16th International Conference on Agriculture & Rural Development in China

In a span of a generation, rural China has undergone a dramatic transformation: infrastructure – ranging from roads to electricity grids – has been constructed; the majority of rural residents are covered through basic health care and pension programs; and “extreme poverty” has been eradicated. These are remarkable improvements from the late 1970s, when China’s economic reforms began with the launch of a new agricultural land lease system in a poverty-stricken village. At the same time, the Chinese countryside is still facing major challenges such as environmental pollution, rural education, and the hollowing out of villages’ socio-demographic and economic structure.

Today, more than 4 decades later since the economic reforms started, the Chinese state is headed by President Xi Jinping, arguably, the nation’s strongest leader since Mao Zedong. Under his administration, the Chinese countryside has become the next political priority. For him, rural revitalization is “a major task in realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation”, a strategy proposed as a key move for the development of a modernized rural economy. To realize this, the Chinese state has been working to foster rural industries and services, promote the application of new technologies, and build a “beautiful countryside”. In addition, peasants and citizens are being pressed to repopulate the villages with new entrepreneurs and consumers, after these had been left behind during the massive rural-urban migrations of the 1990s and 2000s.

Against this critical backdrop, ICARDC XVI’s conference on “Rural China under Xi” aims to take stock of and examine the changes, continuities and contradictions that have occurred in the Chinese countryside since the Xi administration assumed power.