The Central Rural Work Conference (CRWC) was held from 19-20 December 2023 in Beijing. This annual event outlines the direction for agricultural policies for the coming new year and the priorities for the upcoming No. 1 Document – an annual blueprint for agricultural policy. Chinese President and General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, Xi Jinping, delivered important remarks during the conference. This year’s meeting focused on several key issues.
1. Food security and farmland
As always, food security featured prominently at the conference. The conference reaffirmed the annual grain production target of 650 million tons—a goal, which, in fact, has been exceeded for nine consecutive years. To ensure the nation continues to meet its food security goals, the conference called for yield increases per unit of production and for further expansion of soybean planting. Increasing domestic soybean production is part of the nation’s effort to boost grain self-sufficiency.
Morover, the conference instructed local authorities to pursue an “integrated” approach to farmland protection that simultaneously takes into account grain quantity, quality, and farmland ecology. Northeast China, the Northern China plains, and other farming regions with adequate water resources should be prioritized for the construction of high-standard farmland—a term that refers to a set of measures from land consolidation to irrigation infrastructure to improve farmland yields and lay the foundation for mechanized agriculture.
2. Setting up an inter-provincial interest compensation mechanism
The conference proposed exploring the establishment of an inter-provincial interest compensation mechanism between grain-producing and consuming provinces. In order to close the gap between less developed grain-producing provinces and more developed grain consuming provinces, the conference proposed interest compensation as a means to incentivize affluent provinces to collaborate and support less prosperous ones in terms of capital, technology, talent, and education. The post-conference readout did not detail the specifics of how this mechanism would work.
3. Prevention of large-scale return to poverty & resilience against natural disaster
The conference provided guidance on post-disaster recovery and reconstruction, emphasizing the need to strengthen capabilities in agricultural disaster prevention, reduction, and relief. It recommended improved implementation of monitoring and assistance mechanisms to prevent rural residents from falling back into extreme poverty. The conference highlighted the importance of enhancing the effectiveness of support through the development of rural industries and employment. Additionally, it underscored the necessity of establishing a systematic approach for regularly assisting low-income rural residents in underdeveloped areas. All-out effort should be made to boost farmers income.
4. Rural revitalization and the “Thousand—Ten Thousand Project”
In line with the earlier Central Economic Work Conference that took place last December, the CRWC proposed “a new type of coordinated urbanization and comprehensive rural revitalization” in which urbanization and rural revitalization should reinforce each other to drive so called “high-quality growth”. The CRWC also reiterated the importance of rural revitalization to close the urban-rural divide.
Furthermore, the conference suggested that experiences from the “Thousand—Ten Thousand Project” should be studied and expanded to the nation. The project was initiated in 2003, when Xi Jinping was the governor of Zhejiang province and refers to “Demonstration in a Thousand Villages, Rectification in Ten Thousand Villages”. Its goal is to select 1,000 villages as examples to showcase certain practices or improvements, while aiming for the overall improvement or rectification of 10,000 villages. The project seeks to revamp entire villages and connect numerous villages into a network encompassing fields, infrastructure, and industry chains. The current media enthusiasm around the “Thousand—Ten Thousand Project” notwithstanding, it remains to be seen to what extent the experiences from one of China’s most developed provinces can be applied to less developed interior regions.
The conference also suggested the application of the so-called “Fengqiao model” for better community-level governance as China is rolling out a “Peaceful Countryside” initiative.
5. Technology & innovation in the agriculture sector
The conference also called more support for building sci-tech and innovation platforms in the agricultural sector and for speeding up the revitalization of the seed industry.