Farming has been for 4,000 years the keystone of China´s civilization. But today it is dragging its economy, changed into a burden rather than an asset, writes journalist Ian Johnson in the New York Times. The government wants to move farmers to the cities, sometimes against their will.
For about 4,000 years, farming in this region has been a touchstone of Chinese civilization. It was here that the mythic hero Hou Ji is said to have taught Chinese how to grow grain, and the area’s rich harvests underpinned China’s first dynasties, feeding officials and soldiers in the nearby imperial capital.
But nowadays, Yangling’s fields are in disarray. Frustrated by how little they earn, the ablest farmers have migrated to cities, hollowing out this rural district in the Chinese heartland. Left behind are people like Hui Zongchang, 74, who grows wheat and corn on a half-acre plot while his son works as a day laborer in the metropolis of Xi’an to the east.
Mr. Hui, still vigorous despite a stoop, said he makes next to no money from farming. He tills the earth as a kind of insurance. “What land will they farm if I don’t keep this going?” he said of his children. “Not everyone makes it in the city.”
From a bedrock of traditional culture, and an engine of the post-Mao economic boom in the 1980s, agriculture has become a burden for China.
Media in China are a rather special feature. Are you looking for media experts at the China Speakers Bureau? Do check out this latest list.