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Institutional Arrangements Should Follow Farmers’Steps


By Zhao Shukai

The process of reform is one of remaking institutional arrangements. In terms of rural reform, the first fundamental methodological question is what is the basis for making institutional arrangements. The concepts and versions for new systems are generally expounded by officials and scholars. However, the essence of new systems should come from farmers and belong to farmers’ option and creation. The historical process of reform has revealed that any institutional arrangements against the willingness and behavioral logic of farmers is doomed to fail. It is held that the basic principle for making good institutional arrangements is to proactively follow farmers’ steps. Farmland is now no longer that important in farmers’ life. For a long time, farmland had played a core role in rural life in history. After land reform, the government policy towards farmland held a dominant position in political and economic development. The current land problems in rural areas can be summed up as the following three aspects.First, the problem of contracted land; second, the problem of homestead; and third, the problem of land expropriation. In recent years, revenues from land operation have witnessed a decreasing share in farmers’ income mix. The need of farmers for the land system is the key issue in rural development. All land issues focus on the issue of farmers’ rights. Land issues give a full expression to farmers’ squeezed rights in the process of contracted land adjustment, homestead management and land expropriation. It is found that farmers have their own expectations for rights, but they could not have them clearly expressed. In terms of social and economic life, the current farmers’ problems are not only related to land, or not mainly pertinent to land. Namely, it would be inappropriate to define farmers’ issues as merely land issues. To be precise, if there are any defects in institutional arrangements for farmers’ right in any social corner, and if farmers’ rights are not equally reflected, problems relating tofarmers would definitely occur. If we review the past historical events, we could easily find those touching scenes. When the farmers got land given to them by the Party,theybecame overwhelmed with joy. If these scenes really embodied the farmers’ happy emotions, then how is historical truth reflected? It is difficult to grasp the law of historical development and it is equally difficult to design the orientation of farmers’ progress. Even today, the progress of rural reform still requires the government to protect farmers’ creativity. The key to advancing reform is to free farmers from the restraints of systems and to endow and ensure basic citizen rights for farmers. Over the past half century and more, the progress of rural area’s development in China has proved that adjustments of policies and systems can become effective and vital only when they put the needs of farmers in the first place.

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