China is a country with a large population and less arable land. With only seven percent of the world's cultivated land, China has to feed one-fifth of the world's population. Some people once raised the question: "Who will feed China?" China's leaders and agricultural experts' reply was: "We Chinese people will feed ourselves."
Since 1978, when China adopted the policy of reform in its rural areas, China's agriculture has developed rapidly. In the past two decades or so, the Chinese countryside, under the premise of adhering to collective ownership, has taken the market economy as guidance, bravely broken away from the traditional system, and pursued a new mode for the realization of the collective economy under the market economy. Reform has brought benefits to the farmers, emancipated and developed the rural productive forces, and promoted the rapid development of agriculture, especially the production of grains, and the constant optimization of agricultural structure. As a result, Chinese agriculture has made remarkable achievements.
Increases in Outputs of Main Farm Produce (unit: 10,000 tons)
In the 1990s, though China's agriculture and rural economic development were confronted with many unprecedented difficulties and challenges, they still maintained a fairly good momentum of development. In the five years 1996-2000, the total increment of agriculture in the GDP came to 7,129.18 billion yuan. Calculated according to constant prices, the annual average growth rate stood at 3.5 percent, showing a stable growth tendency. The production of grain and other major agricultural products had bumper harvests for many years running. In 1995, the grain output came to 466.62 million tons, which rose to 512.3 million tons in 1998, the highest figure in history. In 2000, although China suffered from a specially serious drought, and the prices of agricultural products remained in the doldrums in a sustained way, the total grain output still came to 462.18 million tons. Now China leads the world in the output of grain, cotton, rapeseed, leaf tobacco, meat, eggs, aquatic products and vegetables.
Along with the development of production, the amount of agricultural products per capita has been remarkably raised. The amount of grain per capita was 366 kg in 2000; and the amount of meat, eggs and aquatic products per capita reached 48.5 kg, 17.8 kg and 33.9 kg, respectively, exceeding the world's average levels. Meanwhile, fundamental changes have taken place in the supply and demand of most agricultural products, showing a qualitative change from chronic shortage to a new stage of overall balance, with surpluses in bumper-harvest years.