A farmer plows a field at Shechong Village in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region on March 4 (XINHUA)
The continuous development of China's democratic process means people's concerns and opinions are being heard ever more clearly at the national level. So said Chen Baoshan, a deputy to the National People's Congress (NPC), during an interview with Beijing Review. Chen is in Beijing to attend the Fifth Session of the 13th NPC, which began on March 5.
The NPC is the world's largest parliamentary body, and provides a forum for elected deputies to represent their communities at the national level. "A deputy serves as a bridge between the country's decision makers and the people. Our duty is to make people's voices heard," said Chen, who comes from Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in southwest China.
Chen is a professor of crop science at Guangxi University and the Director of the Guangxi-based State Key Laboratory for Conservation and Utilization of Subtropical Agro-bioresources. He works primarily to improve the breeding and cultivation of sugarcane and, as a scientist and a lawmaker, considers his job to be bittersweet.
"Sugar is one of the most important raw materials in the food industry. Of every three spoons of sugar in China, two are produced in Guangxi," Chen said.
According to Chen, China has made a number of key breakthroughs in improving sugarcane yield, sugar content and lifespan. Previously, each crop of sugarcane could be harvested for three years before needing replacement. However, the work carried out by Chen and his team has doubled that time to six years. “This has significantly reduced the cost to farmers,” he said.
However, in working with farmers on the improvement of their crops, Chen and his colleagues have identified a number of challenges facing growers and other industry stakeholders. These include natural and environmental factors preventing plants from reaching their potential, as well as a lack of targeted preferential policies to encourage growers to invest in soil improvement, and inefficient harvesting methods and processing techniques.
National People's Congress deputy Chen Baoshan (COURTESY PHOTO)
"We need to work continuously to ensure the profitability of growing sugarcane continues to increase. As long as farmers are earning enough to live well, they will be able to continue on the path toward rural revitalization," Chen said.
As a deputy to the 12th and 13th NPC, Chen has been receiving suggestions from farmers, sugar refineries, scientists and the community via letters, field investigations and surveys for almost 10 years. "Every year, a team of deputies visit the places where problems are reported by the people. We identify the sources of the issues, work with local authorities to come up with target plans, and later we confirm the issues have been properly handled and solved," Chen said.
For instance, in response to community feedback in 2021, a group of lawmakers, including Chen, visited a county in Guangxi to supervise the improvement of wastewater treatment facilities. Villagers reported that the dysfunctional sewer pipes were severely affecting the environment and therefore the quality of life for local people. However, through their role as NPC deputies, Chen and his colleagues were able to create a solution that met community needs and expectations.
"This kind of progress is seen by neighboring villages and serves as a good example for them, leading them to look for ways to improve. It's a ripple effect," Chen said.
Chen's efforts are also part of a rural vitalization strategy that was first proposed in 2017. Later, a series of policies were released to create a roadmap for its implementation. Now, the country has been working on consolidating and extending its achievements in poverty alleviation, and driving rural vitalization after its announcement of victory against absolute poverty in 2020.
According to a government work report delivered by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at the opening of the Fifth Session, China will refine and strengthen its policies that support agriculture, continue promoting development in areas lifted out of poverty, work to ensure good harvests, and promote growth in rural incomes.
"Rural vitalization is entering a new stage of high-efficiency agriculture and increased mechanization," Chen said, adding that smart technology will enjoy wider application as well.
Copyedited by G.P. Garth
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