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China's agriculture in the new era


Editor's note: Food security makes headlines. With less than 9 percent of the world's arable land, China feeds 22 percent of the world's population. How does China do this? Loess Plateau, this once barren land, is becoming fertile farmland. How do the local villagers do this? In this special episode of Closer to China, we examine China's agriculture sector – what's the plan to ensure food security, and how can farmers' standard of living be raised?

For the past 20 years, the first policy statement released each year by the CPC Central Committee and the State Council – Central Document No. 1 – is always on China's rural areas and agriculture, assuring food safety for the country and improving the standard of living for farmers.

In 2023, Document No. 1 focused on "rural vitalization" and accelerating the modernization process in rural regions, with emphasis on food security. The Document outlines 9 tasks and 33 primary points, including constructing a strong agricultural sector, enhancing food security, extending poverty alleviation, building business-friendly and beautiful villages, protecting cultivated land, preventing heavy metal pollution, providing ecological compensation, and piloting green agriculture and renewable energy in rural areas. The Document calls for improving the rural living environment, with programs for clean villages, installing sewage treatment and utilizing organic waste.

President Xi provides the overview of China's agricultural modernization and food security mission. "Through hard work, our country has provided for nearly one-fifth of the world's population with 9% of the world's arable land and 6% of fresh-water resources. Today, more than 1.4 billion people are eating well."

About a decade ago, a rural expert told me: "Historically, few countries, by the time they have reached the middle phase of industrialization, would still be plagued by agricultural issues. The fact that China is still dealing with agriculture is a sign that the countryside-farmer situation has never been handled properly." But, he stressed, "It's not for lack of government concern." It was in 2017 that CPC General Secretary Xi Jinping gave the directive to "implement the strategy of rural vitalization." He said it would have fundamental impact on the nation. The Party's target date for rural vitalization is 2035, by which time the country will have achieved thriving businesses, pleasant living environments, social etiquette and civility, effective governance and prosperity.

Without the vitalization of the countryside, there can be no social stability, no common prosperity and no national rejuvenation. Having spent his early career as a local official in rural areas, President Xi Jinping is determined to advance agricultural modernization and rural reforms. He stresses food security both for supporting citizens' economic and social development, and for ensuring national development and national security – all of which "modernizes the country and comprehensively promotes the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation."

( Dr. Robert Lawrence Kuhn is a renowned expert on China. For more than 30 years, he has worked with China's leaders and advised the Chinese government. Dr. Kuhn was awarded the prestigious "China Reform Friendship Medal" and "Chinese Government Friendship Award," the highest honors China gives to foreign nationals for their contribution to the country's development. )

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