The word “farmer” is almost an insult in modern Chinese. When someone is not well-educated or has a bad taste on dressing, city dwellers sometimes may call them “farmers” without realizing that farmers are probably the greatest groups of people in China. Some say if you do not understand farmers, you will not understand China.
No Ownership of the Land
“There is nothing to cure you of the romance of farming like a visit to a poor farming community. As someone whose grandparents came off the farm, I have a healthy respect, even a reverence, for what farmers do. But it is hard, backbreaking work, unremitting and too often unrewarding. Rice cultivation is even more labor intensive than the produce-and-animal-husbandry of my ancestors. Anyone who can force themselves to get up in the morning and spend all day in a rice paddy deserves your utmost respect.”
—-Megan McArdle, Business and Economics Editor
Even as China has emerged to be the second largest economy in the world, its agriculture sector continues to be, according to the business insider, one of the most inefficient in the world.
Farmland in China was collectivized — in which property and resources are owned by the community not individuals — under Mao. Post-Mao reformers have implemented reforms to boost productivity. But the lack of credit, and the inability to own and mortgage land has deterred farmers from turning small-scale farming into more industrialized farms.
It is also pointed out that land grabs continue to be a problem and have sparked massive protests in Wukan and Guangdong, and have even driven corrupt officials out of the villages.
Subsistence Farming to City Living
As a group in transition from subsistence farming to city living, these migrants occupy the middle ground between the wealthy urbanites that cluster around the Chinese coastline and the mass of peasant farmers in the hinterland, FT pointed out.
The article said that the itinerant group made up nearly a fifth of the Chinese population and, with average wages of about $14 a day,
Therefore, the dilemma facing China’s government is how to keep raising living standards for these migrants and eventually to integrate them permanently into the cities.
The Disappearing Villages
Three decades of unprecedented economic and social change in China have killed off hundreds of thousands of rural villages and pushed places like Maijieping to the brink of extinction. The telegraph interviewed Qiao, whose days in Maijieping village are numbered as tens of thousands of Chinese villages are driven towards extinction amid what has been dubbed the greatest human migration in history.
“The younger generations find life here too hard," sighed 58-year-old Qiao Jinchao, who is one of only four remaining residents in a now eerily deserted village that was once home to 140. “Once they have gone out and seen more, they aren’t willing to return."