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Don't Forget Farmers
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The construction of a new countryside should aim to let farmers live a well-off life, says a commentary in National Business Daily. An excerpt follows:

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, about 28.2 percent of the rural population reached the level of "well-off" in 2005, which is 6.6 percentage points higher than the previous year. The new countryside construction has brought great changes to rural China but an all-round well-off life is still beyond the reach of the majority of farmers.

Improving farmers' living conditions and eliminating the urban-rural gap is a goal the government has stressed in the past two decades. The development of rural areas should be integrated into the overall modernization of China.

Urbanization should be more broadly understood. More rural surplus laborers should be transferred to cities and towns to change traditional rural living modes. That is the way for farmers to share the fruits of economic growth.

Additionally, the industrialization of agriculture and construction of small towns should be included into the country's modernization strategy.

Systematic support should be provided for the training of farmers. More employment channels should be provided for the rural population to enter cities. The institutional restriction on the migration of rural populations, such as the permanent residence registration system and some local limitations should be eradicated. Policies should be carried out to guarantee equal treatment for urban and rural residents in social security, health care, housing, education and employment.

It should be noted that some local officials and business people now join hands to deprive farmers of their land in the name of "new countryside construction." Though the central government has carried out various land policies to protect farmers' interests, it is more important to find a legal path to curb the abuse of administrative power.

(China Daily November 7, 2006)

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