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Online seminar reexamines well-being of rural Chinese


2020-08-03 02:32

Wu Nan
Chinese Social Sciences Today


The forum was held both online and offline on July 4 Photo: ANHUI UNIVERSITY 

At a recent forum themed on “social construction and social development under the new situation,” scholars shed light on post-pandemic social governance, cultural construction, livelihood issues, social policies, urban characteristics, rural governance, poverty elimination and urban-rural relationship. 


This year marks China’s final year for winning the fight against poverty. Zhang Wenhong, dean of the School of Sociology and Political Science at Shanghai University, said that poverty reduction should shift its focus from eliminating absolute poverty in the rural areas to urban-rural coordination and the comprehensive treatment of relative poverty. Efforts should also be made to prevent people who have been lifted out of poverty from going broke again. Scholars should think ahead about the road beyond poverty alleviation, i.e. what China should do to lead its people towards common prosperity.  


Li Peilin, Member of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), said that China should give farmers more choices by leveraging farmers’ unused working hours and tapping the potential of the industry. In China’s modernization drive, it remains the most challenging task for China to bring common prosperity to farmers and guide them into the middle-income group. A common way to make farmers richer is by increasing labor productivity through large-scale farming and mechanized agriculture. Another method is to fully utilize farmers’ extra hours of labor by encouraging them to take on part-time jobs. To be specific, local governments should increase the added value of agricultural products and develop e-commerce, leisure tourism, elderly care industry, etc. Farmers should also be given bigger property rights regarding collective construction land in rural areas, contracted land and homesteads, so as to put into use the idle assets in the rural areas. 


Cai He, a professor from the School of Sociology and Anthropology at Sun Yat-sen University, held that rural revitalization should be promoted with government subsidies and policy guidance, and by encouraging farmers to settle in cities, legalizing rural property rights, etc. We should help rural migrant workers settle in the cities by improving their ability to move their families to the cities, but we should also ensure that the left-behind elderly in the rural areas have stable access to elderly care services in their communities. 


We must make targeted measures for different groups of farmers when building the social policy system for the rural areas. The core of the endeavor is to empower the farmers and provide them with adequate options, said Feng Shizheng, dean of the School of Sociology and Demography at Renmin University of China. 


Wen Jun, dean of the School of Social Development at East China Normal University, said that cities and rural areas should each retain their unique features during the process of mutual integration, so that both can co-exist harmoniously while attaining integrated development. Urbanization is not the only way for rural areas to achieve modernization. Rural areas should seek modernization based on their own conditions. 


He Xuesong, a professor from the Social and Public Administration School of East China University of Science and Technology, suggested that we should pay attention to people’s daily lives and their livelihood. As the rural population has begun to concentrate in the counties, we should also begin to shift our focus from villages to counties when we conduct rural and urban sociology. Sociologists should zoom out to look at regional issues. Meanwhile, we should adopt innovative methods to study the rural-urban migration and backflow of rural population, as well as how e-commerce has propelled the reversion to the old rural-urban relationship. 


Zhang Jing, a professor from the Department of Sociology at Beijing University, observed that farmers have gotten into closer contact with the external market as villages are turning into outward-looking economies. Many things have changed: the value of the land, the authority and order of village communities, the roles and rules of production and daily life in the organization, the social evaluation of rural morals, etc. Sociologists should keep a close eye on these new phenomena and try to learn from them. 


It is sociologists’ responsibility to innovate with post-pandemic social governance. Li Qiang, a professor from the Department of Sociology at Tsinghua University, has led his team to carry out a pilot project of grassroots social governance—the “Qinghe Experiment”—in the area of Qinghe Street, Haidian district, Beijing. Li said that the fact that China was able to quickly curb the spread of the virus has a lot to do with how China governs its grassroots communities. This special governance mode helps to stabilize the society. 


Speaking of the policies of social governance, Zhang Yi, director of the National Institute of Social Development at CASS, said that first, we need to protect the main market players to ensure employment, which, in turn, secures people’s livelihood and maintains the country’s consumption. Second, since the main battlefield of employment has shifted to the tertiary industry, we must ensure equality in fundamental public services. Last, since the speed of urbanization has slowed, we need to help the immigrant workers with their job-seeking back at home and allocate more projects to the small and middle-sized cities. 


Guan Xinping, dean of the Institute of Social Construction and Management at Nankai University, said that we must strengthen the construction of people’s livelihood. We must adopt proactive social policies to protect people’s livelihood, upgrade human capital and drive economic development. We must adhere to the social policies that are reliable, and we must set a long-term vision when making social policies. We must ensure that the social policies are flexible enough to deal with economic fluctuations. We must also ensure that the social policies are fair, while we continue to drive the integration of city and countryside. 



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