China launches “every village” rural infrastructure drive

Extreme poverty in China has largely been eliminated but rural services still need improvement (Renato Marques/Unsplash)
China this week published an action plan for rural infrastructure that could kickstart a wave of construction activity over the next three years.

The plan was issued by the General Office of the Communist Party of China and the State Council General Office. Its stated goal is to bring the benefits of China’s economic growth into rural areas.

By 2025, “tangible progress” should be made on rural construction, and continuous improvement should be seen in the rural living standards. This means upgrades to roads, water and energy supplies, logistics, broadband, housing and the natural environment.

The target is to give every village and household access to this infrastructure, which the document said would lead to “cultural and ethical progress”. The Office of the Central Rural Work Leading Group told the Xinhua news agency that rural construction was “an important task in implementing the rural revitalisation strategy, as well as an essential part of China’s modernisation drive”.

The Office of the Central Rural Work Leading Group said another goal was to prevent the depopulation of the countryside as agricultural workers migrate to cities in search of better paid jobs. Per capita GDP in predominantly agricultural central and western provinces is around half of that in the coastal provinces, with the largest disparity between Gansu ($5,200) and Beijing ($23,900), not counting Hong Kong and Macau.

The provision of internet services and good roads will, it is hoped, make the Chinese countryside a more attractive place to live and work.

The document lists 12 key tasks for promoting rural construction, including formulating a unified plan, carrying out major projects and improving “relevant mechanisms” – a reference, presumably, to project management.

The plan is the latest development in a campaign to improve quality of life in rural areas. The “revitalisation” initiative was declared in 2017 with the strategic goal of realising “strong agriculture, beautiful countryside and well-off farmers” by 2050.

By the end of 2020, more than 40 million household toilets had been renovated, giving 68% of rural homes modern toilets. Between 2016 and 2020, China also built or upgraded more than 1.4 million km of roads. This is expected to reach 5 million km by 2035.

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