The interest in rural developments now widely shared throughout the developing world. It is perceived as a cornerstone of the overall development. Each country seems to have its own rural version, scope and operational methodology of Rural Development. The state-of the-art on Integrated Rural Development, published by the Centre on Integrated Rural Development for Asia and the Pacific (CIRDAP) based in Dhaka, Bangladesh also admits that “there is a lack of uniformity of the concept of Integrated Rural development and considers it both as a weakness as well as strength: the former arising from the difficulties in concrete operationalisation of the concept in actual rural development activities and the latter from flexibility of the policy makers to encompass wide variety of programmes and projects”.
The People’s Republic of China more or less remained consistent in its approach and direction to bring about rural transformation unlike South and South-East Asian countries which have been too frequently experimenting with various approaches to rural development. The People’s Republic of China have also demonstrated the importance of structural reforms as a prelude to rural transformation. Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the government has been attempting to mobilize the rural people through the collectivization of agriculture. The guiding principles of their strategy for rural development have been to increase agricultural productivity, the creation of an egalitarian society and the elimination of disparities in rural areas. There has been a constant assessment of experiences and lessons learnt in the process of development. China is one of the earliest countries in the world to have engaged in agriculture. In developing its national economy, China follows the general principle of taking agricultures the foundation and industry as the leading sector.
Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the Government has consistently been paying great attention to the development of agriculture, which has passed through different stages such as land reform, agricultural cooperatives, establishment of people’s communes and so on. It was only towards the end of 1978 that China came out with a new policy for rural economic reforms. A systematic process of “readjustment, restructuring, consolidation and improvement “decided at the Third Plenum of the Party Central Committee in December 1978 was publicly ratified at a meeting of the National People’s Congress in June 1979.Consequently, a series of policy measures were adopted aiming at augmenting production, improvement of people’s life as well as the mobilization of the initiatives of the peasants. In 1979, the autonomy of the production teams, brigades and communes was restored and expanded, different systems of responsibility suitable to the demands of the peasants were devised, privately reserved plots were expanded, free trading markets were opened and house hold side line production encouraged. (2)With these and other measures carried out in China, both the economy and production are showing an upward trend. Even the Asian Development Bank report (3) admits that as a result of reforms initiated in 1978 and after, the economy of China became one of the most dynamic in the world. During the 1980s GNP grew at an average rate of 9.2 per cent, average per capital income doubled, the incidence of rural poverty was reduced to about 13 per cent, and investment and saving were maintained at high levels .The reforms improved incentives and productivity by decentralizing economic decision making, giving greater autonomy to enterprises, farmers and localities, according larger role to markets and opening the domestic economy to the outside world.(4)China’s new development strategy is seeking to combine market mechanism and economic management within a socialist framework.
The decentralization process, giving greater autonomy for decision making to the local level, and ensuring that the rural sector generates a higher surplus to further rural development are commendable measures. At the same time, planners feel that these reforms are in the exploratory stage. This is an important aspect, as new circumstances may require new approaches and strategies. China is openly engaged in its own search for these strategies.
(Prof. M. Aslam is the Vice-Chancellor of IGNOU. He is a keen observer of rural transformation in China. He has been visiting the country since 1982.)