SCIO briefing on 'No. 1 Central Document' 2019

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Han Changfu, deputy head of the Central Rural Work Leading Group, director of the Office of the Central Rural Work Leading Group, minister of Agriculture and Rural affairs

Hu Kaihong, spokesperson for the State Council Information Office of China

Feb. 20, 2019

Hu Kaihong:

Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. Welcome to this press conference. This year's "No. 1 Central Document" entitled "Several Opinions of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council on Prioritizing the Development of Agriculture and Rural Areas to Address the Issues Relating to Agriculture, Rural Areas and Rural People" was released yesterday. Today, we are delighted to welcome Mr. Han Changfu, deputy head of the Central Rural Work Leading Group and minister of agriculture and rural affairs, to introduce this document and answer your questions. We also have with us Mr. Wu Hongyao, a member of the CPC Leading Group of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs and director of the Secretariat of the Office of the Central Rural Work Leading Group. Now, I'll give the floor to Mr. Han.

Han Changfu:

Ladies and Gentlemen, and friends from the press, good afternoon! Yesterday was the start of the "Rain Water" period, one of the 24 divisions of the solar year in the traditional Chinese calendar. 

This was also the day when Xinhua News Agency released the "No.1 Central Document" of 2019, entitled "Several Opinions of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council on Prioritizing the Development of Agriculture and Rural Areas to Address the Issues Relating to Agriculture, Rural Areas and Rural People." Now, I would like to give you a briefing about it.

The CPC Central Committee with President Xi Jinping at its core has always been highly committed to the work on agriculture, the rural areas and rural people (known in Chinese under the name of "San Nong" work), and given top priority to these aspects in the Party agenda. 

Last September, President Xi delivered an important instruction on advancing the "San Nong" work in 2019 and 2020 and on the drafting of the "No.1 Central Document" for this year. He stressed the importance to the master plan covering tasks essential to the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects. 

Late last year, President Xi also issued an important written instruction to the Central Rural Work Conference. He acknowledged the achievements made in agricultural and rural development in 2018, highlighted the deep significance of the "San Nong" work, and identified the priorities forming the focus for 2019. His instruction set the tone and provided guidance for drafting the 2019 "No.1 Central Document" and the related work in 2019 and 2020. Premier Li Keqiang has also issued clear requirements for its successful performance.

In 2018, China recorded new achievements in agriculture and rural development, took firm steps to further advance poverty alleviation, and got off to a good start in implementing the Rural Revitalization Strategy.

Once again it was a bumper harvest year. Grain output reached 657.9 million tons, registering the seventh straight year above the 600 million ton-level. Sufficient supply of other important produce, including meat, eggs, milk, fruits, vegetables and fish, was also achieved

Farmers saw a steady income rise. The per capita annual disposable income of the rural population was 14,617 yuan, a gain of 6.6 percent in real terms after allowing for the price factor. This represented a higher growth rate than that achieved by the urban population.

Rural development took on a new look. The Three-Year Action Plan for Improving the Rural Living Environment is underway, and the first Chinese Farmers' Harvest Festival was successfully held.

All in all, there was steady progress in agriculture and rural development, delivering staunch support to the overall goal of sustainable and sound socioeconomic growth.

The year 2019 marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. It is a critical year to achieve the First Centenary Goal of securing a decisive victory in building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, and a historic juncture in finally winning battle of poverty alleviation and rolling out the Rural Revitalization Strategy. So, it is of particular significance to do well in the work related to agriculture, rural areas and farmers.

Amid an increase in downward economic pressures, and faced with a rapidly changing external environment and growing risks and challenges, we must hold firm to the strategic status of agriculture, the rural areas in general, and farmers, and enable all three to play a strong stabilizing role for further growth.

However, agriculture and the countryside in general still pose a daunting and demanding challenge in the drive to make China a moderately prosperous society in all respects. Efforts and resources must be pooled to make breakthroughs that ensure the commitments on rural reform and development goals are met. We also need to take preemptive actions to address risks and challenges, so as to lay the foundation for sustained, healthy economic growth and social stability, and realize the First Centenary Goal as planned.

Guided by Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, the "No. 1 Central Document" follows through on decisions made by the 19th National Congress of the CPC, the second and third plenary sessions of the 19th CPC Central Committee, and the annual Central Economic Work Conference. It focuses on the rural revitalization strategy, identifies a must-do list in regard to the work on agriculture, the rural areas and rural people to achieve a moderately prosperous society in all respects, and also puts forward new requirements for rural reform and development reflecting the evolving situation at home and abroad. 

The "No. 1 Central Document" is designed as a master plan on how to do well in regard to the work on agriculture, the rural areas and rural people, addressing priorities, weakness and essential points. This overall arrangement can be summarized in six aspects. 

First, underlining the need for pursuing progress while ensuring stability. 

For ensuring a stable market and sufficient supply, it seeks to strengthen the various policies and measures for developing agriculture especially grain production, and clearly specifies ways to stabilize the grain acreage and overall output. For achieving stable employment and increased farmers' income, it stresses the need to support rural industry, tap the employment potential of rural areas, and create more opportunities for rural residents to continue to work locally. For ensuring continued social stability and harmony, it emphasizes the need to increase welfare provisions for rural people, and strive to foster a healthy atmosphere of integrity, harmony and stability in the countryside.

Second, prioritizing implementation of the rural revitalization strategy. 

Based on the timetable, roadmap and assignment book forming the backbone of the strategy, the document determines the annual and phased measures in implementing it in 2019, so as to promote fresh progress continuing in each succeeding year and increase the sense of happiness and gains for the rural population.

Third, emphasizing the accomplishment of critical tasks. 

It once again underlines and sets priorities for winning the battle against poverty, ensuring food security and improving the rural living environment. In this regard, it details the measures and enhances accountability guiding all the efforts, investment and policy implementation to focus on must-do tasks to ensure all are completed on schedule.

Fourth, it highlights agricultural supply-side structural reform. In light of the guideline of consolidation, enhancement, improvement and unblocking, it lays out a clear plan for adjusting and optimizing the overall agricultural structure, developing rural specialty industries and promoting integrated development of the primary, second and tertiary industries. There is a strong focus on promoting reform in regard to supply-side agricultural restructuring for further advancement and deeper penetration.

Fifth, it highlights the critical role of rural Party branches. The Document underlines the need for further development and enhancement of rural community organizations across the board, and sets out the overall requirements, key tasks and safeguard measures for building strong and reliable community-level Party organizations throughout the rural areas.

Sixth, it highlights the policy orientation of prioritizing agricultural and rural development. It specifies in detail the institutional arrangement of a five-level Party secretary accountability system for rural revitalization, and stresses that implementation of the "four priorities" is of paramount importance and closely related to government performance evaluation. Finally, it further reinforces policy support. 

To sum up, this year's No.1 Central Document is a master plan essential to the task of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects and to the completion of the poverty alleviation work and implementation of the Rural Revitalization Strategy, enabling us to get off to a good start with rural reform in a new era after 40 years of reform and opening up. The No.1 Central Document features policies that are forward-looking, targeted and provide better guidance and we should fully carry it out.

The initiative of strengthening and empowering agriculture and rural areas was launched in 2019. We will resolutely implement policies concerning work related to agriculture, rural areas and farmers decided by the CPC Central Committee, and roll up our sleeves to work harder. We will make every endeavor to do well in work related to agriculture, rural areas and farmers, and maintain an encouraging momentum as paying tribute to the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic China with outstanding achievements.

Thanks for listening to my briefing. Now, I would like to take questions from the press together with my colleague Mr. Wu Hongyao, Director of the Secretariat of the Office of the Central Rural Work Leading Group.

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