Liu Hanzhang is a farm worker on the “May 1” farm of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps(XPCC). “In the past, wintertime was a time of leisure for us. Now, we take advantage of this break to make money,” Liu said. In fact, the change from leisure time to peak business time demonstrates the transformation into a market economy. By studying and implementing the “Three Represents,” the Corps has accelerated economic restructuring and radiates a new vigor.
Optimizing and enhancing the agricultural sector
Agriculture is the backbone of the Corps’ economy. However, during the transition from planned economy to market economy, it is extremely difficult for the Corps to make the key move of agricultural reform: “land contracting management.”
In order to stimulate the initiative and creativity of farm work, and to enhance operation vitality; the Corps introduced both a reform program with long-term fixed land contracts and expansion of decision-making power in 2001. At the same time, the Corps distributed two mu of land to each household free of charge, guiding them into a courtyard economy.
Contracting land led to profound structural changes in agriculture. The proportion of agriculture once accounted for 40% of the total GDP of the entire Corps. Cotton has been a dominant sector for a long time, and was once referred to as the surname of the Corps. In order to change this one-crop farming structure, the Corps decided to encourage farmers into a “three-pillar” economy featuring “cultivation, horticulture, and aquaculture.”
Located in northern Tianshan Mountain and downstream of the Manas River, the No. 8 Regiment is engaged in growing cotton. Of its 100,000 mu of farmland, 80,000 mu consist of cotton fields. In July and August 2001, a rare natural disaster hit the cotton fields, destroying half of the cotton yield. Additionally, cotton market prices declined, and farm workers suffered serious losses.
The massive disaster taught the farm workers a vivid lesson. To withstand market risks, they must replace simple planting with multiple planting. In early spring of last year, the regiment allowed farm workers to plant economic crops, other than cotton, on 50% of the land; and encouraged the workers to breed poultry and grow special crops in family courtyards.
“May 1st” Farm is close to Urumqi. It vigorously promotes the planting of tomatoes, hops and grapes. This year, the average income of workers increased by 1,300 yuan over the previous year; and the growth rate was the highest since the establishment of the regiment. The No. 71 Regiment in the Ili Valley relies on natural resources for their spices industry and built the country’s largest spices base. The Zhaosu Reclamation Area, home to the “Tianshan horses,” also vigorously developed animal husbandry. In three years, livestock herds have quadrupled in number.
“This year, the Corps’ per capita GDP will exceed 10,000 yuan,” said Liu Guangyu, director of the Corps Bureau of Agriculture.