China Table of Contents
Faced with this depression, the country's leaders initiated policies to strengthen the agricultural sector. The government increased incentives for individual and collective production, decentralized certain management functions, and expanded the role of private plots and markets. The people's commune system was reorganized so that production teams with 20 to 30 households and 90 to 140 people owned most of the assets, accounted for profits or losses, made economic decisions, and distributed income. Most important, the leadership embarked on policies designed to put "agriculture first" in planning, at least in principle. This meant more modern inputs for the countryside. Chemical fertilizer production and imports increased. Modern high-yielding seed varieties began to be developed. Irrigation facilities--many of which had been washed out during disastrous floods in 1959-61--were repaired and expanded, and the government began to provide more mechanical pumps and other irrigation equipment.
These improvements were not haphazard; most were focused on more advanced and productive areas. The intent was to build areas of modernized agriculture with high and stable yields that would form the basis for more stable agricultural production. In general, the places designated as "high- and stable-yield areas" were those with adequate irrigation and drainage, so that the payoff for greater use of fertilizer and new seeds would be higher.
Data as of July 1987