Academic journal article East-West Connections

Impacts of Developmental Programs and Policy Reforms on Rural Areas of Northwest China

Academic journal article East-West Connections

Impacts of Developmental Programs and Policy Reforms on Rural Areas of Northwest China

Article excerpt

I. Introduction

Recently, China has experienced rapid economic development; however, most of this growth has occurred in its eastern provinces. Its western provinces still have relatively sluggish economies due to previous policies that encouraged nodal development in coastal areas. The Chinese government is making efforts to alleviate western provincial problems and to bring the development of these provinces closer to levels in the wealthier parts of the country. It is, however, unclear whether these government efforts are achieving success. And, if these efforts are achieving success, it is unclear to what degree these policies are benefiting rural inhabitants. The purpose of this article is to investigate impacts of these government efforts. The study couples the results of several weeks of field research in North western China with multiple regression analyses of data sets sourced from Chinese statistical yearbooks.

II. Background and Review of Literature

Background

The vast economic divergence between China's coastal eastern provinces and its interior western provinces has occurred as a result of both geographic and political advantages; these advantages include two decades of favorable government policies designed to promote rapid growth in the coastal provinces through market liberalization and other policies to attract foreign investment. The Chinese government has recently shift ed its focus westward, enacting broad development policies, such as the Great Western Development Strategy (Xibu Da Kaifa). Intended to help close the gaps between east and west, these policies are designed to shift the majority of central government infrastructure expenditures from the coastal provinces to the central and western regions. These policies consist of a series of programs designed to implement the necessary agricultural, environmental, infrastructural, and industrial changes necessary for growth. This article focuses specifically on several of these programs and on the resulting impacts upon northwest China's rural populations.

Among the trends analyzed in this article are significant deviations from regional agricultural traditions. Many laborers who had previously been chiefly occupied by agriculture are now looking toward other sources of income for all or part of their livelihood. In part this is due to the opportunities for alternate employment provided by recent development. This development has also changed the composition of rural agriculture--way from producing staple foods such as grain and corn, towards producing more high value "cash crops" such as fruit and fresh vegetables that can now be more effectively marketed in larger towns and cities. In addition to changing crop selections, some villagers are moving toward agricultural practices other than farming, such as animal husbandry. However, not all of these trends are beneficial; some adverse results of these policies upon agriculture include extremely volatile agricultural commodity prices and negative environmental impacts associated with industrialization and development.

Among the most pressing of environmental concerns is the massive erosion which occurs in the region. The Yellow River, "Mother of China," is now all too oft en referred to as "China's Sorrow" due to the periodic devastating floods that kill thousands of people and destroy entire villages. These flood damages are exacerbated by the nature of the loess soil in parts of the northwestern region. The loessal soil blows in on winds from the north and is highly susceptible to erosion. This massive yearly erosion changes the dynamics of the Yellow River, raising its bed sometimes as much as one meter per year.

At the forefront of the projects to combat this erosion is the "Grain for Green" program. This is a federally funded reforestation project aimed at returning sloped farmland to forested land in order to combat the erosion which is exacerbated by the over-cultivation of land. …

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