Fact and Theory About China's Land

CHINA'S fundamental problem is the intractable one of pressure of population upon resources, and, as usual, there is a great temptation to look for panaceas. For some people, collective farming is the solution; for others, mechanization. Others pin their hopes on redivision of land, abolition of tenancy or reduction of rents. There are those who believe that the primary requirement is the elimination of usurers and the lowering of interest rates and taxes; and there are those who say that China cannot possibly supply her own food and that hence the remedy is to arrange for imports.

As usual, also, there is no panacea. But when the misconceptions which becloud the situation are removed and the real elements of the problem are examined, it is apparent that much can be done to alleviate conditions in China. China can feed her people and can raise the standard of living; but to do so she must increase production per capita.

Surveys of 17,000 farms in 22 provinces of China reveal a farm population of some 1,500 persons per square mile of cultivated land. This ratio of approximately one-half an acre of land per farm person is the factor which determines the kind of food Chinese people eat and the kind of agricultural program that is feasible. Nearly all the land in China is privately owned. The farms are family farms, 80 percent of which are too small to be economically sound even under Chinese conditions. Farm implements are hand tools or animal-drawn tools and carts, and although improvements could be made, the native implements are often well designed and of excellent workmanship. A wheat crop as large as the prewar crop in the United States, and a rice crop nearly double that of wheat, are harvested each year with sickles. Crops are raised as food for human beings, not for animals, and 98 percent of the food energy is obtained from the vegetable kingdom.

With this background in mind, we may take a look at the various palliatives.

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