grain production and GDP in China

ROSSERJB at jmu.edu ROSSERJB at jmu.edu
Tue Apr 23 17:15:43 MDT 1996


     1)  Yes, grain production per capita has been declining
in the PRC since about 1984.  Problems of non-maintenance
or development of formerly communal infrastructure have been
a major factor.  There have recently been riots and strikes
in rural areas by peasants.
     2)  On the other hand production of non-grain agricultural
items from edible oils to pork have been steadily rising.  Other
factors negatively impacting ag have been rising rural population
as controls on births relaxed and Confucian attitudes about having
sons revived.  Total land in ag production has been steadily
declining since 1956.
     3)  The distribution of income has gotten substantially
more unequal, both within areas and between regions.  The gap
between rural and urban incomes closed between 1979 and 1984 as
ag production rose and rural incomes rose sharply.  Since then
the gap has been widening and now there is mass migration to
the cities.
     4)  Under Mao the distribution of income within local areas
was very equal, Gini coefficients as low as .16 were estimated
for some villages in the late 1970s, about as equal as ever
observed anywhere.  On the other hand, despite all the propaganda
to the contrary, inequality between urban and rural incomes actually
increased throughout the Maoist period, perhaps reflecting a fundamental
Stalinist approach.  Also, although regional inequalities have increased
in the Dengist period, especially between the coast and the interior,
overall regional inequalities were significant during the Maoist period.
Overall Gini coefficients in 1979 for household incomes and rural households
were .33 and .37 respectively, although accounting for social services
provided very equally lowered the rural number to .26.  By contrast Taiwan's
overall household Gini in 1972 was .29.
     5)  Average income is definitely rising by any measure, although
poverty is also increasing in some areas.  In 1980 there were 178 provinces
with an average income less than 200 yuan per year.  By 1988 there were
none.  But actual poverty has definitely increased.  I have seen recently
children begging in the streets of Beijing in the most pathetic way.  At
the same time the material standard of living has definitely increased for
the majority of the population, not just a few capitalists, although some
of them are making out like bandits.  By one PPP measure, the PRC may now
have the world's second largest economy, ahead of even Japan's, although
that is probably an exaggerated number.  Third or fourth place is more likely.
     6)  China's growth is heading for an environmental disaster.  SO2
emissions are soaring and Shenyang and certain other areas are competing
to become the most polluted sites on earth.  The democracy issue I mentioned
in an ealier post is not irrelevant at this point.
     7)  The nature of what is going on in the PRC is not a simple matter
and is not easy to label, despite simplistic characterizations by many on
this list.  Basically there are three sectors.  There is still a centrally
planned state-owned sector, mostly heavy industrial.  It is stagnant
currently.  There is a strictly private sector, mostly in the SEZs where
foreign capital, much of it from overseas Chinese is predominant.  But the
largest sector is the TVES, the town and village enterprises, many of them
directly derived from former communes.  These range from being essentially
municipal socialist entities to mere subsidiaries of foreign multinationals.
This has been the most dynamic sector of the PRC economy and it will be its
future evolution which will determine the future.  As of now these are a
sort of market socialism but without workers' management.
     BTW, in my post on the environment, I should have referred to
"cannibalism ignorers" rather than "cannibal defenders."  Sorry about that.
Barkley Rosser


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