May 31, 1980
Now that more flexible policies have been introduced in the rural areas, the practice of fixing farm output quotas on a household basis has been adopted in some localities where it is suitable. It has proved quite effective and changed things rapidly for the better. Fixing output quotas on a household basis has been adopted in most of the production teams in Feixi County, Anhui Province, and there have been big increases in production. Nearly all the production teams in the same province's Fengyang County, which incidentally is the locale of the "Fengyang Flower-Drum" Opera, have been practising an all-round contract system, which inside of a year has resulted in an upswing in production that has transformed the county's prospects. Some comrades are worried that this practice may have an adverse effect on the collective economy. I think their fears are unwarranted. Development of the collective economy continues to be our general objective. Where farm output quotas are fixed by household, the production teams still constitute the main economic units. What does the future hold for these places? It is certain that as long as production expands, division of labour increases and the commodity economy develops, lower forms of collectivization in the countryside will develop into higher forms and the collective economy will acquire a firmer basis. The key task is to expand the productive forces and thereby create conditions for the further development of collectivization. To be specific, the following four conditions should be realized: First, a higher level of mechanization, one which is relatively well suited to local natural and economic conditions and welcomed by the people (here I mean mechanization in a broad sense, not merely mechanized ploughing, sowing and harvesting). Second, a higher level of management, combining accumulated experience and a contingent of cadres with fairly strong management abilities. Third, a developed diversified economy that leads to the establishment of a variety of specialized groups or teams, which in turn leads to the large-scale expansion of the commodity economy in the rural areas. Fourth, an increase in the income of the collective, both in absolute terms and in relation to the total income of the economic unit involved. If these four conditions are realized, the localities that now fix output quotas on a household basis will develop new forms of collectivization. This sort of development won't come from above as the result of administrative decree, but will be an inevitable response to the demands of growing production.
Some comrades say that the pace of socialist transformation had been too rapid. I think there is some ground for this view. For example, in the co-operative transformation of agriculture, there was an upsurge every year or two, with one kind of organizational form being quickly replaced by another before the first one had time to be consolidated. The rapid, large-scale transition from elementary co-operatives to advanced co-operatives was a case in point. If the transformation had advanced step by step, with a period of consolidation followed by further development, the result might have been better. Again, during the Great Leap Forward in 1958, before co-operatives of the advanced type had been consolidated, people's communes were set up on a large scale. As a result, we had to take a step back in the early sixties and again make production teams the basic accounting units of the collective economy. During the rural socialist education movement, production teams of an appropriate size were arbitrarily divided into very small ones in some localities, while in others they were amalgamated into teams that were too large. Practice has shown this to be bad.
Generally speaking, the main problem in rural work is still that people's thinking is not sufficiently emancipated. This problem manifests itself not only in the matter of determining the organizational forms of collectivization. It also is apparent when it comes to developing production suited to local conditions. The latter means developing what is appropriate for a specific locality and not arbitrarily attempting what is unsuitable. For instance, many areas in northwest China should concentrate on growing forage grass in order to expand animal husbandry. Some cadres currently give little thought to planning new undertakings that would be suitable to local conditions and would produce economic gains and benefit the masses. Far from emancipating their thinking, these cadres still act according to fixed patterns. Thus there is still much work to do, even now that flexible policies have been adopted.
It is extremely important for us to proceed from concrete local conditions and take into account the wishes of the people. We must not propagate one method and require all localities to adopt it. In publicizing typical examples, we must explain how and under what conditions people in these localities achieved success. We should not describe them as perfect or as having solved all problems; and we should certainly not require people in other places to copy them mechanically in disregard of their own specific conditions.
(Excerpt from a talk with some senior officials under the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.)