As mentioned in the book Start of China’s Rural Reforms, “The reforms in Feixi County have helped change the management pattern of agricultural production, and had impact on regions along the Yangtze and Huaihe rivers and on the rural reforms in China.” In 1979, many provinces sent delegates to learn from Feixi County. Professors and experts from Peking University, Tsinghua University and the University of Science and Technology of China also went to Xiaojingzhuang Village to carry out research on its success.
Deng Xiaoping affirmed in his speech on rural policies on May 31, 1980 that reform through the household responsibility system had achieved a satisfactory result within a short time, citing the improved harvest in Feixi County.
Although Xiaojingzhuang had support from Deng Xiaoping, Wan Li, and other eminent Chinese leaders and was the first to carry out reforms, it was less well known in this respect than its later counterpart Xiaogang Village of Fengyang County in Chuzhou City in the same province. There are two possible explanations for this. One is that Wan Li asked Xiaojingzhuang villagers to focus on the actual work of reform rather than on promoting or publicizing it. The other, mentioned in an interview with Li Zuzhong, is that Li and his fellow villagers cared little which village was perceived as the first exponent of the reforms. Their main aim was to benefit local inhabitants.
New Path to Rural Development
Ranks of townhouse-like buildings in the distinctive Anhui architectural style of white walls and black tiles along well-paved concrete roads with environment-friendly street lighting greeted China Today reporters when they arrived in Xiaojingzhuang. They found that the rural library houses an impressive collection of book titles – paper and digital – on agriculture, science and technology and history, among other subjects. Also that the children of local inhabitants working away in cities are able to keep in touch with their parents through the Internet at the Children’s Playhouse, and that the village square is well equipped with sports facilities. All of these assets signal the shift away from a typical old-style village in China to a modern one, which suggests that its success can be transposed to central and western regions where cultivated land is also in short supply.As Party Secretary of Shannan Town Zhou Zongbing explained, Shannan’s hilly topography limits it to 1.2 mu of field per capita, and it has no other resources. Reforms of years ago solved local farmers’ food and clothing problems, and all concerned did their best to develop and make the town more prosperous. Their calculations, however, showed that even with a harvest of 1,000 kg of grain per mu, villagers could earn no more than RMB 1,800 a year, and that after deducting costs they would be left with a paltry RMB 1,000. Farmers hence went to Feixi, Hefei or places where they could set up small businesses, or to other cities in search of work. This meant that couples had to separate, and that village residents mainly comprised seniors and children, a demographic phenomenon that engendered certain social issues. Meanwhile, the land either lay fallow or produced meager harvests.
As it was clear that the household responsibility system could no longer meet the needs of modern mass production, Shannan Town took the lead in 2000 in combining the land of individual households and setting up companies to manage it. The following year, Anhui Province, pioneer of the household responsibility system in China, formulated rules for the leasing and renting of land.
Since then, individuals and companies have used land in Shannan Town to grow greenhouse vegetables, breed loach (mudfish) and carry out chicken and pig husbandry. Of the total 4,709 mu of fields in Xiaojingzhuang Village, more than 2,000 mu are used to cultivate greenhouse vegetables and 500 mu to breed finless eels and lobsters, loach for export to South Korea, and loach fry for the domestic market. Specific vegetables are cultivated in 1,500 mu of fields, and trees for afforestation grow on a 150 mu stretch. The Qiangxing Company pays Li Zuzhong a rent of RMB 500 per mu per year to grow greenhouse vegetables on his land.
Village cadre Zhao Yonggang of Xiaojingzhuang Village told China Today reporters that upon renting their land, farmers can work at growing grain crops in this agricultural enterprise for an additional RMB 1,500 a month. More than 400 farmers work for such companies.
Besides carrying out this reform, Shannan has also developed its industry. Around 100 enterprises now support local economic development and also provide jobs for farmers. More than 200 farmers work in these industrial enterprises.
Party Secretary of Shannan Town Zhou Zongbing pointed out that Shannan Town has renovated old villages by constructing rural communities with the aim of improving residents’ living conditions and expanding the acreage of cultivated land. The government has allocated a RMB 50,000 subsidy to each additional mu of land designated to developing public facilities. Since Xiaojingzhuang invited Hefei City Planning and Design Institute to make an integrated plan for the whole village, it has built schools, roads and two-story buildings in local architectural style that have been sold at cost price to villagers. Local residents are also provided with water, electricity, telephone connections, activity rooms, and other public facilities. Former residents that left their homes and moved into new apartments of similar size have received compensation. So far, 81 households have moved into new houses, and 60 apartments are under construction.