000 natural villages put forward by Jiangsu Department of Housing and Urban-Rural Development is not really to engage in the building of a new socialist countryside. Rather, the drinker’s heart is not in the cup. What they really have in mind is to occupy or expropriate fanners’ land! The land issue was mentioned twice in the more than the 400-word talk to the reporters by the person concerned from the Department of Housing and Urban-Rural Development. He said:
Once the plan is put into practice, it will not only greatly facilitate rural infrastructural construction, but also save large amounts of land resources. Take Changshu City Cffi1 Wftr) as an example. If the existing natural villages can be merged into 125 residential areas, 100 thousand mu of land could be saved.
There are 67 counties (country-level cities) in the whole province. Estimated on the basis of the example of Changshu City, 4-5 million mu of land can be vacated. This is a huge resource, and also a wealth with a total value of over 1 trillion yuan. Some people have their eye on this wealth that belongs to farmers and the state, and thus come up with such a subjective and absurd so-called program oflarge-scale demolition and relocation. They do not think that if over 1 million people, 300,000 rural households, and thousands of natural villages in Changshu were really merged into 125 residential areas, would Changshu still be Changshu? Would it still be the Changshu of rivers and lakes south of the Yangtze River? Would there still be a new socialist countryside in Changshu City?
As mentioned earlier, the starting point and objectives of building a new socialist countryside is to achieve the goals of development in production, affluent life, civilized styles of living, clean and tidy villages, and democratic management. As for the program put forward by Jiangsu Department of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, if one would make a comment, I am afraid their starting point and objective is their interest in the 400-500 million mu of land resources. A few years ago, some cadres tasted the sweetness of “making money from land.” Jiangsu province has a large population with a limited amount of land. Available land resources for reclamation and occupation are already scarce, especially in the southern regions, so some people turned their eyes on fanners’ houses and courtyards. They tried to expropriate fanners’ land by driving them to concentrated residential areas through large-scale demolition and relocation. Isn’t this an act of deprivation of the fanners in Jiangsu? This is by no means the intention of building a new socialist countryside. This act of distortion should be corrected in time.
Fifth, the purposes of building a new socialist countryside are to increase the income of farmers, improve their lives and circumstances, narrow down the gap between urban and rural areas, and coordinate urban-rural relations through the development of productive forces. These are the inevitable requirements of adopting a scientific outlook on development and the construction of a socialist harmonious society. In recent years, the party and the state have attached great importance to work relating to agriculture and rural areas, and made overall plans for urban and ratal economic and social development. A series of policies supporting agriculture and benefiting farmers have been implemented such as abolition of the agricultural tax, increasing investments in rural areas and agriculture, and re-establishing the rural cooperative medical care system. These policies have won the heartfelt support of the broad masses of fanners. The situation in rural areas is good, and the rural society across the country is stable. Steadily forging ahead with the building of a new socialist countryside will make the situation in rural areas better and better. But building a new socialist countryside would be led astray, the hard-won good situation in rural areas would be destroyed, and the stability in rat al areas endangered, if we fail to properly cany out the correct policy of the CPC Central Committee of building a new socialist countryside, fail to act according the laws of nature and of economic and social development, and fail to prioritize and capture the essentials or act recklessly; and if we implement programs of large-scale demolition and construction such as the one adopted by the Jiangsu Provincial Department of Housing and Urban-Rural Development and let a few cadres engage in image projects that waste both manpower and money.
Just imagine, if the 240,000 natural villages were merged into more than 40,000 concentrated residential areas, according to the plan drawn up by Jiangsu Department of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, some 83% of the existing houses
The program should be halted immediately 53 and courtyards of rural households would be demolished and 83% of the fanners would have to move and vacate the houses and sites, so that a few people could make money from land and engage in vanity projects. Can the more than 33 million fanners in Jiangsu province accept this? On one side, there are the masses of fanners who want to defend their homes and interests, and on the other, a few cadres who want to seize their land to get rich and promoted. One side wants to protect, and the other wants to rob. One side has a lot of people, and the other has strong power. A serious straggle and conflict over land resources would become inevitable. From then on, rural areas in Jiangsu that have always been in the lead in all kinds of work would never be peaceful again.
Sixth, in order to correctly cany out the policy of the CPC Central Committee on building a new socialist countryside and ensure that this important matter, which has a bearing on the overall situation, will be handled in a healthy and smooth manner with good results, we must organize and mobilize 900 million fanners and the broad masses of cadres to actively participate in the work. The authorities concerned should pay close attention to the progress of this enterprise, constantly investigate and study, constantly sum up experiences, and discover new problems. Not only should we popularize good experiences and models, but also discern and correct timely unhealthy tendencies in the course of implementing the policy, rectify the course, and make it develop healthily and smoothly. The program recently put forward by Jiangsu Department of Housing and Urban-Rural Development is unrealistic. It neither accords with the vital interests of the fanners, nor conforms to the general direction of building a new socialist countryside, and should therefore be halted immediately through explicit order.
1 This was the author’s speech delivered at the plenary session of the Jiangsu delegation during the 5th Session of the 9th National People’s Congress in March 2002.