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China's Rural and Agricultural Reforms: Successes and Failures

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  • D Gale Johnson

The agricultural and rural reform process that started in 1979 has seen far more success than failure. Yet we should not neglect the important shortcomings of the reform process, especially since the future of China's food supply is involved. In this paper, I shall address both aspects of the reforms. The rural reforms have been remarkably successful in several very important ways - increasing agricultural production, increasing the quality and variety of foods, and in increasing the real per capita incomes of farm people. The rapid development of the township and village enterprises and other forms of nonfarm enterprises has been beyond even what the wildest expectations might have been. The reforms have failed to reduce the significant income inequalities that have long existed in China - between rural and urban areas and regionally. In fact, both types of inequality are now greater than they were when the communes existed or even before 1949. The regional inequality has grown primarily in response to economic opportunities while the growing urban-rural inequality has been due to deliberate policy decisions. The urban bias in China is very strong and, unfortunately, there is no indication that it is decreasing or is likely to do so in the future.

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Paper provided by University of Adelaide, Chinese Economies Research Centre in its series Chinese Economies Research Centre (CERC) Working Papers with number 1996-12.

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Date of creation: 1996
Handle: RePEc:adl:cercwp:1996-12
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  1. Lin, Justin Yifu, 1988. "The Household Responsibility System in China's Agricultural Reform: A Theoretical and Empirical Study," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 36(3), pages 199-224, Supplemen.
  2. Feder, Gershon, et al, 1992. "The Determinants of Farm Investment and Residential Construction in Post-Reform China," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 41(1), pages 1-26, October.
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