The Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council jointly released the central document No. 1 on 3 February 2024, outlining the priorities for comprehensively promoting rural revitalization this year. This year’s document emphasizes the importance of solidifying the agricultural foundation and promoting comprehensive rural revitalization to advance China’s unique modernization. This year’s document includes six major sections and 28 chapters. Here are the major highlights of the document.
1. Food security
As in years past, the document reaffirmed the annual grain production target of 650 million tons—a target that, in fact, has been exceeded for nine consecutive years. The document instructs 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. These measures include improving irrigation conditions and modernizing agricultural facilities as well as supporting the recovery and reconstruction of disaster-hit areas.
The document also calls for stricter farmland protection measures against illegal land use and the improper transformation of degraded farmland. The document stresses to optimize the layout of agricultural technology innovation, support major innovation platforms, accelerate seed industry revitalization, and promote the mechanization of agriculture as well as improve the subsidy policy for agricultural machinery.
The document emphasizes the need to establish a comprehensive monitoring and early warning mechanism for the entire agricultural product chain. Other aspects include improving the layout of grain storage facilities and reducing food loss and waste across the agricultural value chain by establishing a regulatory system that combines government supervision, industry self-discipline, and social supervision.
Healthy diets should be promoted as well, the document says, given a shift in consumption patterns towards more unhealthy foods such as oils, red meat, sugar, and pre-packaged foods. Despite recent efforts to enhance China’s food self-sufficiency, the document mentions the need to deepen international agricultural cooperation, however without giving any specifics.
2. Rural revitalization and the “Thousand—Ten Thousand Project”
A new buzzword that popped up in policy documents this year is the “Thousand—Ten Thousand Project”. Officially labeled the “Thousand Villages Demonstration, Ten Thousand Villages Rectification” project, General Secretary Xi Jinping personally planned and executed the initiative during his tenure in Zhejiang province. Now touted as a role model for rural revitalization, it suggests the idea of selecting a thousand villages as examples to showcase certain practices or improvements, while aiming for the overall improvement or rectification of ten thousand villages. The objective of the ” Thousand—Ten Thousand Project” initiative is to revamp entire villages and connect numerous villages into a network encompassing fields, infrastructure, and industry chains. Chinese media claim that this initiative, spanning two decades, has resulted in the gradual improvement of rural environments and the emergence of thousands of beautiful villages, benefiting not only farmers but also serving as a role model for promoting comprehensive rural revitalization. The current media hype 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.
As a part of comprehensive rural revitalization, this year’s document continues to call for promoting the integration of primary, secondary, and tertiary industries in rural areas to revitalize the rural economy and create jobs and incomes for rural residents. Upgrading of agricultural product processing and high-quality rural logistics distribution is strongly recommended to support the rural digital economy.
Several actions to improve the rural living environment are also proposed. These include building better sewage and waste treatment systems, rural toilet improvement, and establishment of a rural solid waste classification and disposal system. Efforts to improve rural water supply networks, power grids, roads, earthquake resistant rural houses, and broadband internet are also mentioned. The document also emphasizes improvements in public education, township health service centers, and village clinics. Better and increased coverage for medical insurance, especially for the rural elderly, is also stated.
3. Green agriculture
The document reiterates the fight against agricultural and rural pollution and promotes the integrated protection and restoration of rural ecosystems. A reduction and efficiency improvements in the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides is proposed, while the document also calls for the promotion of circular farming models. Highlighting concerns about deteriorating soil health, the document calls for an investigation and remediation of heavy metal pollution sources in cultivated land.
Enhanced quality and safety of agricultural products at the source, as well as improvements in the entire food safety supervision process from farm to table are also mentioned. The document also advocates for the reduction of antibiotic use in animal husbandry and the prevention and control of major animal-borne diseases and key zoonotic diseases.
4. Rural employment and prevention of large-scale return to poverty
Ever since Beijing declared victory against rural poverty in early 2021, policymakers have been working to make sure rural populations do not slip back into deprivation. In line with earlier policy blueprints, several measures for increasing farmers’ incomes are promoted, such as supporting the development of specialized and locally specific farm products, handicraft workshops, and agroforestry as family businesses and multi-channel employment for rural labor. These measures are meant to enhance regional information sharing and establish organized mechanisms for labor services to foster strong labor brands. Strengthening vocational training for rural workers is also mentioned. The document also calls for researching policies to align the prevention of poverty return assistance and the routine assistance policies for low-income populations in rural areas. Moreover, it calls for an expansion and optimization of funding policies for 160 key counties at risk of poverty and targeted for national rural revitalization assistance.
While the document rehashes many of the slogans of the past, multiple challenges such as natural disasters, farmland degradation, geo-political tensions, rural demographic decline, and a slowing economy add more urgency to the food security and rural development priorities of China. Implementation and execution of the priorities in the document will be closely followed by agricultural policy watchers at home and abroad.
You can find the full Chinese document here.