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Forty years of rural reform in China: retrospect and future prospects

Xiwen Chen (The Thirteenth National People’s Congress Standing Committee on Agriculture and Rural Affairs, Beijing, China)

China Agricultural Economic Review

ISSN: 1756-137X

Article publication date: 16 October 2018

Issue publication date: 18 September 2019



Bottlenecked by rural underdevelopment, China’s overall development is bound to be inadequate and unbalanced. Through a brief retrospect of the reform directed against the “equalitarianism (egalitarianism)” in China’s rural areas, as well as the Chinese Government’s conceptual transformation and systemic construction and improvement thereof, the purpose of this paper is to clarify the panoramic significance of rural reform; the necessity, priority, and long-term nature of the current rural development; and the important role of public policy in doing so. It also looks ahead to consider the prospects for future rural reform.


This paper first reviews the rural reforms that were carried out in 1978. Second, it introduces the government’s conceptual change regarding rural reform and the establishment and improvement of the system that underlies it. Finally, the future of rural reform is envisaged.


The initial rural reforms brought extensive and profound changes to China’s rural areas. The experience of rural reform has been referred to and escalated by other fields of study. Hence, rural reforms have become something of global significance. Moreover, since the government can undertake reforms well beyond the reach of farmers, its views must be modified in a timely manner, and only then may it reasonably construct and improve the system pertaining to the “three rural issues (agriculture, rural areas, and farmers).”


This paper reviews the rural reforms carried out in 1978. It introduces the government’s change of concept with respect to rural reforms and the establishment and improvement of the system based on the “three rural issues,” thus looking forward to the future of rural reforms. The findings of this paper are of significance to the formulation of future agricultural policies.



Chen, X. (2019), "Forty years of rural reform in China: retrospect and future prospects", China Agricultural Economic Review, Vol. 11 No. 3, pp. 460-470.



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