The Chinese Communist Party Central Committee and State Council issued a joint opinion on January 29, identifying improvement of the agricultural economy as their main policy goal for 2007.
The opinion, titled "Several Opinions Regarding Actively Developing Modern Agriculture and Firmly Advancing the Construction of the New Socialist Countryside" is the "Number One" document for 2007. Chinese authorities use these "Number One" documents annually as a means to highlight policies for the coming year. Each "Number One" document issued since 2004 has focused on rural issues.
The opinion heavily emphasizes agricultural economic development. Reform measures include: increased agricultural investment, improved market access for agricultural products, encouraging rural technical innovation, and strengthening rural infrastructure
In contrast, the opinion only briefly addresses issues of rural governance reform. It broadly calls on authorities to clean up the problems of local government debts, better address issues of land seizures, reform the system of agricultural credit, and continue experiments with reforming and trimming local government personnel.
The opinion contains general language calling for strengthening rural institutions to address social instability.
Strengthen and improve rural social management. With regard to new developments in the rural economy and society, develop new mechanisms of rural social managment to firmly strengthen the work of upholding rural social stability. Expand channels for the expression of public opinion in rural society. Construct and perfect mechanisms for the channeling and resolution of disputes. Comprehensively use multiple measures and methods to appropriately resolve consistent and latent rural social problems. Deeply expand "peaceful construction," strengthen the construction of rural police forces, carry out well the comprehensive management of public security in rural society, and ensure that rural areas are peaceful and orderly. Broadly carry out legal educational propaganda activities in rural areas and increase the masses' legal understanding. Guide farmers to express their interests and demands in a legal and reasonable manner, and lawfully exercise their rights and carry out their duties. Construct management mechanisms to respond to rural emergencies, and improve abilities to respond to crises.
The emphasis of the 2007 opinion differs from the 2006 "No. 1 Document" , the Opinion on Promoting the Construction of a New Socialist Countryside, which emphasized many specific governance reforms, as noted in analysis provided by the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC). For example, the 2007 opinion contains no explicit call for reforms to the Chinese hukou (household registration) system, nor specific details and timetable for realizing improvements in the provision of rural health and education services, unlike the 2006 opinion.
The 2007 opinion repeats the emphasis of the 2006 opinion on the need for Party leadership of rural work. The 2007 opinion also strengthens a call made in the 2006 opinion for strengthening professional farmer cooperatives. Some provincial authorities have experimented with more independent forms of rural professional associations as a means of allowing farmers additional channels to protect their rights, as noted in the CECC analysis. The 2007 opinion also repeats a call made by central authorities in
recent weeks to strengthen the use of financial incentives, as opposed
to coercive measures,to ensure citizen compliance with official birth control policies.
The 2007 opinion may reflect a desire to shelve the more difficult issues of rural governance reform in favor of efforts to address technical issues of rural economic reform, particularly in the politically sensitive runup period prior to the 17th Party Congress in the fall. Chinese authorities themselves have admitted that some official governance reform efforts, such as those aimed at addressing hukou reform, have faltered upon meeting internal bureaucratic opposition.