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Region it reaches 3.0 percent. The declining birth rate in some cities has shown up markedly in the number of children enrolling in primary schools, as has been the case in the United States.
Chinese voung people are more receptive than in the past to family planning. Most of the population in the reproductive ages has at least five years of education and is basically literate. Moreover, the role of women has undergone considerable change. They are better educated, active in the labor force, and intimately involved in the social and political organization of their communities. People are no longer hungry in China, and because of improved sanitation and readily available health care, infant and child mortality has dropped to a level where parents no longer feel compelled to have large families. Security in old age has ceased to depend on numerous children.
Present economic and social conditions, in short, establish the necessary foundation for an intensive and successful program to motivate young people to postpone marriage and, when married, to limit families. This program, when coupled with the cost-free availability of contraceptive devices, sterilization and abortion, represents a major effort to restrain over-all population numbers,
EDUCATION The People's Republic places great stress on basic education. China's leaders are well aware that literacy is essential both to effective political communication and to economic growth. Education is free and compulsory for seven to nine years, varying in length from area to area. Seven years, for example, was the minimum in the Double Bridge Commune in rural Kwangsi Chuang. Young people of school age are not seen working in factories but are frequently observed at work in rural areas. All levels of education are still in what was referred to as an "experimental and transitional” stage following the Cultural Rovolution. The usual school system today consists of four to five years in primary school and un to five years in middle school, broken into junior and senior levels. For some, there follow technical schools or colleges.
In a commune in a remote area in southwest China, a leader told me that 98.4% of all primary school-age children in the commune were enrolled in school. When asked about the remaining 1.6%, he replied that although the normal starting age is seven, some parents do not send their children to school until they are eight.
Education in China is directed to practical application, not to learning for the sake of learning. Young children are taught to read and write and are generally prepared for limited specialized training. Work and other ethical values are also instilled in them in accordance with Maoist concepts. At the secondary level, education is usually combined with practical experience keyed to turning out persons capable of going directly to jobs in the communes and factories. Additional on-the-job training takes place later. Those destined to be skilled technicians, for instance, go through an apprenticeship of several years.
By all accounts, higher educational concepts are still unsettled. I visited Peking University which before the Cultural Revolution had an enrollment of 10,000 with five to six years required for the normal course of study. It now has an enrollment of 5,000 and the course is generally three years. Certificates rather than degrees are given on completion of studies. Students' expenses are paid by the state, including, if necessary, a subsidy for pocket money. Students are selected from the communes, factories and the armed forces. It was stressed that recommendations by fellow workers or soldiers are the most important factor in the admission process. Most of those now being admitted have gone no further than junior middle school level (seven years), and then spent several years in factories, on farms, or in the army. Admission quotas are by geographic areas and applicants are screened by local committees as part of a nationwide selection process. Women make up one-third of the enrollment and the percentage is being increased by design. There were four students from the United States currently enrolled at Peking University.
Although debate over the educational system continues, emphasis on educating the people to play a more constructive role in society is not likely to change. The greatest controversy concerns the question of how to accommodate and make maximum use of highly gifted students and teachers without again creating a thin crust of intellectual elitism. It remains to be seen how that problem will be managed. As of now, it can be said that there is a widespread system of free education which reaches into the most remote areas of the country. The system is designed to instill in the young a strong desire to serve the people and it provides them with the basic skills for doing so.
It is in agriculture that the most startling advances have been made in the People's Republic. Eighty percent of China's population is on the land. Only 11 percent of the total land area is used for agriculture, yet enough food is produced for 800 million people. China both exports and imports grain. Statistics are lacking, so it is impossible to reach precise conclusions on China's food production. Nevertheless the Chinese authorities have announced and outside observers agree that China has solved the food problem. In all sections of the country, grain reserves are being built
up. According to Chinese sources, 1973 grain production was more than 250 million tons, twice that of 1949. Despite a severe drought, record breaking crops were reported for 1974. The degree of emphasis placed on food production is expressed in a poem by Chang Chi-min:
We shall not tolerate a single inch of unused land!
mountain, And beans, peanuts, and red kaoliang rise on sheer rocks. . Everywhere, there is evidence that this poetic concept is the guiding principle of China's agriculture. Self-sufficiency and local initiative are the key ingredients. All persons who work in agriculture live in communes which vary in size. To the extent possible, each commune is a self-contained unit, producing its tools, fertilizer, and, sometimes, small tractors, other farm implements and various consumer dura
1 From "Personalities in the Commune."
bles. It is estimated that about 75 percent of the fertilizer used in China still comes from compost and animal and human waste but additional emphasis is being put on the production of chemical fertilizers. Human wastes which otherwise would end up as pollutants in streams, rivers and coastal waters are treated in China as assets. In Peking, snow shoveled from the sidewalks is piled up against the trees which line the streets to make maximum use of the moisture and its nutrients, "poor man's fertilizer," it is called. Conservation and recycling techniques of this nature have a significance for the entire world.
Recently a group of U.S. agricultural scientists reported that half of the chemical fertilizers now used in China come from "backyard factories" which turn coal, coke, and water into ammonium bicarbonate, a chemical not generally used as a fertilizer elsewhere. It is said to be a technique that could be readily adapted to other developing countries. Thirteen huge fertilizer plants are on order from abroad and will come into production in 1976 and 1977.
Chinese farmers use every inch of available land and then add more productive land through drainage and flood control projects and extensive land leveling. They are making mountains into mole-hills and have begun reducing terraced land to flat fields in order to permit wider usage of mechanization. Knowledge of new techniques seems to be diffused rapidly, with each commune experimenting to find the best methods to fit local soil, water, terrain, climate and available machinery and manpower. On the day I left the country, China announced that it had succeeded in growing three crops of rice and one of wheat on experimental tracts in Kwangtung Province. Four grain crops in a single year would represent an unprecedented achievement. Farming in China is very labor intensive, far less mechanized and less dependent on fossil fuels and fertilizers than American agriculture. Men and women still serve as burden carriers, along with buffaloes, ponies, trucks and tractors. Mechanization has the highest priority in order to increase production, but in the areas visited, had scarcely begun to replace human and animal labor.
The commune system works both to feed the people and to keep the entire rural population engaged in meaningful work. Communes are organized into brigades and brigades are divided into production teams. Each level is an economic unit with incentives operating at all levels. The production team normally consists of between 30 to 40 households, with each household having, in addition, exclusive usage of a small plot of land for growing vegetables and raising pigs or other animals.
Dwellings in communes are often owned by the occupants, contrary to the situation in urban areas where practically all housing is leased to the workers by the state. Bricks, cement, timber and other building materials are purchased by families from the commune, sometimes through subsidies or loans. The cost of construction for an average house is about $300-350. Team members pitch in to help build these dwellings. On the death of the head of the household, a house can be passed on to his family. It can also be sold through the commune unit if the owner leaves the area. It cannot be rented to a tenant by the owner.
Each commune is assigned an annual state production quota, fixed for a period of five years. There is also a small tax on farm production. Grain, cotton, or whatever the product, is sold to the state each year at a fixed price for the assigned quota. Any production above the annual quota can either be sold
to the state at a premium price or retained by the commune to build up reserves or to expand grain allotments to members. In Hsin-hsiang district of Honan Province, which I inspected extensively, the 1974 state quota for the communes within the district was 286 million pounds of grain. But total production was 4.4 billion pounds. Of the production above the quota, the commune members agreed to sell 374 million pounds to the state and kept the rest for their own use and reserves.
For grain sold above the quota, the communes receive a bonus price from the state which can be up to one and a half times the regular quota price. If the state furnished chemical fertilizer to the commune during the growing season, the bonus price would be only 30 percent above the regular quota price. In addition to encouraging increased production on existing land, the system stimulates the creation of additional land by not assigning quotas on new land for a number of years after it is brought into production.
What this system has meant to the man in the commune is indicated by what has occurred in the Chi Li Yeng Commune in Honan Province. Chi Li Yeng was China's first commune and it was from here that the communal movement began in 1958. Much of the commune is located in what used to be an old course of the Yellow River. It is an area which in the past was often afflicted by floods, droughts, and insect plagues. The commune contains 15,500 acres of land and a population of 54,000, organized into 38 brigades and 298 production teams. Its primary products are grains and cotton.
The commune has dug 320 canals to draw irrigation water from the Yellow River and operates 540 machine pumped wells to supplement the river water. It owns 60 tractors and 90 percent of the land is machine plowed. Grain production averages 7,260 pounds per acre, a 10-fold increase since the establishment of the commune. There is a collective grain reserve of 550 pounds per person in addition to the reserves of individual households. The commune has a diversified economy; it operates a phosphate factory, raises a variety of animals, and carries out forestry work.
There are primary schools, middle schools and an agricultural school. There is also a hospital and a cooperative medical care system for each brigade. Seventy percent of the members live in brick houses. All households own a sewing machine and at least one bicycle. All brigades have electricity.
Households are paid on the basis of skills, output and attitude, on the principle of “from each according to his ability, to each according to his work." Those who are no longer able to work are cared for by family or, if there is no family, through the commune's general welfare fund. There is no retirement system in the communes as there is in factories, but all older people are provided for, either by their families or the local unit. The cooperative health system costs approximately 25 cents a year per person. Average annual income for a family of four in the Chi Li Yeng Commune comes to $234, including its grain
allocation. Each family has a plot for growing vegetables which, for efficiency, is also farmed collectively.
I visited one household in the Chi Ling brigade. The head of the household was a native of the area, who during the Japanese war was forced to leave because of the poverty. He ended up working as a coolie for the Japanese in the Northeast, finally returning home after conditions in that region became unbearable. He now lives with his wife, two working sons and a daughter in three austere but adequate rectangular brick buildings with concrete floors, containing in all, the Chinese equivalent of nine rooms. Among the family's possessions were two bicycles, a sewing machine, a coal-fired cooking range, a table, several chairs, and two wide beds. Lithographs of Chairman Mao and scenes from a Chinese revolutionary opera were on the walls of their living room along with a battery operated clock. This family had a total income of about $450 last year plus grain, enough to provide a comfortable living by Chinese standards. Members spoke with pride of their own and China's accomplishments.
In Kwangsi Chuang Autonomous Region in Southwest China, the same story of substantial progress is evident. I visited the Double Bridge Commune in Wu-ming County, a county inhabited by people of the Chuang nationality. There were 53,400 persons living in the commune.
Double Bridge is largely self-contained, producing rice, citrus fruits, bananas, tobacco, timber, phosphate and other products. It has its own machine shop, repair facilities, small sawmill, brick kiln and other units for self-support. All households in 146 of the 159 commune villages are electrified. The commune is investing its income in mechanization, with $1.6 million having been spent in the last few years on new tractors and machinery.
There was a bumper harvest of 71.5 million pounds of grain last year, five and one-half times the 1949 total on the same land. Of that, 25 million pounds were sold to the state, 6.6 million pounds as the regular quota and 18.4 million pounds at a bonus price plus chemical fertilizer.
In 1973 an average income for a household of five was about $265, including grain. The typical family had five or six rooms in a courtyard arrangement with a private plot for growing vegetables and a small pig sty. Most households are said to have money in the commune bank. The average per capita grain production in 1973, primarily rice, was 1,320 pounds and of that 660 pounds per person were distributed to the members, far more than is needed for annual consumption. What was not used went into individual family reserves or, if those became too large, was fed to privately owned pigs. This area was said to be so poor before 1949 that "a sparrow would not stop.” Now the living standard was described by a commune leader as “like a sesame blossom, which opens step by step, higher and higher.”
The families visited were highly oriented politically. In their view, life was good and getting better. The system was working for them. With this intense feeling permeating China's rural populations, as it probably does, Mao's precepts would appear to be solidly cemented into the nation's thinking.