Acceptance Speech by H.E. Wen Jiabao Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China At the Ceremony Presenting the Agricola Medal
2 October 2012
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I want to thank Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva for conferring on me the Agricola Medal of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. This is more than a personal honor to me. It represents the international community's full recognition of and high acclaim for what China has achieved in agriculture and rural development. China's grain output has been increasing for nine consecutive years, and this year's output is about 150 million tons more than that nine years ago. This has provided a strong safeguard for China's economic and social development and improvement of people's lives. It is also a major contribution to global food security.
In the course of fast agricultural development in China, rural livelihood has been improved markedly. In less than 10 years, we have abolished agricultural tax and introduced such schemes as grain production subsidies and minimum purchase price for grain. The per capita net income of rural residents rose from 2,622 yuan in 2003 to 6,977 yuan last year. It registered a real increase of 93.1% in price-adjusted terms, or 8.6% every year on average. The development of industrialization and urbanization has seen 250 million rural labor shifting to urban and non-farming jobs. And around 42% of farmers' per capita net income is wage income. The rapid development of rural infrastructure and social services has brought tremendous changes to rural areas and the production and living conditions of farmers. We rolled out free compulsory education in rural areas first. All rural students in compulsory education no longer pay tuition and miscellaneous fees, and have access to free textbooks provided by the government. In addition, boarding students from poor families receive living allowances. Rural students in secondary vocational schools whose families have financial difficulties and all students of agriculture-related majors are exempted from paying tuition fees. The new type of rural cooperative medical care scheme, the rural subsistence allowance scheme and the new old-age pension scheme for rural residents have basically achieved full coverage. Historic achievements have been made in the poverty alleviation endeavor in rural China. The essential needs of farmers in poverty-stricken areas have been basically met. The rural poor population has been cut by nearly 250 million, and China became the first country to attain the Millennium Development Goal of cutting the impoverished population by half. Last year, we significantly raised the national poverty line and launched a new round of key projects in alleviating poverty through development. China's achievements in agriculture and rural development would not have been possible without rural reform, a pioneering step in China's grand cause of reform, the correct approach of giving top priority to agriculture in the economy and the principle of "industry supporting agriculture and cities supporting the countryside". These achievements are attributable to the commitment of the government to upholding farmers' rights and interests, respecting their aspiration for a better life and motivating farmers to engage in production and build new rural areas. These achievements are also the result of China's active participation in broad international exchanges and cooperation.
China is still a developing country with a big population. To ensure adequate food for the over one billion people is always a matter of top priority in governing the country. China cannot be regarded as a moderately prosperous society unless its farmers enjoy moderate prosperity and China cannot be regarded as a modern country unless it achieves modernization in agriculture and rural areas. We will continue to strengthen the role of agriculture as the foundation of the economy, prioritize grain production in the agricultural modernization drive, stick to the policy of basic self-reliance in food supply and make due contribution to world food security. During this process, the Chinese government will remain committed to growing its sound cooperative relationship with the FAO and make continued efforts to promote the development of agriculture in the whole world. I wish to take this opportunity to express, on behalf of the Chinese government, sincere appreciation to the FAO for your longstanding support to China's agricultural development.
This medal means a lot, and I am receiving this honor on behalf of the Chinese people and government. I have been engaged in work related to agriculture, rural areas and farmers for many years and I am fully aware that one who knows not Chinese farmers knows not China. Since becoming Premier of the State Council, I have always taken addressing issues related to agriculture, rural areas and farmers as the top priority of all my work. This is because I have deep feelings for farmers. And more importantly, it is in keeping with the ideal of the Party and the government of running the country for the interests of the people. We need to achieve steady increase in the output of grain and other agricultural products. We also need to ensure that the vast rural population will share the benefits of economic development and social progress in the course of modernization. We will never relent in our efforts to pursue this goal.
Let us work together to make new contribution to ensuring global food security and advancing the well-being of farmers around the world.
Thank you, Mr. Director-General. Thank you all.