Wang Gengjin, male, Han nationality, born in October, 1911, is a native of Nangong, County,
Where there is Real Ability There is Fame
Li Zhou (hereinafter referred to as Li): teacher Wang, under the auspices of the Presidium of the Department of Science, the Youth Research Center of Humanities and Social Sciences held the activity of “learning and talking with members of the Department of Science and members of Honor Department of Science” and arranged for me to talk with you. As your student, I have exchanged with you academically on the development of the ecological economy and agricultural economy and specific economic problems over the past twenty years, but I haven’t talked with you about your experiences, work, and achievements. It is known that you don’t want to make your working style widely known, so how to do this interview well and to finish the task given by the organization, which is a great challenge faced by me. I will express your thoughts in accordance with your will.
Wang Gengjin (hereinafter referred to as Wang): I am only older in years, with longer party standing. I haven’t done earthshaking things yet. The Party and country have given a lot of honors to me, and at this time they have honored me by making me a member of the Honor Department of Science. I thank the affirmation of the organization towards my work, and at the same time I receive it with shame.
Li: thank you. Teacher Wang, you took part in the revolution very early on, and you joined the army in 1938. Can you introduce your revolution experiences briefly?
Wang: in 1930, I began to contact and accept the spirit of progress from what I learned in the Cooperation Institute of Economics Department of Beiping University. From the summer of 1930 to the summer of 1931, I made some reports on ‘progressive spirit’ when I served as the editorial director in Nangong Weekly. Because of the suppression by the county government, I was forced to resign. From 1931 to 1935, I exchanged with progressive teachers and progressive students when I worked in the
Li: Teacher Wang, economic reform in
Wang: I participated in the economic investigation in Tianjin, Shanghai, and Suzhou and so on, organized by Comrade Hu Qiaomu to prepare for the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee of the Party and finished the composition work of the investigation report after I entered into Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in 1978. In the spring of 1979, entrusted by the Research Office of the Secretariat of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, I led several comrades from the Agricultural and Economic Institute and People's Daily to investigate the results of the production responsibility system of “five confirmations and one award”. On May 20th of the same year, the investigation report An Item of Powerful Measure on Stimulate Farmers’ Positivity, was published in the People's Daily. In the winter of 1979, I delivered a copy of the investigation materials written by Hu Yaobang stating the hard process of fixing farm output quotas for each household of Shannan People’s Commune in Feixi County of Anhui province, so Comrade Hu Yaobang, who supported rural reform with enthusiasm but lacked feelings towards farmers’ requirements of fixing farm output quotas for each household. In April, 1980, farmers whose grain output was increased because of “fixing farm output quotas for each household” were required to sell grain, but the Grain Department did not purchase grains for the reason they had purchased them. I delivered the investigation report named Problem of Farmers’ “Difficult Grain Selling” Shall be solved immediately compiled by researchers of the Institute to the Party Central Committee. Leaders of the Party Central Committee quickly made long written instructions and comments and held meetings of several departments, instructing them to solve it as soon as they can, and they also said “never harming farmers because of cheap grains”.
After I was transferred to the
The huge success gained from the Chinese Reform and Opening-up is the result gained by comrades of the whole Party and obtained by all the people of
Li: Teacher Wang, you served as editor in chief of Issues in Agricultural Economy, journal of Agricultural Economic Association of China, in the task-rebuilding era. Can you review the situation at the time?
Wang: from 1980 to 1985, I served as editor in chief of Issues in Agricultural Economy, journal of Agricultural Economic Association of China. At that time, I thought most about how to implement the policy of emancipating minds and being practical and realistic and to promote the development of agricultural economic theory and agricultural reform and opening-up. In the meantime, this journal held a series of discussions on significant theoretical problems, such as the system of contracted responsibilities on the household basis with remuneration linked to output, adjustment of agricultural structure, changing agricultural product state monopoly over purchasing and marketing, to signing contracts and opening the agricultural product market, and employment problems and so on, so Issues in Agricultural Economy became the main position for bringing order out of chaos and publicizing rural economic reform of agricultural economic theory. In order to build a platform for making thought active, opening the train of thought, getting rid of superstitions, breaking through forbidden zones, and “letting a hundred flowers blossom and a hundred schools of thought contend”, we also found an inner journal named Agricultural Economy Collection. Some articles put forward some important problems and had some views, but these views were not mature, so we put them in this inner journal to be discussed, so as to encourage every one to be braver and more open. This journal played an important role in terms of pushing forward Chinese rural reform research in the 1980s.
Li: Teacher Wang, at the beginning of reform, you gathered a batch of young people from the Rural Development Institute, such as Comrade Chen Xiwen, Current Office Director of Rural Work Leading Group of the Party Central Committee, Comrade Du Ying, Deputy Director of National Development and Reform Committee, Professor Zhou Qiren and Professor Song Guoqing of Beijing University, and Deng Yingtao, Researcher of Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, to form a strong research team, and you have done many practical jobs and gained people’s respect. Can you share some historical moments of that time with us?
Wang: in 1979, a batch of young students who were concerned with rural reform put forward a rural investigation plan, and they came to me to seek assistance. I thought that undertaing an investigation using university students can not only save money but also I would get to know about the realities, and it would be better than using professional cadres and special researchers, so I supported this rural investigation with enthusiasm. And this batch of young students later became the main part of the Chinese Rural Development Issue Institute. At the beginning of 1980s, entrusted by Vice-president Deng Liqun, I served as the consultant to the temporary leading group at the Chinese Rural Development Issue Institute. The Chinese Rural Development Issue Institute was established in
Li: Teacher Wang, you have been engaged in rural economic research for more than sixty years, with innumerable great achievements. Your research field involves issues between farmers and land, issues in agricultural cooperation, issues between grain and agriculture, issues in urban and rural connections, and issues in ecology and land administration. First, please briefly introduce your research achievements in terms of farmers and land.
Wang: my research on farmers’ began from the investigation of Yantai fisherman’s lives in the 1930s. The result was “Yantai Fisherman Life” written in accordance with my own investigation and was published in Declaration of 1934. In the 1940s, during the several years when I served as the group leader of land problem group at the Investigation Institute of Shandong Branch Bureau of the Communist Party of China, appointed by Xue Muqiao, Director of the Institute, I have led comrades of the whole group to investigate more than 3000 households in three regions and written seven investigation reports, 200 thousand words in all, which were published in Material Compilation (volume 4) of Investigation Research Institute. In May, 1989, these materials were gathered in the special issue of Shandong Party History Material in the book Rural Economic Investigation in
Thirty-year Village: Social and Economic Development Memoir in Fengyang Village whose compilation was organized by me truly recorded social and economic development and change in the
Farmers and Land was compiled under the suggestion and guidance of Chen Hansheng, expert in academics and Honorary Director of the World History Institute. In order to complete the task set by Chen Hansheng, I collected more than one thousand pieces of literature on land reform, and 76 of them were selected finally through repeated screening. The relationship between farmers and land was stated briefly from six aspects, namely early peasant movements, peasant movements in the period of the northern expedition, land reform in Soviet areas, the movement for the reduction of rent and interest in anti-Japanese bases, land reform in the period of liberation war, and success of land reform, so that readers can master this complicated problem in general within a little time.
Li: you know much about agricultural cooperation; please introduce your research achievements in terms of agricultural cooperation.
Wang: I began to concern myself with the cooperation issue from 1947. In that year, I went to investigate the conditions in cooperative societies in Boxing county of Shandong province with Han Cun of Huimin Cooperation, and Wang Jianyu, Peng Zhizhong, and Wang Hongchun of the Economy Department of Shandong University, for one and a half months, and we participated in the discussion at a joint conference for managers of cooperative societies. After this work was finished, other comrades hurried to participate in land reform work, so we didn’t research together. And I wrote a booklet Cooperative Societies and Textile Industry in Boxing County. In this book, handicraft industry cooperative societies organized in accordance with the mode of cooperative societies in the south region of Shanbei and local conditions were introduced. Cooperative societies purchase cotton uniformly, distributing it to members to spin thread and to weave, so as to provide for the army and citizens, with a counting-price method and specific investigation materials, which have played a great role in solving clothing issues for soldiers and citizens in liberated areas and have had reference value for organizing handicraft industry cooperative societies in the future. Through investigation, we found that it was necessary for members to enjoy the interests of entering into and exiting cooperative societies freely, without any risks, and then we put forward the limitation of entering into and exiting cooperative societies shall be given up.
At the beginning of 1949, I was transferred to work in the Finance and Economy Ministry of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. And I wrote an article called New Stage for the Development of Cooperative Societies in accordance with materials mastered by me at that time, which was published in an economic special of the People’s Daily on
Some people criticized my view of moving from production cooperation to supply and marketing cooperative and consumer cooperative with Lenin’s Discussion on Cooperation. In fact, in the article called Discussion on Cooperation published by Lenin in 1923, he didn’t mention issues of the agricultural production cooperative, but he emphasized that “all residents shall participate in the buying and selling of cooperatives” and called on us to learn “civilized business”. Stalin opposed Lenin’s instructions, and finally grains in the
Li: I think that your suggestions above had important realistic significances at that time, which also have positive significances today, nearly half a century later. Please introduce your research achievements in terms of food and agriculture.
Wang: in the period I worked on the Planning Committee, besides daily work, I wrote some articles, such as leading articles on motivating spring plowing and Agriculture in the First Five-year Plan published in the People’s Daily, and two articles published in Economic Research, and they explained the policies at that time. Some new ideas were put forward in two articles, namely Develop Agricultural Production Roundly Regarding Food as the Creed published in Economic Research (volume 11, 1961) and Position of Commercial Crops in the National Economy published in Economic Research (volume1, 1963). Firstly, I confirmed that food production was extremely important in agricultural production, and at the same time I pointed out that only producing food can not meet people’s requirements for agricultural products in various aspects of production and life, so agricultural production was never about the economy producing food only, but it was a kind of comprehensive economy, including food crop, economic crop, grassland farming, forestry, subsidiary business, and fishery industry. They must combine closely, depend on each other, promote mutually, and develop in common, so that we can make full use of the rural labor force and land resources, reasonably arrange crop patterns, develop agricultural production adjustment measures for local conditions, meet the requirements of society towards agricultural products in several aspects, adapt objective requirements for the development laws of agricultural production, increase labor productivity sooner, and increase total output and varieties of agriculture.
In 1980, Zhu Rongji, Lin Xiangjin, and I investigated the cropping system of the three-crop system of rice and wheat, writing the investigation report called Several Issues on Three-crop System of Rice and Wheat. Our basic conclusions were: the growing method of the three-crop system of rice and wheat has increased some output, but more seeds are used, and the milled rice rate has decreased, with great expenditure, in fact, income has decreased, namely compared with the two-crop system, the three-crop system needs more energy. The three-crop system of rice and wheat has changed varieties of food and decreased the food’s quality and economic value. In accordance with the investigation, the selling price of every one hundred jins of japonica rice is RMB 11.6 Yuan, while the Indica type of rice is only RMB 9.6 Yuan, two Yuan less for each one hundred jins, and twenty Yuan less when compared with producing one thousand jins of two-crop, equal to two hundred jins of rice less. And the milled rice rate of Indica rice is 10% lower than japonica rice, which means that 10% of rice output is untrue. If only agricultural income distribution is calculated, these regions have not achieved the average distribution level of members in
Li: in the age of “regarding food as the creed”, under the environment of “putting labels” and “coming down with big sticks”, why did you publish the viewpoint that one-sidedness shall be prevented in agricultural production?
Wang: I especially adore the style of Mr. Lu Xun, and I hate flattering people and things from my heart. Daring to express opinions through deep consideration is a kind of quality which shall be possessed by members of the Communist Party.
Li: please introduce your research achievements on the relationship between workers and farmers.
Wang: the relationship between workers and farmers is the issue I thought of for many years, and I have also written some articles. Research achievements on this aspect are collected in the book called Research on the Issue of Chinese Agricultural Modernization and Accumulation edited by Comrade Zhang Xuansan and me. In this book, we discussed and analyzed the accumulation problem of Chinese agriculture from three points of view, namely physical capital, human capital, and natural resources, and the inefficiencies of not valuing the accumulation of human capital and natural resources for a long time in China was made up. In order to get more people interested in our research, I will speak about the exchange of industrial and agricultural products.
So-called unequal exchange of industrial and agricultural products means artificially lowering the price of agricultural products and raising the price of industrial products. Seen from the angel of value, agricultural products are sold at a price lower than their value, while industrial products are sold at a price higher than their value, and this value difference reflected in the price difference of scissors. Suppose that the price level of industrial and agricultural products was reasonable in 1952, and then during the twenty-six years from 1953 to 1978, the national purchasing price of agricultural products was about 90% lower than their value; the price of production materials used for agriculture in industrial products was about 40% higher than their value. The country has been deprived of RMB 801.97 billion Yuan of agricultural accumulation through lowering the price of agricultural products, and RMB 30.845 billion Yuan every year; and at the same time, the country has been deprived of RMB 147.524 billion Yuan of agricultural accumulation through raising the price of industrial products, and RMB 5.674 billion Yuan every year; RMB 949.494 billion Yuan in all. In addition, the scissors difference can be calculated in accordance with the rate of deviation between national planning price and market price. Planning price adopts the general index of the purchasing price of secondary products including that above purchase quota premium, while market price adopts the price index of consumption goods in village fair trades. In accordance with this method, the scissors difference of agricultural products is mainly concentrated from 1960 to 1978, and the average difference is 58.5%; the price margin for the price of two kinds of agricultural and secondary products during these 19 years is RMB 195.871 billion Yuan, and RMB 10.309 billion Yuan every year; there into, the difference in the accumulation of food reaches RMB 64.46 billion Yuan, and RMB 3.393 billion Yuan every year.
Li: in the recent twenty years, you have mainly researched issues in ecological economy and land administration; can you give a brief introduction to this?
Wang: my research on ecological economy and land administration is the most familiar to most, which I need not introduce one by one, so today I will talk about water resources. I think that mountains, forests, rivers, and marshes are a whole, so we must administrate them synthetically. We shall combine engineering measures and ecological measures and combine measures of administrating surfaces and interiors, or else the expected effects can not be achieved. At present, we regard administrating major rivers as a key point for water conservancy construction, which is obviously concentrating on trifles and neglecting essentials. The reason why major rivers are big is that major rivers are made up of many branches, while branches are made by many creeks, and creeks are made by many mountain streams. Therefore, river administration shall be started from small river basins of mountain streams, and then creeks and branches, finally major rivers. Soil from creeks and small rivers can not be rushed downhill, with stable flow, so it is easy to administrate major rivers. Someone may think that major rivers can be administrated well only through building one or several large-scale projects, which doesn’t fit objective laws, and expected objectives are difficult to achieve, even unexpected negative effects will be produced.
The average share of fresh water resources in
Li: by the way, you have affirmed the western water transfer project put forward in Rebuild China by Deng Yingtao, Wang Xiaoqiang, and Cui Minhe and so on. Why did you submit a written statement to Zhu Rongji asking him to treat this “major project” cautiously as it lacked scientific verification when some people in society pushed the government to implement the western water transfer project?
Wang: scientific research is changing unknown things in the past into known things and transferring things that did not exist in the past to things that exist presently. Deng Yingtao and other people have done research work for several years on an extremely valuable problem. This kind of exploration spirit must be confirmed. It is the basic difference between them and someone in society who doesn’t make objectives clear. Therefore, when I heard that someone in society that didn’t make the objectives clear would finance the western project, so as to push the government to implement the western project, I immediately wrote to Premier Zhu Rongji, asking him to consider this issue cautiously. I felt relieved until Premier Zhu Rongji appointed his secretary to tell me that the government would not consider this project.
Li: you are 96 years old, but your mental state is still good. Can you talk about your way of keeping healthy?
Wang: in fact, I was in poor health when I was young, and often sick. People thought that I would live long. I was not discouraged. And I have paid attention to building up my body and insisted on taking cold baths, playing shadowboxing, and taking long walks. In recent years, I can not take cold baths, but I still insist on walking. The above is the one side. On the other hand, you must be broad-minded and not bother about your own gains and losses.
Li: what opinions do you have towards discipline development? What requirements do you have of us?
Wang: in terms of scientific research, young people with a good education, active thought, and high energy are the most advantageous. I am advanced in years, and I don’t have energy and the ability to master issues at the frontier of science, which is the general law for scientific research, so I have no regrets or shame. I shall put forward several requirements of you, as my student through this exchange.
At present, your main task is research. As a researcher, you must consider the interests of the Party and your country try hard to master the cutting edge of research, attach importance to investigation research, and dare to express your own opinions. Even though you are given the cold shoulder, you shall not chime in with others and not publish articles without theoretical value and policy implication.
You are a doctoral supervisor at present. As a teacher, besides setting up seminars and cultivating students’ research ability, you shall pay much attention to the growth of students ideologically. Tell the principle that “Pride goes before fall” to students; warn students the principle of “If you drift along in the little things, then the same will in any event, and finally your whole life”; the principle of starting from every small thing and trying hard to make every thing well; the principle of striving for rights and at the same time undertaking responsibilities.
You are a leader now. As a leader, you shall be diligent and honest, and you shall devote your ability and energy. However, even more important is giving full play to everyone’s ability, providing conditions for the growth and development of researchers, and seeking out talents for the Rural Institute to occupy academic heights and sustainable development.
Li Zhou: male, was born in
Translated by Li Junwei.
Translated by Li Junwei.
Editor: Wang Daohang