Do people that work in the Ag. industry take pride in their work as farmers in America do? Are people encouraged to pursue careers in agriculture?
No. In China, there is a social stigma with farmers. Farmers are considered as dirty, poor, and less educated, with low social status.
2. Small-scale farm.
What percentage of farms are still small-scale? How much of the countries’ agricultural output is done in totally vs. small farms?
China currently relies heavily on small-scale farms. The statistics from Ministry of Agriculture (2013) show that the number of farmers working in large-scale farm accounts for 0.28% of the total farmers. The large-scale farms account for 7.3% of the total arable area, and the grains output in large farms accounts for 12.7% of the total grains output.
3. Does the government have a big say in what agricultural crops are grown?
No. Our government did so in the past (before 1978) when our economic structure was planned economy. At that time, government did make the decision of what crops and how many should be grown. 1978 witnessed the economic marketing reform. Under current system, farmers today have the right to plan their farm work. Now China’s economic system is “communist marking economic system”. In my opinion, it is actually in the middle way between marketing economy and planned economy. In ordinary area, we have the right to make our own decision, but in some important areas which are highly related to national security, such as petroleum, communication and bank, our government is the controller.
4. Since women make up a high percentage of farm labor, are there education programs that focus on women?
Yes. China National Women’s Federation has since 1989 organized activities entitled “Literacy Education for Women” and “Competition in Learning Knowledge and Technique”, which enabled a large number of illiterate women to become literate. According to the statistics, by the end of 2004, more than 20 million illiterate women had become literate; nearly 100 million women had mastered one or two applied techniques for production; 2.4 million women had got rid of poverty; 15 million women had attended the courses offered by Correspondence Agricultural University and Agricultural Broadcast School; over 600,000 women had got the academic title of “agricultural technician”; and a large number of women had made outstanding contributions to the development of local economy.
5. It is estimated that by 2020, there will be 30 million more men than women, how do you think it will affect the agricultural production?
Although generally China has more men than women, actually more women stay in rural areas than men do. There are 150-200 million migrant workers who leave from rural areas to cities, and 2/3 are men. Now, the female labor accounts for 60-70% in agriculture. What our government concerns is that in rural areas women are less educated and less skilled than men, so the feminization of agriculture would make the agricultural activities less efficient. Therefore now there are more education programs focusing on women in rural areas.
6. Machinery. Why are tractors or mechanical tools not used as frequently in production of Ag. products? Are farmers adapting to mechanical farming or sticking to traditional methods?
Less mechanical tools are used in China for many reasons. 1. Machinery manufacturing technology level is still fall behind. 2. Farmers’ income in rural areas is so low that they cannot afford expensive machine. 3. Most farms are small-scale where farmers can manage it without using machine. Besides, I’m not sure if this is related to culture. From my observation, I found that Americans use machines and tools more frequently in every aspect than Chinese do. We rarely use machine if we can do by our hands.
Currently most farmers are still sticking to traditional methods, although government is trying to improve the degree of mechanization. I think China still has a long way to go.
7. What’s your personal experience with agriculture? Are any of your family members involved in Ag?
I don’t have much experience with agriculture. My grandma and uncle used to live in a small village and I just visited them in summer vacations. I remember when I was young, they rent some land to grow tea, vegetables, fruits and chicken, and I would help them with a little farm work. After I went to high school, my uncle became one of those migrant workers leaving from the small village to the city.
8. Migrant worker. What about the income levels of factory workers? Can they sustainably support their family? Do many families leave together from rural areas to urban areas?
I cannot tell an exact number of the factory workers’ income, because it varies significantly between different cities. However, I’m sure the income of migrant workers is lower than other workers in urban areas. Although their income is lower than others, it is still higher than the money from doing agricultural activities in rural areas, so they can sustainably support their family. Most families did not leave together. The reasons are complicated. We have household registration system (Hukou in Chinese), which requires citizens to register as permanent residents in their usual place of abode and the local government only provides residents who have local hukou with welfare. Migrant workers who come to cities generally do not have urban hukou, so they are actually deprived of housing, health care, education etc. I believe this is the main reason most migrant workers do not take their children and family with them to urban cities.