Wang Guichen, male, Han nationality, born in October, 1929, is a native of
Indifferent to Fame and Wealth, Good at Morality and Research
Life and Research Experience
Dang Guoying and Tan Xuewen (hereinafter referred to as Wen): as we all know, you were born in northeast
Wang Guichen (hereinafter referred to as Wang): when compared with people of the same generation, my experiences are not very hard and not very smooth. My life can be divided into four stages. The first stage is attending school before starting work. I was born in
The second stage is my early working experience in the local area. I witnessed the transition of the administrative division in
The third stage is going to university and work experiences in the Economic Institute, from 1955 to 1978. In August, 1955, I was admitted by the Agricultural Economics Department of Renmin University of
In August, 1959, I graduated from university. In the same year, Sun Zhifang, the Director of the Economic Institute of the
In 1960, more than 20 people were appointed to do physical work in Changli
In 1965, most staff of the Economic Institute participated in the “four clearance” movement of the Zhoukoudian production team, Fangshan
In 1976, the “Gang of Four” collapsed politically, and the setting-things-right work in the theoretical field started with difficultly. I began to carry out investigations for town and township enterprises in
The fourth stage is my work experience in the Agriculture and Economic Institute (namely current Countryside Institute). In 1977, the Philosophy and Social Science Department of the
Wen: it seems that the ten-year “Great Cultural Revolution in
Wang: yes. I was high-spirited and vigorous and wanted a career when I first arrived at the
After being transferred to the Countryside Institute, I mainly engaged in research on rural economy reform and development. I mainly focused on rural economy reform research before 1985, but rural economy development research after 1985.
In the reforming initial stage of 1978, I began to gather and collect materials about fixing farm output quotas for each household (published Materials about Fixing Farm Output Quotas for Each Household in Agricultural Economy Collection (Volume 3, 1981)). I published An Item of Effective Measure in Stimulating Farmers’ Positively in the People's Daily, positively supporting fixing farm output quotas for each group. From May to June, 1980, I led an investigation group to
Throughout the 1980s, I participated in and held a series of research topics. Entrusted by the
From a Supporter of People’s Commune to a Firm Opponent
Wen: through reading your books, I find that you began to consider the People’s Commune System in the Chinese countryside very early. Can we say that you were one of the first to deny the People’s Commune System theory in
Wang: at the initial stage of People’s Commune, I supported the People’s Commune System with enthusiasm in politics. But then, with my deepening investigation of the People’s Commune, I found more and more problems, and then I began to consider and oppose the People’s Commune. In 1978, after the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee of the Party, setting-things-right was carried out in all industries, and experiences and lessons were summarized. I considered deeply the People’s Commune of “Possessed by People’s Commune,
Wen: can you talk about the historical background for the establishment of the rural People’s Commune system and its influences? You are an eyewitness of Chinese rural economic system reform. It is known that New Discussion on Chinese Rural Economic Reform was written by you with your utmost efforts after retirement. In this book, you not only paid attention to clarify historical facts and summed up historical experiences, but also put forward an operational reform scheme.
Wang: one representation of the “left” action in Chinese rural construction was the implementation of the People’s Commune system. At the golden age of the People’s Commune, in some places in
I am against that kind of agriculture collectivization of “putting large piles together”, which has made us pay a heavy price. Because of that, agricultural productivity has decreased, and the rural economy has been hit hard; while the most serious consequence was that some people died abnormally during the Three Years of Natural Disaster. And this price has been deeply researched by scholars before.
Agriculture collectivization has another kind of social consequence which has rarely been analyzed by others. For many years, the rural fields were the main battlefield for Chinese “class struggle” and “route struggle”. In the past, some said that it was difficult to be the Agriculture Secretary in the
At that time, farmers and cadres at the basic level in the countryside were strongly required to implement “fixing farm output quotas for each household”. However, the “four clearance” movement came in 1963 because of this kind of requirement, and it became a political movement in 1964. In the movement, regarding class struggle as a creed was put forward clearly, and the mistakes of “extensification” quickly appeared.
At that time, the Great Cultural Revolution in
However, after collectivization, Chinese farmers have fought ceaselessly. So long as the situation became better, they started fixing farm output quotas for each household. In 1961, under the pressure of some places, such as
About Land Reform and Agriculture Collectivization Mode
Wen: seen from some historical materials, before and after 1980, there were drastic arguements in theory circled surrounding the rural land contract reform, while you actively supported the system of contracted responsibility linking remuneration to output whose main form was family-run operations. Why did you insist on it? Does it need great courage?
Wang: in fact, some people within the Party have always supported land contract reform, and I was one of the early supporters of this kind of reform. In 1964, the Economic Institute of the Chinese Communist Party held a meeting to convey documents of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and to transmit records made by Tao Zhu and Wang Renzhong in a seminar held in
In May, 1979, The Production Responsibility System Connected with Output is a Kind of Good Method co-written by Wei Nandao and me in accordance with the appointment of Yao Liwen, Deputy Director of Rural Department at the People's Daily. In the article, we pointed out: “the production responsibility system connected with output is an item of the specific method of production responsibility system implemented by rural People’s Commune”, whose features were “connecting the production responsibility system and final achievements of labor, adapting agriculture production more, and having great advantages”. In the article, we also pointed out: the production responsibility system connected with output “can connect output to not only teams but also persons”; actually, we thought that it can fix farm output quotas for each household. This article was published in Issues in Agricultural Economy, and won the 1984 Sun Zhifang Economic Science Award.
At the beginning of 1980, at the business management conference of the national People’s Commune, the discussion on fixing farm output quotas for each household was great. I strongly supported fixing farm output quotas for each household in a seminar, and stated the opinion of “fixing farm output quotas for each household is a kind of production responsibility system”, and I was criticized at the time of summarizing the seminar. In May of the same year, Wan Li served as Vice Premier of the State Council and Director of the National Agriculture Committee, and he decided to appoint five investigation groups to investigate fixing farm output quotas for each household in
In August of the same year, by appointment of Wang Songpei of Economic Research, Wei Daonan and I co-wrote the article Discussion on Fixing Farm Output Quotas for Each Household, comprehensively discussing various forms of fixing farm output quotas for each household, and at the same time we gave opinions on fixing farm output quotas for each household; we thought that it was different from private production materials and individual farmers operating individually, so we shall admit that “fixing farm output quotas for each household” also belonged to the scope of the production responsibility system. And this article was delivered to the editorial department of Economic Research. However, it was held up by the chief editor, because the discussion at that time was great. Till Volume 1, 1981, it was published in the form of a “discussion”, and at the same time an article with opposite opinions was attached. Soon, these two articles were reprinted by Japanese Asia Journal (middle month of June), and at the same time explanations of professor Ban Bennan, famous agricultural economist in Japan, thinking Discussion on Fixing Farm Output Quotas for Each Household is the work of China’s “positive side”.
In 1980, No.75 document of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China widened the policy of fixing farm output quotas for each household, putting forward: in developed areas, as for citizens carrying out fixing farm output quotas for each household, if they didn’t want to change, please don’t enforce them to change. Later, vast rural districts in
From 1982 to 1983, someone and I co-wrote a book Establishment and Development of Responsibility System for Agricultural Production. In this book, we comprehensively and systematically summarized the system of contracted responsibility linking remuneration to output whose main form was family-run operations. This book was published by Hebei People’s Press in 1984, and it was translated to English and published by the New World Press in 1985. In addition, it was issued in foreign countries publicly, to become a book for foreigners to learn about Chinese rural economic reform.
Wen: in fact, your research on rural economic system is not only about advocating a household contract system. You began to consider deep seated problems in the Chinese rural economic system very early. Your choice of the Chinese rural economic system seems to be influenced by the theory of Stalin greatly. Looking back, how to evaluate Stalin’s agriculture collectivization mode? You are the scholar who denied Stalin’s agriculture collectivization mode the earliest in
Wang: actually, Stalin’s theory has had great influence on Chinese rural policy choices. From 1993 to 1996, I finished Research on Rural Economic System Reform, key issue at the
Wen: rural reform has been ongoing for thirty years, but it has a long way to go. Can you talk about what basic way Chinese rural reform can be performed?
Wang: after the People’s Commune disappeared from the historical stage, I began to transfer key points of the research to collective economic research of “putting large piles together”. I don’t agree with the collective economy of “putting large piles together”, but I proposed the collective economy among which the property boundary is clear and the property right is transferable. Whether the later “collective economy” is considered to be a collective economy or not, people have different opinions. And I also thought about this problem at that time. However, my opinion is positive if problems are only considered from the results of economic development.
Under the influence of modern economics, the criticism towards the traditional collective economy has formed a normative vocabulary system. However, I make points mainly from my own practical experience, analyzing the disadvantages of a traditional collective economy. I think that the collective economic research of “putting large piles together” may lead to a collective sluggish phenomenon. Because some farm work is hidden, the sluggish actions of producers are not easily restricted by overseers, and then low efficiency, which is difficult to overcome, existed in the collective economy.
How to reform in the future? I support the reform idea of a “land joint-stock cooperative system”. Clarifying “each” real estate property of each member in the collective, namely converting current land into money to form an amount of real estate property, and then confirming shares to every one. I don’t dare to say that it is the best scheme, but there are some advantages in this scheme: firstly, it allows people who “hold” shares to participate in “the shareholding cooperative system” of their own accord, and the collective will not forcibly deprive people and not carry out “putting large piles together”; secondly, this scheme may transfer farmers’ land contract rights to sacred and inviolable land property rights, which is in favor of solving the instability of land relationships in the current countryside; thirdly, allowing “participation willingly” means “dropping out willingly”: it not only is in favor of the stabilization of a land joint-stock cooperative system, but also leaves space for the deep reform of the rural land system. Generally speaking, the right of choice in the rural land system shall be delivered to farmers. If these three points are right, this scheme may be a better reform scheme under the constraint of current ideology. The problem of property rights in Chinese rural reform has not been solved. With the further development of the rural economy, problems in the area of land property rights have appeared daily, and the deepening of reform is extremely urgent. My reform scheme can be referred to by people who are concerned with China’s rural reform.
The following are important views: firstly, the production mode of small farmers is not equal to small-scale land possession and family operation. It has been found that small-scale family possession and operation can exist in a socialist system for a long time and peacefully. Secondly, there are some limitations of small-scale land possession and family operation, which can be remedied through developing cooperation before production, during production, and after production. Thirdly, this kind of cooperation is the best carrier for farmers to enter into the market, to master the country, to increase income, and to move towards richness. The country shall support various cooperative societies organized by farmers first.
Transfer from Reform Research to Rural Development Research
Wen: we also observe that you have carried out deep research on China’s rural economic development mode, and put forward the opinion of diversification of economic development mode. Can you talk about the conditions in this area again?
Wang: in 1991, I researched Comparative Research on Rural Economic Development Mode, “the Seventh Five-year Plan” key issues of national social science. And this research had a great impact at the time. For a long time, under the influence of the single thinking model, people have been in the habit of a mode at the time of talking about rural economic development. Some were anxious about that the research mode “it is easy to limit the development of the rural economy with a single mode”, so they don’t agree with the research mode. However, methods and conclusions of the Comparative Research on Rural Economic Development Mode give us some new ideas.
Firstly, as for the definition of mode, in this article, mode is used as model, type, and prototype. It is “reference, accepting, and absorption in some aspects which are the same or similar to conditions”, not “advanced model or mode learned by people with universal meanings”.
Secondly, I think that the rural economic development mode means “the theoretical summarization of the rural economic structure and economic operation mode with Chinese characteristics formed in the process of rural economic development”, and “main contents of rural economic development mode are: industrial structure, technical structure, fund structure, ownership structure, market structure, and economic operation mode and mechanism.”
Thirdly, the research report thinks that “factors influencing rural economic development mode are mainly: (1) natural resources and economic resources; (2) productivity level; (3) historical tradition; (4) rural policy”. Conditions in various places of
Fourthly, the research report also chose several regional development modes which are formed well in actual economic life to carry out comparative research. Finally, it thinks that several modes have conditions and values rather than selecting a mode from them, and it will be in favor of China’s rural economic development only through adopting several modes.
In addition, the research report also put forward the opinion of diversity, and “the diversity here means the diversity of mode, ownership structure, and industrial structure”. In the book Chinese Rural Modernization and Farmers, I put forward that the framing shall transfer from double-layer operation to the combination of double-layer operation and single-layer operation in accordance with the facts occur in individual operations, operation with hired laborers, and joint-stock operations and their trends. And the single-layer operation has included individual operation, operation with hired laborers, and joint-stock operation and so on, so “the combination of double-layer operation and single-layer operation” is actually the diversity of agriculture operation form.
Wen: you have researched the industrial structure in Chin’s countryside. Can we say that this research is pioneering, comprehensive, and systematic research on the industrial structure in China’s countryside?
Wang: yes, it is a large-scale investigation research project. From 1984 to 1987, entrusted by the Rural Policy Research Center of the Secretariat of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and Agriculture Research Center of the State Council, Zhan Wu and I held 1986 to 2000 Chinese Rural Industry Structure Research, and 26 units and 72 people of the Party Central Committee, each province, and each city participated in this research. And it was the first time to research the industrial structure in China’s countryside comprehensively, systematically, and on a large scale.
This research report thought that flyer-model, cross-model, three-dimensional model, and comprehensive model which were popular in society can not scientifically reveal all content and inner laws of an industrial structure, so the report didn’t adopt this method, while it put forward the concept of “total-coordination industrial structure” of its own. I think that, seen from the viewpoint of system theory, the industrial structure is an organic whole, while all industries rely on, facilitate, and restrict each other, and a certain proportion are formed under some conditions. Only through this, “the whole function of industrial structure can be expressed.” And this concept has been accepted and adopted by people. This research report also analyzed factors influencing the rural industrial structure and four trends for development and variation: “city and countryside integration”, “farmer conversion”, “decline of agricultural share”, and “coordinated growth of several departments”. And several methods were adopted to forecast and discuss that the gross national product in the countryside would achieve RMB 900 to 1000 billion Yuan at the end of the 20th century, and the ratio of the primary industry, the second industry, and the third industry would achieve 4:4:2. Afterwards, through the verification of experts, “main results of this research have important reference value on macro decision making in rural development and formulating long-term development plan”. The main report of this research was published in Chinese Rural Economy, which was also recorded in the book Survival, Reform, and Development, gaining a second award in 1987 the outstanding achievement award of the
Research Experience and Prospect
Wen: you have loved social science research all your life, and you have achieved outstanding achievements in your own field. Please talk about your research experience.
Wang: I think that theoretical research is a kind of exploration towards social development and law change, and the spirit of being fearless of danger and difficulties and keeping on fighting in spite of all the setbacks are needed. As for research, you shall use theoretical knowledge of our ancestors for reference and get rid of the stale and bring forth the fresh in practice, so as to stimulate the progress of social sciences. As for research, you shall be responsible, dedicative, and moral, only by this, can you make contributions to society. You shall be responsible for your family, which are applicative to society, country, and knowledge. I always say that previous scholars always proposed treating scientific research with the spirit of “going to the hell”, which had great influence on me. In the past, when the investigation research was the tensest, I always stayed up late, reading or thinking.
I have lived in a rural area since I was a child, and I have been engaged in rural economic research for a long time after starting work. I think that a theoretical scholar in the rural economy who is capable of outstanding achievements shall not only have a profound theoretical foundation, but also know national conditions, rural reality, and have experience in foreign countries, so as to combine theories and realities. I make onsite inspections in the countryside within a certain time, to master first-hand materials, so I have a comparatively in-depth understanding of actual problems on Chinese rural development in each stage. Rural reform countermeasures and rural development suggestions put forward by me are realistic, most of which have been tested and verified by practice. I propose rigorous scholarship, not only believing books and the leading body at a higher level, while insisting on believing reality.
I think past farmers are masters of agricultural production. The agricultural (rural) economic theoretical research work shall think what farmers think and reflect their wishes and requirements. In order to do this, you shall understand them, learn from them, and summarize their practical experience seriously, which shall become theories. I experienced farmers’ strength and wisdom from the downfall of the People’s Commune and the recovery of rural family operations. We shall respect the choice of farmers, and not consider ourselves always right. I appreciate Tian Jiaying, “three outstanding persons in
Social science workers shall pay attention to investigation research. When writing academic theses, I attach importance to the intelligible features, focusing on clarifying facts and answering important practical problems. I oppose dogmatism. I especially oppose academic plagiarism copying others theories and not respecting others’ labor. Everyone shall be indifferent to fame and wealth, devoting all their enthusiasm to the cause. Researchers on rural problems shall deepen the research on Chinese rural actual problems. My theoretical views have been stayed at some important moments of Chinese rural reform and development because of insisting on this kind of attitude. Embracing reality with naked spirit and keeping away from fame and wealth with the attitude being given the cold shoulder are my mottoes for research.
Wen: these research concepts of yours obviously reflect the spirit of being practical and realistic, and people are moved by this. We also want to know what to do when your own viewpoints are different from the ideological emancipation level at that time of your research?
Wang: believing realities rather than leaders at a higher level and believing truths rather than books has been my style of research on rural problems all my life. At the beginning of the 1980s, thought in the field of national policy research was not liberated, but I firmly believed investigation conclusions gained by me through practice, insisting in the correct study style of being practical and realistic of Marxism, and impacting doctrines bravely, so my thought was liberated. In the operation and management meeting of the national People’s Commune held in 1980, representatives participating in the meeting discussed drastically the direction of rural institutional reform. In a seminar, most spokesmen were against fixing farm output quotas for each household. I put forward different ideas, and I thought that rural lease holding appeared at that time was “Three Guarantees and an Award” at the time of advanced society and it shall be supported, but finally I was criticized. It can be seen that comrades in the Party and scholars who insisted on correct ideas at that time had huge pressures. Faced with this kind of pressure, I was not swayed, continuing to carry out investigation research in the countryside and reflecting ideas to a higher level. It is firmly said that the significant adjustment of the rural policy of the Party Central Committee and land contractual management becoming the basic system in the countryside are the result of scholars’ efforts, who insist on correct ideas.
Wen: you have also severed as a leader. Please talk about your experience in this area and the prospects for social science research work in the future.
Wang: in the 21st century, the human has entered into the era of eco-socialism and civilization. This is an era with great reform, and it will influence the economy, society, and culture of the human society. And its features are as follows:
1. As for the relationship between man and nature, nature reveals its strengths. It compels humans to stand in the place where humans shall stand. The harmony between man and nature is realized by the respect towards nature rather than domination.
2. Humans have summarized experiences and lessons and chosen the road of sustainable development.
3. Eco-socialism and its civilization are long-term, which are longer than industrial civilizations even agricultural civilizations.
4. In history, there is an initial stage in social civilization times, namely adjustment and transformation times. As for developed countries, it is not suitable to say post industrial times or post modernized times. As for developing countries, it is not suitable to say post industrial times or post modernized times, because both of them are eco-civilization. Although developing countries shall make up missed lessons of industrialization and modernization, they are different from the modernization of industrial civilization, and both shall realize eco-civilization on the basis of high technology.
In short, the era requires us to build the correct development concept and value concept.
When serving as a leader in the Rural Development Institute, I insisted in managing the institute democratically, gave full play to the democratic style, and inspired researchers. In this period, some young people stood out from the crowd, to be leading people in the field of rural policy research. I always say that, as leaders of a team, we shall listen to views from many aspects, what is called “Listen to both sides and you will be enlightened”. In that period, everyone in the institute was happy, and a kind of good research environment was formed.
At present, the overall situation in China’s social science research has been improved fundamentally, and it is an era for “men of talent to come out in succession”. And the level of the Rural Development Institute has been enhanced greatly. New leaders of the Party Central Committee advocate the concept of managing the country of “people oriented”, which has inspired theoretical workers. I hope that promising scholars can give play to their advantages, continue to work hard, exceed their predecessors, and gain greater achievements. And I especially pin my hopes on young people.
Dang Guoying, male, was born in Zichang County of Shaanxi province in 1957. Ph.D. Economics, Researcher at the Rural Development Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Director of Macro-economy Research Office, and Member of Academic Committee. Part-time positions in society: Member of Expert Team of State Ministry of Construction, Member of Village Disclosure Expert Team of Ministry of Civil Affairs, and Member of Expert Team of the Ministry of Commerce.
Tan Xuewen, male, was born in Guichi of Anhui in 1975. Ph.D. Economics, Assistant Researcher of Rural Development Institute of
Translated by Li Junwei.
Editor: Wang Daohang