Party journal article outlines priorities and challenges for agricultural

Xi Jinping pushed hard for local officials to prioritize rural development and food security in a recent article in the journal Qiushi.

Qiushi, or Seeking Truth in English, is the leading journal of the CCP that publishes articles on the party’s goals and is meant to inform officials about where to focus their attention. These articles provide unique insight into the party’s internal thinking and priorities that are more detailed than most public announcements.

The focus on food security in the article is very clear. Xi says “agriculture is the basis for national security” and “Without agriculture there is instability, and without food there is chaos.”

As an illustration of this, he mentions Chinese dynasties that collapsed as far back as 1500 years ago because they didn’t properly manage their grain harvests and reserves. He then ties this into the war in Ukraine, noting that 30 countries have restricted food exports in some form which has led to social instability and regime change in some cases.

The article also mentions specific shortcomings in the agricultural sectors, with Xi noting that compared with other sectors which have grown and modernized quickly, “agricultural modernization is obviously lagging behind”.

The main reasons cited for this are low agricultural efficiency, low agricultural productivity, a lack of good rural infrastructure, and domestic prices that exceed international prices.

While China wants to be self-sufficient, the government is also aware that grain farmers are generally protected against international competition which could drive productivity gains.

Land reform is also an area of focus, with Xi noting that land contracts in many areas are expiring and that it is important to extend these by another 30 years. The issue of field fragmentation and the lack of large contiguous fields is also mentioned as an area local officials should work at.

Agricultural, rural development, and food security are top priorities of the central government but are usually not prioritized by local officials who are more focused on GDP targets. This leads them to prioritize business, factories, and housing development.

Xi says that the measure of whether local officials are good or bad isn’t simply based on GDP in their region or a few high-profile development projects, but whether they work to implement all of the Central Committee’s priorities, including food security.

In contrast with many official announcements that tout the years of consecutive bumper harvests, this article provides a unique insight into how Xi views issues around rural development and food security, the challenges faced by China, and the difficulties getting local officials aligned with these goals.