2009: PRC Newsmagazine Lauds KMT Agricultural Reforms on Taiwan


The February 9, 2009 issue of China Newsweekly Zhongguo Xinwen Zhou  中国新闻周 ran an admiring article about the KMT’s successful land reform in Taiwan “Land to the Tillers” Taiwan Style Now the Farmers are Some of the Most Prosperous People in Taiwan Society”   “耕者有其田”的台湾版本:现在最富的是农民”   . The article appeared also on the website of the China News Service,  the “other press agency” aimed mostly at the Chinese language press in foreign countries and so tends to be a bit more open in their views and criticisms that the Xinhua Press Agency.

The magazine allowed Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Professor and peasant migrant worker/agricultural issue researcher Yu Jianrong 于建嵘 draw the moral of the story.  Yu restated a point he makes repeatedly in his articles: the important of peasant rights and strong local peasant agricultural organizations to protect them. (I translated the last few paragraphs below.

“Agricultural societies in Taiwan are composed to two kinds of people,” said Yu Jianrong, a researcher in the Rural Research Center of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences told the report of “China Newsweekly”. “When they hold their meetings, they are all straight dealing farmers. The second type are the managers of the agricultural society.  They wear business suits, they are people hired by the board of the agricultural society. They are hired after meeting certain qualifications and passing certain tests, just like civil servants in China.”

Scholars have pointed out that one of the consequences of land reform in Taiwan was that farmers who owned their own land became the most important force in rural society.

Taiwan agricultural societies also served as rural credit cooperatives. When the farmers had a financial crisis, the agricultural society would guarantee a loan for them. In this way farmers could avoid bankruptcy. Another important task assumed by the Taiwan agricultural society was to help farmers sell their produce.  Not long ago, Taiwan fruit started to appear in mainland China markets.  Behind this phenomenon were Taiwan agricultural societies.

While Yu Jianrong believes the agricultural societies do important work in helping farmers through financial difficulties, even more important is ensuring that farmers do not have to sell their land is that it protects the independence of farmers. “Once a member of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council took me on a trip, saying “Today the richest people in Taiwan are farmers. Their families own land and the land is worth a lot of money.” He gestured saying, look at that land it is worth millions. Farmers sell land rationally. They know they should sell this plot of land and not that plot of land and what they should do after they sell it. There is no need for the authorities to intervene, they can make the adjustments that are needed on their own.”

That farmers could become the richest people in society, that is something that the Taiwan farmer Chen Wen never dreamed of while he was plowing and sowing his fields.

A Tibetan Autonomous Region Foreign Affairs Office minder in Tibet told me during a November 2008 visit to the TAR that the accomplishments of the KMT in Taiwan are getting more attention now in China. This article also makes me recall a 2008 dinner I attended with a few businesspeople in a restaurant. I observed to the small group that although Chinese want to learn from America, I often think it would make more sense in many cases for Chinese to learn from Taiwan. Taiwan has absorbed many lessons from the West and adjusted western practice to Chinese culture and have assimilated them to their own society, government and legal system.

One of the businessmen, a Communist Party member,  looked at the others looked at the ceiling and the walls of the restaurant and said to me in a whisper, “We all know that, but we can’t say so.”

I wonder if it might be becoming more possible to admit learning from Taiwan. Certainly many businesspeople have been doing this for years. Some dangers in doing this though. A Kunming intellectual told me in 2008 that if the KMT competed in a Kunming City election they’d win by a landslide.

While many people in Taiwan have gotten rich by selling their lands, it depends on how close to the city they are. Many of Taiwan farmers are older, retired (like my father-in-law) and their children don’t want to be farmers. Taiwan government subsidies have helped poorer farmers in rural areas upgrade their housing etc.

Still, the role of free agricultural societies has been important and could be a model for China. Yu Jianrong has in several articles pointed to the important role pre 1949 agricultural societies played in China. Some of Yu’s articles are collected here — http://www.tecn.cn/homepage/yujianrong.htm

I remember reading that Ramon Meyers in his research found that China actually had quite a few independent farmers in the 1930s. So then at least in some areas, the story of big landlord oppressing the poor peasants may have been exaggerated for post 1949 political purposes. That dangerous point is implied in Yu Jianrong’s argument about pre 1949 agricultural cooperatives. He isn’t talking about landlord cabals…






Full text below and at http://www.chinanews.com.cn/tw/kong/news/2009/02-14/1563047.shtml

2009年02月14日 00:33 来源:中国新闻网 发表评论  【字体:↑大 ↓小】
























About 高大伟 David Cowhig

Now retired, translated Liao Yiwu's 2019 "Bullets and Opium", and studying some things. Worked 25 years as a US State Department Foreign Service Officer including ten years at US Embassy Beijing and US Consulate General Chengdu and four years as a China Analyst in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Before State I translated Japanese and Chinese scientific and technical books and articles into English freelance for six years. Before that I taught English at Tunghai University in Taiwan for three years. And before that I worked two summers on Norwegian farms, milking cows and feeding chickens.
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