OECD Rural Policy Reviews

1990-9284 (online)
1990-9276 (print)
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This series presents comprehensive reviews of rural policy in individual countries as well as analytical reports on various aspects of rural policy.
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OECD Rural Policy Reviews: China 2009

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05 May 2009
9789264059573 (PDF) ;9789264059566(print)

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With more than 700 million residents living in rural areas, China is still a predominantly rural country. But despite substantial improvements in standards of living, the Chinese countryside is largely lagging behind. This report analyses the key socio-economic forces at work in China's rural areas and discusses the current government strategy for rural development. It argues that in order to bridge rural-urban divides the current policy approach needs to go further in recognising rural-urban complementarities beyond agriculture and that food-security targets need to be balanced with wider rural development objectives.
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  • Assessment and Recommendations
    According to the census-based definition, the rural population of the People's Republic of China (hereafter: China) was 737 million in 2006, accounting for 56% of the national total. China is thus still a predominantly rural country with the second largest rural population in the world, after India. The rural population is unevenly distributed across China’s territory: half of it is concentrated in eight provinces. In contrast, the three largest provinces in terms of area, namely Xinjiang, Tibet and Inner Mongolia, represent more than 40% of the national territory, but their rural population accounts for less than 4% of the total. Rural population density is highest in coastal Shandong, Tianjin, Jiangsu and in centrally located Anhui and Henan where it exceeds or is close to 300 persons per km2 and lowest in Tibet, Qinghai and Xinjiang, all located in the west, where it is below ten persons per km2. Low density in the largest provinces results in a relatively low average density of rural population in China at around 75 persons per km2.
  • Profile of Rural China
    Despite rapid urbanisation, China is still a predominantly rural country. Its rural population is the second largest in the world at 737 million in 2006, accounting for 56% of the national total. The rural population is unevenly distributed across the territory with the highest density exceeding 300 persons per km2 in several coastal and central provinces and the lowest at below 10 persons per km2 in western provinces.
  • Policy Assessment
    With its most recent policy approach, the central government's broadens the scope of rural policy and calls for "Building a New Socialist Countryside" (NSC). Aiming to solve the "three rural" (or sannong) issues which concern agriculture, rural communities and farmers, it particularly targets agricultural productivity, land use, rural residents' income, local governance reforms and the delivery of rural public services. Starting with the reform period in 1978, China's policy for rural areas has been rapidly evolving towards a more market-based approach and involved a relaxation of agricultural controls and a less centralised production system called household production responsibility system (HPRS). Related reforms helped to promote economic diversification through rural enterprises and introduced a more autonomous rural governance system. 
  • Policy Recommendations
    A more effective and inclusive rural governance system is a pre-condition for addressing rural China’s most pressing challenges. In order to realise enhanced multi-level governance, several measures are key: First, a more integrated, strategic approach to rural development at the central level might include the strengthening and formalisation of cross-sectoral coordination, oversight and financial assignments. Experience in OECD countries with co-ordination mechanisms defined by law, the creation of integrated ministries or "rural proofing" mechanisms could be helpful.
  • Bibliography
  • Évaluation et recommandations
    Selon la définition fondée sur le recensement, la population rurale de la République populaire de Chine (ci-après : la Chine) s’élevait à 737 millions de personnes en 2006, soit 56 % du total national. La Chine demeure donc un pays à dominante rurale et sa population rurale est la seconde plus importante au monde, après celle de l’Inde. La population rurale est répartie de façon inégale en Chine, se concentrant pour moitié dans huit provinces. À l’opposé, les trois plus grandes provinces en termes de superficie, à savoir le Xinjiang, le Tibet et la Mongolie intérieure, représentent plus de 40 % du territoire national mais leur population rurale constitue moins de 4 % de la population totale. La densité de la population rurale est la plus forte sur la côte dans le Shandong, à Tianjin et dans le Jiangsu et au centre dans l’Anhui et le Henan, où elle excède ou avoisine les 300 habitants au km2, et elle est la plus faible dans les provinces du Tibet, du Qinghai et du Xinjiang, toutes trois situées à l’Ouest, où elle est inférieure à 10 habitants au km2. La faible densité dans les trois plus grandes provinces se traduit par une densité moyenne relativement faible de la population rurale en Chine : environ 75 habitants au km2.
  • Assessment and recommendations (Chinese version)
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