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UPDATED: February 26, 2010 NO. 9 MARCH 4, 2010
The No.1 Priority

At the beginning of each year, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council jointly release the first document of the year, dubbed the No.1 Document. The issue discussed in the No.1 Document is, of course, the most important to the current economic and social development of the country.

For seven consecutive years, the No.1 Document has been dedicated to rural issues—to be specific, agriculture, farmers and the rural area. The importance and difficulties of these issues are self-evident.

Agriculture is the basis for the country's economy. Agricultural production must be ensured to provide sufficient grain and food to feed the country's 1.3 billion people. Meanwhile, the country's rural population accounts for 70 percent of the total. Their income needs to be boosted, their living conditions should be improved, and a social security system should also be established for them. The previous six No.1 documents all revolved around these issues, allowing the agricultural industry, farmers, and the rural areas to reap considerable benefits in that time.

As of 2009, the country had seen grain harvest surpluses for six consecutive years. The abolition of the agricultural tax in 2006 and exemption of tuition fees for nine-year compulsory education in rural areas in 2007 helped boost farmers' per-capita annual income from 2,936 yuan ($430) in 2004 to 5,153 yuan ($755) in 2009. Rural infrastructure has been improved under the scheme of building a new socialist countryside. A minimum living standard system and a new cooperative medical care system have also been established in the country's vast rural area.

While continuous efforts are taken, new problems concerning agriculture, farmers and the rural area have emerged. Capricious climates and market fluctuations are making agricultural production more vulnerable. The urban-rural gap is still expanding. The younger generation of migrant workers, accounting for about 60 percent of the 150 million total, who are not familiar with farming, wish to be included in urban society. More importantly, further resistance to the impact of the world financial crisis requires a strong agricultural sector. A stable supply and a rational price level for agricultural products can help curb the rising inflationary expectations. That's why this year's No.1 Document continues to target rural issues.

We can't tell whether rural issues will remain the themes of No.1 documents in the coming years. But one thing is certain: solving the rural issues is the fundamental requirement for the country to build a moderately prosperous society.

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