I find this who area very troublesome - what came first
the cow or the pill ? (that is a Swiss Question - chicken or egg is for we poor.
Three things below: China as the model but 800 milliona re being dumped in name
of new industries (read INdia?). Mr E-Commerce, KN Gupta on DIY or die, Shyam
telecom and riots from the village tank and the head of Nivea India on
just look at agriculture in the swiss economy and see how
many swiss either have some parttime 'farm' thing going or control worldwide
vast agri empires (not just Nestle I can assure you).
For more on China go and see my entries on rural areas and
national minorities (including 100 million migrant workers) in the World
Directory of Minorities, 1997 - it is a very expensive (nothing to do with me!)
reference book so only in certain big libraries. I must
have the original datafile somewhere so if someone wants desperately and can't
find I might try ......The 'orphanage' deaths of girl children in rural areas
was in my opinioin in part due to provincial towns being starved of money
because the Centre said the private sector would invest, in the interests
of 'liberalisationa and privatisation and the local areas then found they had
almost no money for cinderella services such as the elderly and orphans and of
course the 'extended family' had gone off to the cities to try to earn money
order resources to send home..........see all this in Gittings article
A final point - here's is what head of Nivea INdia said at
the Delhi povery summit in 2002 attended by business and opened by the
Now for the article by John Gittings who has been covering
china for the Guardian longer then I can remember
The forgotten 800 million: how rural life
is dying in the new China
In the run-up to the congress in which
Beijing must face up to its future, the country's peasants are suffering growing
Gittings in Poyang Lake, Jiangxi
Saturday October 19, 2002The Guardian
It is only a small hill but it saved the
village beside Poyang Lake from being banished from its land. Long grass hides
the ruins of the farmers' old houses, abandoned after the great flood four years
The new village sits on the hill, two rows of single-storey bare brick houses
squeezed close together. It lacks the old atmosphere, but it is better than
being moved far away.
Only one family has obstinately stayed on. "They came and smashed holes in
the roof to make them move", says a villager, "but now they seem to have given
Nearly 500,000 people have been "resettled" off the flood plains around the
lake in Jiangxi province since the 1998 disaster. Embankments have been breached
to let the lake return to its natural size - environmentally sensible but at a
human cost. Even today in a far more open China, social engineering on this huge
scale can take place with hardly anyone noticing.
There has been little discussion of rural problems in the run-up to the 16th
Communist party congress which opens on November 8 in Beijing. Much more
attention is paid to urban unemployment, the reform of state industry and
banking, and the growing importance of private enterprise.
Yet though the percentage of Chinese living on the land has declined in the
last 20 years of economic reform, because of population growth the absolute
number is the same - a staggering 800 million.
Serious Chinese experts all agree that agriculture is stagnating for the
majority living in the vast rural interior. "The future for peasant incomes and
employment is grim," warns Chen Xiwen, deputy director of the state council's
research centre, in a recent report.
Not only are average incomes barely rising, but the proportion derived from
farming falls year by year. One in four of the rural labour force has left the
villages to find work in booming urban China. Entire rural communities only get
by because of the urban workers' remittances home.
Last year, according to Chen, there were more than 88 million migrant workers
living away from home, most of them employed in "dirty, hard, dangerous and
The village beside Poyang Lake provides vivid proof of their flight. No
attempt has been made to reclaim the abandoned houses and gardens where a single
young buffalo grazes the turf quietly.
"One third of our able-bodied people go out to seek work," says a resident.
"My brother is on the southern coast: he's found a job for my son. There's no
one left to farm the land."
Millions of farmers are also heavily taxed by corrupt local officials who
literally live off the land - in the old phrase "eating the emperor's [free]
China's most famous advocate for peasant rights, Li Changping, says: "After
paying taxes, the absolute majority of peasants do not have enough left to fund
their agricultural production or rural industry".
Mr Li is a former rural official from another lakeside community - Dongting
Lake in Hubei province. The peasants of Qipan, where he worked for 17 years,
were paying three times as much tax as officially allowed to support a bloated
bureaucracy. The cadres enjoyed subsidised housing, free cars, mobile phones,
holiday travel and lavish banquets.
Mr Li described the peasants' plight in a letter to the premier Zhu Rongji
which was then published in one of China's most adventurous newspapers. Stirred
by the publicity, the government sent officials to investigate, but it was an
empty victory: local thugs in league with the officials now collect the money
There has been much official trumpeting about the success of a campaign to
reduce rural taxes but the peasants may not be better off in the end.
In the past 20 years, central provision of funds for health and education has
been slashed: even without corruption, local governments have less to spend on
The little school at the village beside Poyang Lake has one teacher and one
class - the first two years of primary school taught together. The teacher has
been there for 30 years and his blackboard looks as old. The 35 children - 15
girls and 20 boys - are crammed together in the ground floor, diligently tracing
their first Chinese characters.
There is a new district secondary school in the next village: serious maths
and English is taught to extremely large classes of cheerful kids - some of whom
Real efforts are being made, but attendance rates across the country have
fallen as the age - and school fees - rise. Teachers are paid late or not at
all: Jiangxi province has just announced a new plan to try to give them their
Health services have been hit equally. Local doctors over-prescribe because
they must live off the fees. Hospital in-patients leave before treatment is
completed because they cannot afford the high charges.
In the 1960s, Mao Zedong proclaimed the goal of "narrowing the difference
between town and countryside".
After years of neglect, this is beginning to be talked about again, but in
the meanwhile the gap has widened. If the hidden value of better urban services
is included, the real gap between average urban and rural incomes may be as wide
as six to one.
In many Jiangxi villages, Mao's portrait is displayed in almost every peasant
house. "We don't worship the chairman," explains one villager, "but we honour
him for what he did."
Western predictions of a new peasant revolt are wide of the mark in Mr Li's
view. He says: "China has the world's best peasants". They blame local cadres
and governments, not Beijing for their plight.
However he predicts that, in spite of official restrictions on migration, the
flow of jobless peasants will grow till "the rural problem becomes an urban
China's city dwellers, most of whom only go to the countryside to visit
famous beauty spots, will no longer be able to ignore the 800 million.