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China’s Improvements in 1970-2012 Research Paper

Introduction to the Country

China has impressed the whole world with its streamlined economic development and remarkable transformation. Unfortunately, modern observers tend to associate this country mainly with technological advances, while changes within the agricultural sector have turned out to be no less critical. In particular, China’s improvements are connected to a period of reform that started at the end of the 1970s and ended only six years ago. This reform took place in four major steps:

  1. Rural reform. This started with a significant increase in household production. As a result, millions of people received an opportunity to overcome poverty. Furthermore, agricultural production improved significantly.
  2. Institutional reform. The agricultural sector continued to develop. Rural-urban migration began. The rural labor force became mobile, exerting a positive influence on economic growth.
  3. The industrialization process. As people moved from rural to urban territories, urbanization started, and Chinese cities developed.
  4. Development in the agricultural sector. The food demand of the majority of the world’s population was met due to increased output and productivity in agriculture. The major food security challenges were met.

The country has experienced a great demographic change associated with the government’s desire to reduce its population to overcome a lack of resources and streamline development. The effects of the state population policy and socio-economic alterations have led to a reduction in the fertility rate. Currently, China’s demographics are continuing to change, following a particular pattern, which allows making forecasts for the future.

The Role of Agriculture in Development

The development of agriculture in China started in the middle of the 20th century, and it can still be observed today, even though it is not that impressive at this time. In the early days, a small agricultural sector was created, and those individuals who worked within it faced numerous limitations associated with the economic disadvantages and drawbacks of the land system. Nevertheless, the country managed to improve this situation and overcome a decline in production. The current stage of modern agriculture that started more than 30 years ago has turned out to be the most beneficial for both the development of the agricultural sector and the whole country.

Over the period 1978–1991, the first land contracts for individual farmers were created, which altered the household responsibility system and provided representatives of the general population with an opportunity to significantly increase production. Township enterprises were developed, and the government began to purchase agricultural products following a new reform. Price liberalization took place at this time, and the transition to large-scale agriculture was achieved. Even though not all the reforms and strategies proposed in the 1990s were successful, the market regulation framework was implemented. As a result, the market received an opportunity to affect the supply chain. These changes turned out to be extremely beneficial for China because products that were usually discussed in terms of food shortages were eventually balanced. In this way, the population of the country had the opportunity to fulfill its basic needs.

With the beginning of the 21st century, the focus of governmental bodies turned to the abolition of associated taxes and the use of industrial innovation in the agricultural sector. Much attention has also been paid to the possibility of the internationalization of this sector. Politicians believe that China’s development and cooperation with other countries have created a strong platform for the continuing improvement of its agriculture. Moreover, when China became a member of the WTO, it acquired a range of new duties and responsibilities, which meant that the country was now expected to simplify access to its domestic market, improve support and export subsidies, and reduce agricultural tariffs, following the example of other developed countries. Already, China’s average tariff is the lowest in comparison to other nations’ tariffs. The use of scientific and technological advances as well as the involvement of well-educated professionals have made it possible to encourage comprehensive development.

Discussed changes within the agricultural sector have led to the following achievements:

1. The rural economy was significantly enhanced as township enterprises developed and urbanization became streamlined. According to Herman et al., 150 million enterprises in China employed almost 20% of workers ten years ago (204). Such data are significant because they reveal more than 30% (almost 122 million) growth in comparison to 1978. While the recently added value remains about 7 trillion, it has increased by 0.05 trillion. The annual growth rate has increased by 1.1%, reaching 19.6%, while the growth of the whole Chinese economy has increased by almost 30%. Total profit, at one time only $1 million, has successfully reached $242 billion (Herman et al. 204). The industrialization has affected rural areas in a positive way, enhancing the economy and creating prosperous sectors.

According to the information provided by the World Bank Group, China’s GPD has managed to grow to more than $11 trillion in the recent decade; in comparison, it had hardly reached $1 trillion at the beginning of the century (see Fig. 1). However, the value added by the agricultural sector to China’s GPD decreased to 8.5% over the course of time because of industrialization and emphasis on urban development, even though it used to be more than 40% in the 1960s (see Fig. 2).

GDP (Current US$) (World Bank Group)
Figure 1: GDP (Current US$) (World Bank Group)
Agriculture, Value Added (% of GDP) (World Bank Group)
Figure 2: Agriculture, Value Added (% of GDP) (World Bank Group)

2. Scientific and technological development has provided China with an opportunity to create new tools that can be used to improve the performance of its agricultural sector. Specific machinery has made it possible to produce more with a decreased input. Practices based on human and animal power have been significantly reduced, which has also streamlined development. However, this tendency also presupposes that the number of people employed in agriculture has declined significantly. According to the World Bank Group, only 27% of all officially employed individuals who live in China are occupied in this sphere; as recently as 20 years ago, more than half of the entire Chinese workforce was connected to agriculture (see Fig. 3).

This tendency presupposes that the agricultural sector will continue to decrease as time passes, meaning that it will be held by several major organizations that control the industry or even monopolized. Machinery will replace human power even more frequently than in current practice so that the number of employed individuals will be minimized, limited to those professionals who control operations and fix electronic tools. It will thus be unnecessary to hire ordinary workers. While such alteration will possibly cause a new wave of unemployment, the development of other spheres allows presupposing that new vocational positions will be created.

Employment in Agriculture (World Bank Group)
Figure 3: Employment in Agriculture (World Bank Group)

3. With the development of the agricultural sector, farmers have gained an opportunity to earn more as they have become able to meet the needs of the whole population. However, the influence of industrialization and urbanization that has taken place at the same time has led to a decrease in the rural population. While initially, almost all people lived in small towns and villages, less than 45% of the population has remained in the same territory (see Fig. 4). Nevertheless, it cannot be claimed that this alteration has exerted adverse effects on Chinese agriculture. Increased technological and scientific advances have meant little to no necessity for all these people to continue in agricultural occupations. As a result, part of the population moved to urban areas, while the rest became able to earn more, which has been proved by Herman et al. (205). Fig. 5 shows that the agricultural population’s annual earnings increased by more than $1,260, which is an enormous alteration.

Thus, China has not only managed to alleviate poverty but also has minimized the number of people living at a low-income level. Future reduction of rural employees is expected to cause increased prices for their services. Thus, the decline in the number of workers will benefit those who remain in the industry.

Rural Population (World Bank Group)
Figure 4: Rural Population (World Bank Group)
China's Rural Residents’ per Capita Net Income in Major Years (Herman et al. 205)
Figure 5: China’s Rural Residents’ per Capita Net Income in Major Years (Herman et al. 205)

4. By promoting agricultural development, China obtained an opportunity to benefit populations living in rural areas. As the issue of poverty was overcome and new working positions were created, governmental bodies encouraged and supported the social progress of these territories. As a result, the number of educational establishments increased significantly, and children received access to high-quality education. School enrollment rates increased, with the result that the initial illiteracy rate of about 80% was reduced to almost 6.5% in laborers and 3.5% in young adults. Government representatives established compulsory education lasting for 9 years and provided associated coverage that has allowed 95% of students to become educated (Herman et al. 205).

Advantageous changes have affected health services, as well, as the rural medical system has improved and more people have received access to primary health services. The social security system has also improved due to new reforms and better living standards.

Population Growth and the Demographic Transition

China is known worldwide as the country with the largest population, affecting its ability to benefit all citizens and provide them with appropriate living conditions. Realizing that an increasing population prevents China from providing the required services and resources, the country’s government developed policies to control and minimize population growth. Although China had fewer than a billion citizens in 1960, almost 1.4 billion people currently live in this country (see Fig. 6). This alteration is likely to be associated with improved economic conditions and increased opportunities for people to have a high-quality life.

Population (Total) (World Bank Group)
Figure 6: Population (Total) (World Bank Group)

Even though the Chinese population continues to increase, growth has slowed significantly. While a huge increase in citizens associated with the reduction of poverty and the enhanced economy was observed in the 1960s–1970s (more than 2.5%), the rate of population increase currently sits at about 0.5% (see Fig. 7). It is expected that the same tendency will be observed in the future as well until China reaches its desired population size.

Population Growth (Annual %) (World Bank Group)
Figure 7: Population Growth (Annual %) (World Bank Group)

The projected decline in population growth is not associated with a change in life expectancy because it is constantly increasing (see Fig. 8). According to Eggleston, the lifespan managed to reach almost 73 years for men and 77 for women by 2010 and continues improving, while in the middle of the 20th century, it was less than 45 (205). In a similar vein, the median age is increasing, as well as the age of the working population. Thus, it can be supposed that the median age of employed individuals will reach 40 years by 2025 and 47 years by 2060 (Eggleston 206). Nevertheless, this tendency may turn out to benefit China because its population will have enough time to obtain a good education and years of experience. As a result, the population of the country will be likely to include numerous highly skilled professionals who can streamline its development, even more, cementing China’s opportunity to become the world’s leader.

Life Expectancy at Birth, Total (Years) (World Bank Group)
Figure 8: Life Expectancy at Birth, Total (Years) (World Bank Group)

The population’s fertility and mortality rates tend to support this assumption (see Fig. 9 and Fig. 10). The state population policy that was adopted in the second half of the 20th century caused the representatives of the general public to have fewer children. However, socio-economic conditions also significantly contributed to this alteration. People displayed no desire to have many children because of the monetization of daily life. While the quality of life improved and citizens had access to more opportunities, supporting children also turned out to be expensive (Jiang et al. 213). In addition, the large population size increased competition between individuals as they had to be better than others to be enrolled in the best educational establishments and employed in desirable positions. Thus, it turned out to be easier for people to focus on having no more than two children, causing the fertility rate of the 21st century to remain at about 1.5 (see Fig. 9). At the same time, the mortality rate is decreasing over the course of time, allowing families to remain at about the same composition for a long time (see Fig. 10).

Fertility Rate, Total (Births per Woman) (World Bank Group)
Figure 9: Fertility Rate, Total (Births per Woman) (World Bank Group)

Thus, it is possible to suppose that the decreased fertility rate and increased life expectancy are likely to have both positive and negative influences on China’s development. The standard of living is expected to continue improving as it is easier for the country to satisfy the needs of a decreased population. In addition, fewer individuals will face poverty as many will have a chance to obtain governmental support. Moreover, as the median age of the workforce increases, citizens will have a chance to pursue education even after the age of 30 and obtain a high-paid job. The retirement age will increase, and a greater number of experienced professionals will be able to contribute to the country’s development. Nevertheless, the number of economically active individuals will diminish, as well as spending on education. Healthcare costs will increase because the elderly tend to have more health issues, and more pensions will be paid. Services not used by the elderly will suffer because fewer people will demand them.


The outstanding economic development of China is closely connected with improvements made in its agricultural sector. The industrialization and urbanization achieved would not be possible without the funds generated due to agriculture and its increased productivity. Being the most basic industry, it also led to social stability. Even though most Chinese citizens do not currently live in rural territories, people are managing to enhance their quality of living. Due to the control of population growth, China can provide more opportunities for its inhabitants, ensuring that they will not be affected by a shortage of resources.

Works Cited

Eggleston, Karen. . 2014, Web.

Herman, Joost et al. “Chinese Experiences and Lessons Learnt in Agricultural Development since 1949.” Asian Journal of Agriculture and Rural Development, vol. 6, no. 10, 2017, pp. 201-209.

Jiang, Quanbao et al. “China’s Population Policy at the Crossroads: Social Impacts and Prospects.” Asian Journal of Social Science, vol. 41, no. 2, 2014, pp. 193-218.

, 2018, Web.

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