Sichuan is a leading agricultural province. Sichuan agriculture is playing an important role in China. In the 60 years after the founding of the People’s Republic of China and especially after the adoption of the reform and opening-up policy, under the wise leadership of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council, and with the unswerving efforts of all previous Party committees and provincial governments of Sichuan province and the hard work of all the Sichuan people, Sichuan’s agricultural and rural development have seen historic wonderful achievements, dramatic changes have happened to all rural areas, and rural residents have been living a relatively well-off life.
I. Agriculture, forestry, animal husbandry and fishery developed, and distinctive production bases of agricultural products are taking shape.
China had low productivity before 1949. Sichuan province had only 10.93 million tons of grain yield, and 3.1 million hogs marketable in 1949. After the founding of the PRC, Sichuan agriculture experienced leap-forward strides, from “taking grain-production as the central task” to “encouraging diversified operation” and strategic adjustment of agricultural economic structure, from industry segmentation to agricultural industrialized operation and appearance of modern plating industry and modern animal husbandry, and is now proceeding towards scale production, standardized and clustering development. Now Sichuan is quickening the development of national key production and supply bases of quality and special produce and national key production and processing bases of livestock products. In 2008, Sichuan’s gross output value of agriculture, forestry, animal husbandry and fishery amounted to 390.34 billion yuan, 209 times that of 1949. The output value of animal husbandry accounted for over 50% of the total. Grain yield, edible oil output, fruit output, and aquatic product output equaled respectively 3.2 times, 12.1 times, 127.7 times and 200 times that of 1949. The number of marketable hogs, cattle, sheep and poultry was respectively 29.1 times, 33.2 times, 33.7 times and 14 times that of 1949. The yield of major agricultural products took top places in the country.
II. Agricultural infrastructure was upgraded and comprehensive productivity was increased considerably.
Sichuan’s rural infrastructure was rather backward when the PRC was founded. Take the example of water conservancy. Except for irrigated areas of Dujiangyan, agriculture in the rest areas depended only on the nature. Since the founding of the PRC, Party committees of Sichuan province and the provincial governments laid great emphasis on agricultural infrastructures, and reinforced efforts and investment in this respect. The province insisted on “invigorating Sichuan through water control”, took measures of comprehensive treatment to hills, rivers, fields, forests and roads, and launched infrastructure constructions of agricultural water conservancy. The province led the country in two ecological projects, namely natural forest protection and restoring farmland into forest, and as a result, the standard of agricultural irrigation, agricultural mechanization, information-based agriculture and ecological agriculture was elevated significantly, comprehensive agricultural productivity was remarkably increased and the ability of resisting natural disasters was greatly enhanced. At present, the province has 630 thousand irrigation works of various kinds. Among them there are 6,715 reservoirs, 2,238 times that of the early period after the founding of the PRC. Capacity of water storage, diversion, pumping reaches 26.5 billion cubic meters, 8 times that of the early period after the founding of the PRC. The area of effective irrigated farmland amounts to 37.6 million mu, 4.7 times that of the early period after the founding of the PRC. The area of stable-yields farmland amounts to 25.98 million mu, 43.5% of the total area of arable land in the province. The area of high-and-stable-yields farmland amounts to 24 million mu. The total power of agricultural machines reaches over 26.87 million kilowatts, 7.7 times that of 1978. Coverage of ploughing, sowing and harvesting machines reaches 25.66%. Forest coverage reaches 30.79%, 11.8 percentage points more than that of 1949.
III. Industrialized operation thrived, pushing modern agricultural construction onto a new stage.
Sichuan was one of the earliest provinces to start exploring the possibility of agricultural industrialized operation. In as early as the 1980s, there emerged the miniature of agricultural integrated operation in Qionglai, such as the integration of industry and commerce with agriculture, forestry, and animal husbandry. Since the 1990s, Party committees and provincial governments of Sichuan province insisted on the guideline of “promoting industrialization to raise farmers’ living standard” and paid particular attention on agricultural industrialized operation. Consequently, the province made great strides in agricultural industrialized operation. The number of leading enterprises doubled, and while these enterprises expanded, clusters of leading enterprises were rising. Farmers’ specialized cooperative organizations grew rapidly and standardized production bases of agricultural products began to take shape. Industrialized interest-binding mechanism was improved, where operation mechanisms such as “firm plus farmer household”, “leading enterprise plus specialized cooperative organization plus farmer household”, “specialized market plus farmer household” and “six-party cooperation plus insurance” were full of vitality. At the end of 2008, there were 6,865 leading enterprises of agricultural industrialized operation, among which 19 enterprises had sales revenue of over 1 billion yuan and 1 enterprise had sales revenue of over 10 billion yuan. There were 18,678 farmers’ specialized cooperative organizations of various kinds. The number of villages with their own specialized products reached 3,694, and a large number of cross-regional standardized and specialized production bases were taking shape. Agricultural industrialized-operation organizations involved 10.73 million farmer households, 54.4% of the total farmer households in the province.
IV. Township and village enterprises emerged, opening a new page of rural economic development.
Before the founding of the PRC, the non-agricultural industry in Sichuan’s rural areas was rather stagnant. After the founding of the PRC, industry in rural areas rose gradually, and through agricultural cooperation, a number of commune-run and brigade-run enterprises gradually evolved during the Period of People’s Commune. When it came to the 1980s, as the reforms in rural areas progressed, township and village enterprises (TVEs) in Sichuan emerged as a new force and up to the middle of the 1980s had occupied half of the rural economy. From 1978 to 2008, the number of TVEs grew from 150 thousand to 1.8 million, increasing by 11 times; the number of employees grew from 1.8 million to 8.48 million, increasing by 3.71 times; and the gross output value grew from less than 600 million yuan to over 1 trillion yuan, representing an increase of more than 1,600 times. The dramatic development of TVEs broke the dualistic stereotype of “industry in urban areas only and agriculture in rural areas only” and forcefully promoted the grand adjustment of rural industrial structure. As a result, the secondary industry and tertiary industry in rural areas were flourishing. A rural industrial system supported by the food industry, building materials industry, silk industry and light and textile industry was set up, and such sectors as the transportation sector, the commercial sector, the catering sector and the rural tourism sector turned into important sectors that served farmers and increased their income. Estimates show that the ratio of the primary industry, the secondary industry and the tertiary industry in Sichuan’s rural areas was 80.1: 15.5: 4.4 in 1978, and was adjusted to 28: 49.4: 22.6 in 2008. As such, a new structure of rural economic development came into being.
V. Rural labor force experienced large scale employment shift, making labor economy an important industry.
Since the founding of the PRC, rural labor force gradually shifted to family sideline production and commune-and-brigade-run enterprises. Then the promotion of the household contract responsibility system quickened the transfer of rural labor force to non-agriculture industries and to urban areas. Since the middle of the 1990s, Party committees of Sichuan province and the provincial governments took the development of labor force and the employment of rural labor as a major strategic measure to increase farmers’ income and to push forward the process of industrialization and urbanization. Reinforced efforts were also made to facilitate rural labor’s skill training, transfer and export, to protect their rights and interests and offer them assistance, and to expand the labor market in other provinces and increase the non-agricultural employment opportunities in Sichuan. All these contributed to such reputable labor brand names as “ChuanMeiZi”, “ChuanJianGong”, “ChuanChuShi” and “ChuanShuKong”. Meanwhile, labor development evolved from spontaneous going-out to organized and well-arranged export, from the export of physical labor to the export of skilled labor, and from simply labor export to labor economy. More and more rural workers have been integrated into industrial civilization and urban civilization. The labor industry has become a major wealth-bringing industry for the countryside. In 2008, the number of rural workers transferred and exported from Sichuan reached 20.234 million, and revenue arising from labor services amounted to 122.8 billion yuan, both figures taking top places in China. Sichuan has become a major province of labor economy in China.
VI. New rural construction proceeded on steadily, and farmers’ living standard improved gradually.
Before the founding of the PRC, Sichuan farmers couldn’t have enough food to eat or clothes to wear. However, after the founding of the PRC, especially after the rural reform, dramatic changes have happened to farmers’ life. In the middle of 1980s, basically all Sichuan farmers had adequate food and clothing. At the end of the 20th century, roughly all of them began to lead a well-off life. Since the start of the new century, with the implementation of the strategy of coordinating urban and rural development and the policy of “giving more, taking less, and loosening control”, new rural construction was progressing rapidly. More efforts were made in respect of poverty relief and development. Infrastructure construction in the countryside and public utilities development accelerated. Public service sped up its extension to rural areas. Difficulties in respect of transportation, drinking water, medical care and schooling have been effectively solved step by step. The production and living conditions of farmers have been further improved. The goal that people are well educated, workers are well paid, patients are well treated, the elders are well supported, and residents are well housed is coming true. In 2008, the average net income of Sichuan farmers reached 4,121 yuan, 73 times more than that of 1953. The Engel Coefficient in terms of rural resident fell to 52%. At present, 89.2% of all the villages can be reached by roads, nine-year compulsory education is popularized in all villages, novel rural cooperative medical system covers all counties (cities and districts), pilot programs of novel rural pension insurance system have been started in 47 counties, and more and more rural residents are entitled to social security.
VII. Institutional innovations sustain and rural economy thrives
After the founding of the PRC, Sichuan agriculture explored the way of rural socialist construction by means of land reform, agricultural cooperatives and people’s communes. Since the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh CPC Central Committee, Sichuan, being a major origin of rural reform in China, launched all-round rural reform, and achieved a series of new breakthroughs. In as early as the spring of 1957, Sichuan Daily published a signed article suggesting “fixing farm output quotas for each household”. In the autumn of 1977, Jinyu commune in the then Guanghan County firstly implemented “fixing farm output quotas for each group”; in November 1980, Xiangyang commune of the same county became the first to be rid of the tag of “People’s Commune”. In 2005, Sichuan pioneered province-wide exemption of the agriculture tax. In 2007, Sichuan was the first to launch the pilot program of comprehensive reforms for coordinating urban and rural development, and Chengdu became one of the first pilot regions to commence comprehensive reforms for coordinating urban and rural development. Through rural reform, a rural basic economic system and rural market economy mechanism based on household contract operation have been established. At present, rural comprehensive reform and other reforms in respect of the collective forest property right system, water resource management and rural investment and financing system are being intensified. Agricultural and rural development will demonstrate fresh and immense vitality.
After 60 years’ changes, Sichuan agriculture is now standing at a new starting point for development. In the coming future, we will further comply with the guidelines of the Seventeenth Party Congress and the Third Plenary Session of the Seventeenth CPC Central Committee and follow the important and key decisions and arrangements made in the Sixth Plenary Session of the Ninth Party Committee of Sichuan Province. We will insist on coordinating urban and rural development, promote the integrated development of industrialization, urbanization and agricultural modernization. We will also systematically promote the new rural construction, push the development of agriculture and rural economy to a new stage, and step up the transformation from traditional agriculture to modern agriculture, from a leading agricultural province to a top agricultural province, and from segmented urban and rural development to integrated urban and rural development. We firmly believe Sichuan agriculture will have a bright and splendid prospect.