Lu Xueyi , a prominent sociologist and rural expert with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, died on Monday at the age of 79.
Lu, former director of academy's Institute of Sociology, was known for his research into China's social transition and the consequent social conflicts, and for boldly calling on the Communist Party leadership to pay attention to the problems of rural people, including migrant workers.
He led many important sociology research projects and was the editor-in-chief of the annual Social Blue Book, published by the academy, until recently.
Born in Jiangsu in 1933, he was honorary chairman of the Chinese Society of Sociology as well as being a Chinese Academy of Social Sciences academician and member of its academic board.
After graduating from the philosophy department of Peking University in 1962, Lu went on to become a postgraduate of philosophy under CASS. He began to focus his academic research on rural issues in 1978. Between 1983 and 1986, he conducted his rural study in Shandong while a deputy party chief in a county in the northeastern province.
Lu was one of the few mainland scholars publicly express fears that China might fall into what economists and sociologists call the "middle income trap", which has been experienced by some Latin American nations. He called on central government to speed up mainland social development to help create a middle class that could cushion increasing social conflict.
Lu said the fundamental reason for China's growing and sharpening social conflicts and difference was that the development of its social structure lagged behind its economic development.
Lu said the country's widening wealth and income gaps were posing a serious threat to its social stability and that policies should focus on nurturing the middle class and lifting more people out of poverty, as well as regulating vested interests.
He was among the first to advocate the introduction of a minimum wage standard, something that is now a reality in many urban regions.
Lu urged the government to reform the mainland's draconian household registration, or hukou, system to grant workers residency rights in urban areas and allow them to enjoy the same social welfare benefits as their urban cousins.
He also called on the government to relinquish control over the country's most important asset - the land - and allow peasants more freedom to lease or transfer their land use rights. Under the mainland's contract system, farmers are entitled to use the land for 30 years.
"It makes a difference to the peasant family whether they have the land for just 30 years or for much longer," Lu said.