BEIJING — The “No 1 Central Document” has emphasized the importance of rule of law in agricultural and rural issues.
The policy document released on Feb 1 by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council pointed out that the countryside is a weak link in China’s striving for the rule of law.
As China’s agricultural and rural reforms involve various interest groups and very complicated relations, improving the legal system is a must to ensure reform measures are carried out smoothly.
Development of the agriculture sector faces bottlenecks and millions of farmers still earn much less than those employed in other sectors. To modernize agriculture, land use and farming procedures must be improved.
More efforts need to be made to establish new-style agricultural management, accelerate reforms of rural collective property rights, push forward pilot reforms of the rural land system, fine-tune the rural financial system, and deepen forestry reforms.
All these reforms call for and must be put under the guarantee of a legal framework that is still lagging behind demand.
Only when these reforms are performed according to the law can they reinvigorate the countryside by making resources such as farmland and capital flow in an orderly and reasonable manner.
China is also striving to promote rural democracy to ensure the country’s 650 million rural residents can participate more frequently and directly in the management of their villages.
Strict enforcement of law is needed to prevent corruption in village head elections.
It should also be noted that farmers’ property rights are not well protected by the law during land expropriation in some areas. Farmers have often fared badly in disputes with land developers and other commercial interest groups in recent years.
Natural resources and the environment are also being damaged due to lack of legal restrictions or loose supervision.
Any absence of rule of law in dealing with these problems is likely to cause protests as well as standoffs between villagers and local governments, thus damaging the stability of rural areas.
Without improving legal systems in rural areas, China’s grand ideal of achieving rule of law across the country will be impossible.
Due to the large population and disparities in levels of development in rural areas, the rule of law cannot be accomplished overnight.
The first step is to accelerate law-making. Regulations that are proved effective should be established as laws while those not suitable for rural reforms should be revised and terminated in time. Pilot programs should also be encouraged to accumulate experience for applying laws to the entire countryside.