Event ReportsPublished on Aug 16, 2016
Need for joint India-China research on rural development

Drawing several similarities between India and China in the area of rural development, Ma Zhanwu, Consul General at the Chinese Consulate in Kolkata, impressed on the need to undertake more and more India-China joint research and endeavour in areas of rural development and reform in future.

Ma Zhanwu was delivering the inaugural address at the international seminar on ‘China's Rural Development and Possible Reference for India’ on August 4, 2016 at ORF Kolkata. The conference was organised in collaboration with the Chinese Consulate in Kolkata.

Ma Zhanwu pointed out that China has 45% of its population living in rural areas just as burgeoning rural population in India.

Cao Jinqing, Special Allowance Expert of the State Council of People’s Republic of China, argued that westernisation is not the only means to modernisation. Introducing the theme, Chinese Land Institutions: Peasant Workers, Industrialization and Urbanisation, Cao Jinqing recalled China’s post 1982 Land Management Law which was centred on the maxim,‘high speed and low cost process of urbanisation.’

He said farm land expropriation system meant conversion of collective ownership to State-owned land. This expropriation often did not ensure compensation for land’s own and non-agricultural value to farmers. Easy conversion of land ownership invited more foreign capital as it also made available  more agricultural land for infrastructure building purposes. However, the fallout was China’s urbanisation lagged behind the pace of industrialisation leading to a dramatic increase in migrant workers. Cao called for an industry upgradation from low tech labour intensive to high tech skill intensive one. He also advocated more political pressure from working class as well as political accommodation from ruling class to make the benefits of urbanisation reach all and sundry.

Biswatosh Saha, Professor of Strategy, Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Calcutta, deliberating on Cao’s paper, brought to focus the issue of judicial review of legistations and the introduction of Public Interest Litigation system in India. He also pointed out that land ownership is not a settled question in India yet.

Huang Yuqin, Associate Professor, Sociology, East China University of Science and Technology in Shanghai, China discussed “Marriages and Family Affairs in China's Rural Regions.” She began by analysing the ‘women question’ comparatively by examining cases of two localities in China and India respectively — namely, Lianhe County, Central China and Gounder Community, Tamil Nadu, South India. Both these places were  compared on  aspects of women’s participation in rural economy, gender equality of education, marriage and the role of son or daughter in taking care of the elderly. She pointed out similarities between the two localities in so far as in both nations, gender equality has increased by challenging patriarchy. The dissimilar aspect was that in Lianhe county young women are more individualised and the elderly were marginalised while in Gounder community, gender differences are more pronounced and elders have more authority than the younger generation.

Swapan Kumar Bhattacharya, former Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Calcutta, commenting on Huang’s paper, pointed out that joint family culture in India benefits not only children, but also helps in taking care of the elders. He also spoke in high regard of public feeding programs in Indian villages which lessen gender bias present at home where son is usually prioritised over daughters.

The third speaker, Yang Faxiang, Vice Dean, School of Social and Public Administration, titled his presentation, “Pensions for Farmers and the Rural Consumption.”According to him, consumption invasion of rural community is one of the important perspectives to cognise the social transformation and the rural problems concerning agriculture in China. Consumerism has become a mechanism of social exclusion. Consumerism leads to asserting individualism, and losing traditional budget mechanism, which is also the centre of the family altruism. In order to contest ills of consumerism it is necessary to strengthen the ability of the rural residents to protect them against market risk and also to enhance farmers’ spending power.

Nilanjan Ghosh, Senior Fellow, ORF Kolkata, argued that consumption has an impact on rural as well as urban India. He pointed out that there exists agricultural derivative market both in India and China. Market development has a positive effect on rural hinterland because of linkage among them.

Xu Yongxiang, Professor of Social Work and Social Policy, East China University of Science and Technology, speaking on the topic, Targeted Poverty Alleviation in Rural Areas, traced the introduction of poverty alleviation programmes during the economic transition period in China beginning in 1978. He outlined three different stages of poverty reduction and development action in China. The first stage was from 1978 to 2000 when China witnessed the transition from rural Commune system and the urban Danwei system (work unit system) to the state seeing Chinese citizens as atomised individuals. The second stage from 2000 to 2015 saw anti-poverty programmes during China’s economic rise and globalisation era. This stage presented new challenges that included the rise in  relative poverty, transition from subsistence poverty to development-induced poverty, the increase in  expenditure based poverty and ability-deprived poverty and rise in intergenerational poverty. The third and the last stage (2015-2020) aims at the well-being of the whole society.

Partha Pratim Pal, Professor of Economics, Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Calcutta, commenting on Xu’s presentation said though both China and India began the project of poverty alleviation at about the same time but they have had a very different trajectory. Acknowledging that China is way ahead of India, Pal said that the difference is due to China’s success in  key areas including the country’s transition from agriculture to manufacturing to services sector, implementing social safety net programmes and providing good governance.

The last speaker of the day was Ma Liuhui, Assistant Professor, Sociology, East China University of Science and Technology in Shanghai, China. He spoke on, Family farms and the moderate scale management of agriculture in China. He observed that in China, farming was no longer a profitable enterprise because of the rise in non-farming opportunities, the increase in industrialisation and urbanisation which has reduced agricultural land, and the higher price of grains in the Chinese market. Ma suggested breaking away from conventional farming and instead promoting moderate scale management of the agricultural system.

Discussing Ma’s presentation, Saikat Sinha Roy, Professor of Economics, Jadavpur University, found many parallels in the agricultural structure of India and China. Like China, in India too there are rising input costs which results in low profitability for farmers. Industrialization and urbanization have made land scarce and there is rural to urban migration. But since there is a lack of employment opportunities, the urban sector has witnessed a proliferation of informal activities. Finally, he observed that in the post-liberalisation era, the rise of sub-contracting in agriculture and lack of government services to support farming has further affected the sector in India.

This report is prepared by Swagata Saha, Junior Fellow, Observer Research Foundation, Kolkata.

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