Country Listing

China Table of Contents



Five economic activities generated the bulk of agricultural output: crops, livestock, forestry, fishery, and sideline production (rural industry). Crop raising was the dominant activity, generating as much as 80 percent of the total value of output in the mid-1950s. The policy of stressing crop output was relaxed in the early 1980s, and by 1985 this figure fell to about 50 percent. The proportion of output generated by the livestock, forestry, and fishery sectors increased slowly after the 1950s. The sector that expanded the most rapidly was sideline production, whose share increased from 4 percent in 1955 to 30 percent in 1985.

The results of China's agricultural policies in terms of output have been mixed. Food consumption was maintained at subsistence level despite the catastrophic drop in production following the Great Leap Forward but failed to increase much above that level until the 1980s. Investment in irrigation and water control projects blunted the effects of severe weather on output, but in many parts of the country production continued to be negatively affected by the weather. Production rates varied considerably throughout the country, creating income inequalities. Despite rapid gains in rural areas in the 1980s, a substantial gap remained between rural and urban living standards (see Differentiation , ch. 3).

Data as of July 1987