Stable villages key to harmonious society
The hollowing out of villages because of the country’s industrialization and urbanization drive has given rise to many social problems. The disorderly state of villages as young adults migrate to urban areas leaving only the elders and idle farmland behind indicates the demise of traditional villages.
Farmers-turned-urbanites look for better life in cities and no longer carry the values that are based on small-scale farm economy. Instead, they become increasingly self-centered like most city dwellers as they adapt to the urban environment.
Although the hollowing out of villages is an offshoot of China’s economic development, the government should not ignore the challenges the phenomenon poses to grassroots governance.
Most villages are self-governed, by villagers, with the village committee as the representative body exercising power. Migrant workers, who leave villages to work and live in cities, have little interest in village affairs back home, perhaps because they don’t have the time and resources to take part in village discussions and governance matters. The lack of participants in village affairs also challenges the legality and authority of the village committees.
The government, therefore, should help raise farmers’ consciousness and encourage them to take part in village governance. Modern agriculture cannot be developed and villages cannot be “recovered” without efficient governance at the grassroots level.
In many villages today, the self-governance system has become increasingly vertical, fragmented and isolated. Besides, most government officials still suffer from a binary mentality; they never put villages on an equal footing with cities.
And the government, while creating channels for farmers to migrate from villages to cities, ignores the development and importance of villages. The poor infrastructure in villages, especially the lack of information technology, makes it difficult to implement modern governance and a variety of diversified governing measures.
A harmonious society cannot be built only on the back of prosperous cities; stable villages also have to be developed for the purpose. Therefore, the government has to attach more importance to adopting toplevel governing measures and principles in rural areas.
Modern agriculture can be promoted only when rural economy is developed and villages are structured rationally. Bigger villages can help the smaller ones in governance. Or several smaller villages can form a joint community by reorganizing their residents and self-governing bodies. The government, on its part, should play a leading role in making large-scale transfer of people from villages to cities more orderly and efficient. Individual farmers do not know all the requirements of the job market, which makes the current migration of villagers to cities in China disorderly to some extent.
The movement of people should also be in the opposite direction, that is, from cities to villages, to ensure that technology, management experience, information and capital find a channel to move to rural areas and help develop modern agriculture. Apart from big cities, medium- and smallsized towns, too, have
the capacity to absorb the labor force that villages offer.
Cultivable land, construction sites and other public resources in the hollowingout villages would be wasted if people from cities do not move in to make good use of them. Also, farmers should be the main beneficiaries of modern agriculture.
It is thus imperative that the authorities help direct private investors’ money to improve transport and information technology infrastructure in the villages. Moreover, the authorities should maintain a rational pace of urbanization, in order to have the desired effect on villages, and pay greater attention to transforming farmers into both capable workers and responsible participants in village governance.