Even as Agriculture Minister Du Qinglin holds a press conference this afternoon in Beijing to address China's rural troubles, Hebei farmer Wang Tingcheng has already made up his mind about the future. 'The rich are going to be very rich while the poor are going to be very poor,' Mr Wang said. Although he is uneducated, Mr Wang, 67, is extraordinarily well qualified to comment on China's rural problems. For half a century, he has watched as successive waves of government policies have washed over the nation. At age 12, Mr Wang participated in the 'struggles against landlords' - a movement in the early 1950s in which private land was seized as the Communist Party took power. When he turned 20, Mr Wang was elected head of Pengzhuang No 2 production team - the smallest unit under the rural collective system - and led 100 people through two decades of collective farming. When the collectives were disbanded in 1982, Mr Wang's family was allocated about five hectares of land. Since then they have grown corn and chestnuts. Mr Wang said he had no misgivings when stepping down from the head of the production team because team leaders in those days were under huge pressure. 'In those days, a team leader could take nothing from the masses. After the chestnut harvest, we had to have our pockets searched to make sure we did not keep any to ourselves,' Mr Wang said. 'A team leader was sacked by the masses immediately for minor mistakes. 'When I was team leader, many of my deputies were sacked. Some stayed in the job for two to three years, some were removed in only a few months.' Mr Wang said he has difficulty understanding how the current problems with corruption and conflict between local governments and the people became so profound. 'We simply don't know how much money the brigade [village] has spent these days,' he said. 'There is all sorts of speculation about corruption but we never know the truth.' But Mr Wang said he still supported the household responsibility system, introduced after the collectives were disbanded in early 1980s, because productivity had been greatly enhanced. 'In those days [the last years of the collective era], people had no incentive to work at all. I was happy when the household responsibility system was introduced,' he said. Life as a farmer started getting tougher in the mid-1990s, when taxes and fees suddenly leapt following tax reforms in 1994. 'Life was harder in the last four to five years because of the taxes and fees,' he said. 'The worst years were 1999 and 2000. In those days we had to pay up to 120 yuan (HK$113) per head a year.' The levies have been reduced to about 80 yuan, but are still a heavy burden to farmers. 'It is not easy to fix the problems. There are just too many messes,' he said. Despite the hardship in the village, Mr Wang is envied by his fellow villagers because he inherited a dozen chestnut trees planted when he was production team leader. Old chestnut trees are the most cherished assets in Qianxi - a county with a reputation for producing the best chestnuts in China. Still, Mr Wang said he would not stay in farming if he were 20 years younger. 'Of course I wouldn't farm if I were younger. What can you get from farming? The produce is worth nothing. I would rather get a job elsewhere.'