Even in China, as in the USSR, the majority of the population is made up of peasants (it is estimated that 87% of the residents derive their resources from agricultural work), but in this monsoon country, where the cultivation of fields it has been practiced since ancient times, the family cell is much firmer. On the other hand, the farms are small and it was not possible to change the agricultural structure by making use of machines, especially since the cultivation of rice, which in the southern regions takes the form of gardening, did not lend itself to their use. But even here there was no lack of social inequalities, both as regards the extent of ownership and the work in the fields; it was in fact possible to recognize the existence of laborers, of peasants with small properties completely insufficient to feed the family, of tenants often in debt, of small owners who managed the fund directly, of large owners who lived in the cities. The agrarian reform has had particular characteristics here and has sought in the first place that agricultural production does not decrease, so that there has not been a too strict application of the communist principles; the owners who rented the land or cultivated it from afar through wage earners, as well as the capitalists who rented land that they had cultivated by others, while the wealthy peasants who cultivated the land directly (albeit with the help of laborers) remained the owners. 47 million ha (equal to about half of the then cultivated area) were redistributed among 300 million farmers, giving an average of 15.7 ares per person. With the establishment of cooperatives (which can be of work or production) 111 million agricultural families (1956) were united in half a million cooperatives (grouping from 200 to 250 families). From these cooperatives (which appear very different from the kolkhozes) the peasant receives not only a salary but also a rent for the land put in common, so the link with the land remains fairly close; the rest are small entities (each cooperative has an average of 20 ha), in which all have the same remuneration and in which the use of agricultural machinery is limited. In the northern regions there is a tendency to replace small cooperatives with large cooperatives, abolishing the rent given to peasants and in exchange for using machines on a larger scale (especially where wheat is grown). There are also credit cooperatives that allow us to eliminate usury and are subsidized by the state, while a whole series of experimental stations provide advice and instructions to farmers. Many state farms have also been created. Then from the summer of 1958 the “popular communes” arose, which have the purpose of facilitating exchanges, of finding employment for the labor force and of creating small industries that produce for local consumption. while a whole series of experimental stations provide advice and instructions to farmers. Many state farms have also been created. Then from the summer of 1958 the “popular communes” arose, which have the purpose of facilitating exchanges, of finding employment for the labor force and of creating small industries that produce for local consumption. while a whole series of experimental stations provide advice and instructions to farmers. Many state farms have also been created. Then from the summer of 1958 the “popular communes” arose, which have the purpose of facilitating exchanges, of finding employment for the labor force and of creating small industries that produce for local consumption.
Grandiose irrigation works have profoundly transformed the conditions of vast areas especially in the F. Giallo valley (where a more far-reaching plan has been studied which should profoundly change the course of the middle and lower course of the river); reservoirs, canals and dams have also been created in the F. Azzurro basin. In 1953 the “Popular Victory Channel” (84 km) was completed, bringing part of the flood waters of the Yellow River to its tributary Weiho in Shenhsi. The surplus of the flows of F. Azzurro, not being sufficient to dispose of the Tungt’ing lake, can now be poured into the Chingchiang basin. It is estimated that 900,000 wells were dug (from 1949 to 1954) in Honan, Shantung and Hopei, 600,000 water wheels and steam pumps installed, 15,000 small basins were created in Szuch’uan alone, making the irrigation area go from 19 million to 32 million ha. An attempt was also made to counteract deforestation and accelerated soil erosion (very frequent in the löss), by planting many trees, according to an organic plan. During the first five-year plan (1953-57) 4.4 million ha and 1.5 million ha hedges were planted with trees (to counteract the violence of the wind) and moved 1.3 billion m for work.2 of land. In the upper reaches of the rivers, dams and reservoirs are being built that hinder floods and allow for the production of a greater quantity of electricity. New regions have been populated, especially to the North, in the black lands of Heilungchiang, in Kansu, in the plain of F. Giallo and above all in the arid and semi-arid areas of Hsinchiang.
According to PROEXCHANGERATES, the cultivated area, which in 1949 had fallen to 97 million ha, has been considerably increased. As far as the main crops are concerned, there is a moderate increase, even if we ignore the data of 1958, a particularly favorable agricultural year. Thus, for rice, production went from 485-500 million q (1949-50) to 860 million (1957); this is to be put in relation both with the greater extension of irrigated areas, and with the fact that the crop has extended towards the NE; moreover, the double harvest, characteristic of southern China, has also spread to the F. Azzurro valley. The development of the cultivation of wheat is much less, which has been sown in narrower rows and has also spread to more southern regions, in land that was once left to rest; from 210 million q the harvest increased to 230-240 million. The cultivation of sugar cane (especially in Kuangtung) and that of beet (to the NE, in Heilungchiang) are in progress. Cotton, which in the past was cultivated mainly in Hopei and Shanhsi, has also spread to the Turfan basin and production has increased from 500 thousand to 1.5 million tonnes. The production of tea, on the other hand, is less than that of the pre-war period.