The government's high-profile campaign to regulate the country's land use starting last year is beginning to show signs of success, said Vice-Premier Zeng Peiyan Friday.
He said the government would continue rectifying the land market and improve land-use efficiency for the balance of land supply and demand.
"The work of protecting arable land is a long and demanding task and we should not relax at any moment," said Zeng at Friday's meeting to sum up the government's work to regulate the land market.
Statistics indicate that China has delisted 4,735 development zones, or 70.2 percent of the country's total, during a high-profile campaign to crack down on excessive and illegal use of arable land for industrial projects since early last year.
Seven government departments have been involved in the campaign, including the ministries of land and resources, finance, agriculture, construction and supervision, the State Development and Reform Commission and the State Auditing Administration.
The cancellation helped reduce land earmarked for development zones by 24,100 square kilometers, or 64.4 percent of the planned size, and 2,617 square kilometers of farmland has been retrieved, with 1,324 square kilometers already grown to crops.
About 8.74 billion yuan (US$1.05 billion) has been paid as land requisition compensation and relocation fees to those farmers who lost their land.
Zeng said the government will continue tough measures to protect China's valuable plowland and curb the illegal occupancy of the farmland in name of setting up economic development zones and starting new projects.
Experts and officials said farmland is the basis of the nation's food supply, and the shrinkage of farmland has affected the normal economic operation and food security in the country.
China has only 123.4 million hectares of arable land, or 0.095 hectares per capita, which is less than 40 percent of the world's average, statistics show.
With a population of 1.3 billion, China has always attached high importance to grain security, especially as grain output has declined for five consecutive years to 431 million tons in 2003, lower than the set warning line of 450 million tons.
"The conflict between a growing population and limited natural resources may continue to worsen," said Minister of Construction Wang Guangtao at a recent meeting.
Wang urged local construction departments to strengthen the treatment and protection of the Chinese rural environment and adopt economically productive approaches in the use of farmland.
Forty million farmers lost the farmland they used to make a living with during the past two decades of industrialization and were relocated to non-agricultural sectors, and the issue has long been a hot topic among researchers and officials.
(China Daily August 14, 2004)