Report: Rural incomes rising, but country may miss some key targets

Updated: 2016-08-04 07:40

By Hou Liqiang(China Daily)

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Despite increases in rural residents' overall income, China may miss some key targets in rural environmental protection.

Local governments will have to make a more serious effort to bring down discharges of chemical fertilizers to meet its goal of raising all people to moderate prosperity by 2020, according to the China Rural Development Report, released by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences on Wednesday.

The document said that rural development progressed steadily from 2011 to 2014, based on an evaluation system that includes economic and social development, living standards, ecology and urban-rural integration.

The improvement of living standards tops the five indexes, contributing 39.6 percent to overall development, followed by urban-rural integration, which contributes 23.6 percent. Urban-rural integration includes narrowing the differences of disposable personal income between rural and urban residents and their expenses.

The report found a shrinking gap in living standards among rural residents across China.

In East China, social development - which includes education, healthcare and social security - made the smallest contribution to rural development, while ecological improvement offered the least help in Central and Northeast China.

"The government's investment in infrastructure to bridge the urban-rural gap contributed to the improvement of rural residents' living standards," said Liu Changquan, a rural development researcher at the academy.

China once attached great importance to economic development but overlooked environmental protection. Though the government has been paying more attention to the environment and social development, it needs time to see improvement, Liu said.

In the past, farmers used too much fertilizer, which was then flushed into rivers and lakes by irrigation water. Changes in farming and irrigation methods to solve the problem also take time, Liu said.

He added that people should try to reduce household garbage in rural areas and make more of waste collected and disposed to make the environment better.

Environmental and social development problems and the development of political democracy in rural China still hinders efforts to build a well-off society, said Wang Dongyang, head of the Institute of Agricultural Economics and Development at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences.

"Though rural residents have a much better life, their living environment is still bad," he said, "While becoming richer, they still see a big gap with urban residents in education and cultural life."

As people in East China have become rich, more low-end labor-intensive industries are being transferred to rural areas in Central and West China, which will probably make pollution worse in those places, he added.

Zhang Zhihao contributed to this story.