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A good harvest alone cannot secure a prosperous life
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By Hu Yinbin

In 1978, 18 villagers in Xiaogang, a village in Anhui Province, signed an agreement which divided the then People's Commune-owned farmlands into allotments for each family to cultivate. They brought in a good harvest that same year. The move also marked the beginning of rural reform in China.

But three decades after the economic reform, Xiaogang still does not enjoy real prosperity, suffering from a lack of public facilities and financial problems within the villagers' committee. A comfortable life remains a distant dream for the villagers, although they have adequate food and clothing, CCTV reported.

The market-oriented economy has dominated not only Chinese cities but also more remote areas of the country. Things are dynamic in Chinese rural areas, with farmers trading their agricultural products for revenues for next year's production, for health care, and for education. But a good harvest alone will not guarantee farmers a prosperous life.

Chinese farmers no longer need to worry about adequate food and clothing, but they have been plagued by many other troubles, such as a slowly increasing or even declining income, and little access to medical care and education, as well as problems in defending legal rights.

In 1997, the per-capita net annual income of rural residents increased 4.6 percent, 4.4 percent lower than the overall growth rate in 1996. The rise in 1999 was 3.8 percent compared with the previous year, while it was only 1.9 percent in 2000. In 2001, the growth rate went up to 4 percent.

With the advance of urbanization in China, working for non-agricultural enterprises has become the main source of Chinese farmer's income. But rural employees lacking specialized skills can often perform only manual work – for which many have sacrificed their health or even their lives.

Although medical care in rural areas has improved in the last 30 years, the widening gap between villages and cities makes it difficult for rural residents to take full advantage of economic progress.

Many local governments do not perform well in supporting rural residents – the embezzlement of state funds earmarked for agricultural development is an ongoing problem.

(China.org.cn translated by Yang Xi, October 13, 2008)

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