Hu vows to press on with rural reforms

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 September, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 September, 2008, 12:00am

President Hu Jintao pledged to continue pushing for rural reform during a three-day trip to Henan that ended yesterday.

The move is seen as a prelude to a new wave of reforms to be unveiled when Communist Party leaders hold a plenary session next month.

Hailing the success of rural reforms that were first introduced 30 years ago, Mr Hu said rural development now stood at a 'historical high point' as he stressed the importance of continual reform, China Central Television reported.

Speaking after touring Henan, the mainland's top grain producer for eight years in a row, Mr Hu said accelerating changes in the way the agricultural sector operates should be the first element of rural reform.

'Second, we have to develop modern agriculture to raise the comprehensive production capacity of the agriculture sector,' he said.

'Third, we have to develop public services in rural areas and extend the scope of public finances in rural villages.'

The Communist Party's Central Committee meets next month, and Mr Hu's remarks will fuel speculation over possible rural and land reforms that top state leaders will introduce before the country observes the 30th anniversary of reform and opening-up in December.

The current system of collective ownership of land has long been criticised as deterring the development of the farming economy, thus affecting output.

There have been repeated calls for full privatisation of farmland.

While touring a grape farm, Mr Hu said the household contract responsibility system - which was hailed as the cornerstone of China's reforms 30 years ago - was a 'practical and viable path'.

But he told the farmers: 'We hope everybody will continue exploring and better organise farmers to bring more benefits to the masses.'

Under the system, production and management are entrusted to farming households through long-term contracts.

During the contract period, farmers pay taxes to the state and give a proportion of the produce to local governments. The rest of the produce is theirs.

In the light of rising inflation and rising concern over agricultural production, Mr Hu also stressed the importance of implementing state policies and making use of new technology to boost production.

During his trip, the president visited farms and a food-storage company, and returned to a Hui ethnic minority village that he had visited 14 years ago.

Xinhua has reported that the main topic of the plenum is studying how to push forward reforms and development in rural areas.