China announces another bumper harvest. Family planning policy on cusp of change?
And why Beijing uses 市场主体 market entities instead of 公司 companies or 企业 enterprises as an umbrella term.
The National Bureau of Statistics on Thursday released data that showed another year of a bumper harvest, against the concerns that coronavirus pandemic could cut into food production across the world and particularly in China.
China's grain output reached nearly 670 billion kilograms in 2020, up 5.65 billion kilograms, or 0.9 percent, from last year, per NBS via Xinhua.
a few take-aways:
Production of soybeans, which China used to import in large sums from the U.S., rose 8.3% year on year, and the land for growing soybeans grew 5.3%, 受大豆振兴计划政策带动 thanks to the policies of the Soybean Revitalization Program.
The overall land for agricultural production rose 0.6% - reversing a straight four-year drop. Wei Houkai, a scholar with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said supportive policies from the central to the local level, including in fulfilling promises of subsidies, incentivized farmers.
President Xi Jinping did declare war on the squandering of food earlier this year and have repeatedly stressed the importance of food supply in China.
However, it should also be noted that throughout Chinese history, food shortages appeared many times, leading to instability, uprisings, and regime changes. Many older Chinese citizens nowadays retain memories of being hungry in their childhood or youth.
Therefore, the concern for food supply within Chinese society, especially among the leadership, is rooted in the perspective of not only the present but also history and potential political implications. There are no signs on the ground of a noticeable level of a food supply squeeze.
China now, largely, caps the number of children that a couple legally could have at TWO.
The Communist Party of China Central Committee’s recommendation for the country’s 14th Five Year Plan (2021-2025) has this to say related to the long-established family planning policy:
Implement the national strategy to actively cope with population aging. Formulate long-term population development strategies, optimize policies on fertility, enhance the inclusiveness of policies on fertility, improve the level of services conducive to good childbirth and childcare, develop a system of universally beneficial childcare services, reduce the costs of childbirth, parenting and education, promote long-term balanced population development and improve the quality of the population.
李纪恒 Li Jiheng, the Minister of Civil Affairs, recently wrote
At present, due to the influence of many reasons, China's population in childbearing age has a low willingness to give birth, the total fertility rate has fallen below the warning line, and population development has entered a critical turning point.
To implement the requirements of the Recommendation, we should grasp the major trend changes in population development, formulate long-term planning, and implement a national strategy for balanced population development; we should guide the fertility rate to rise and stabilize it in an appropriate range, (to) increase the supply of workforce, and achieve the coordination between population and economy, society, resources, environment.
It is perhaps the clearest signal so far that China’s standing family planning policy is on the cusp of change.
Taking upon Minister Li’s article, Dr. James Liang 梁建章, the loudest voice in China for relaxing birth policies for years, wrote in his column at Caixin, THE leading financial news outlet in China.
Liang wrote it is now without any doubt China has fallen into the abyss of low fertility, and the world’s most populous country faces a deeper demographic crisis than Japan, a country that’s widely expected to be trapped in a long period of population decline.
Liang, trained at Fudan, Georgia Tech, and Stanford, founded Nasdaq-listed Ctrip, a leading travel service, and teaches at Peking University. Among Chinese entrepreneurs, he is one of the rare ones who have consistently weighed in on a public policy issue of broad significance.
Liang has consistently and strongly advocated abolishing any birth limit and incentivizing, through government supports, couples to have more children.
Last year, Liang harshly criticized established demographers including Prof. Zhai Zhenwu of Renmin University, calling Zhai as misleading public discussions and stalling badly-needed reform. Also last year, Liang predicted, China’s population will drop from the current 1.4 billion to around 600 million in the year 2100, fewer than the U.S. population then. The Stanford-trained PhD economist said China’s GDP, consequently, will be lower than the U.S. in the end of this country.
Thank you for reading and please stay safe - it’s been a long, long year, and it’s recently has been chilly and windy here.
The following part is in fact a subtweet. Feel free to skip it if you are not familiar with the context. Or you can read it as one minor part of Chinese Official Jargon 101.
In English-language press, individual businesses, when needed to be described as a whole, are commonly referred to as businesses, companies, or perhaps enterprises. But in Chinese official jargons, the term is a unique four-syllable mouthful 市场主体 shi chang zhu ti, properly translated as market entity/player.
It’s not that there are no equivalents to companies or enterprises in proper Mandarin - there is 公司 gong si for companies and 企业 qi ye for enterprises, literal translation to each English word.
For example, Premier Li Keqiang said 上亿市场主体的坚强韧性是我们应对困难挑战的最大底气 the strong resilience of hundreds of millions of market entities is our greatest strength to deal with the difficulties and challenges. He didn’t say hundreds of millions of companies 公司 or enterprises 企业, he used 市场主体 market entities instead.
This choice of word is consistent, also seen here in a July meeting between Xi and business executives. Xi also didn’t use companies 公司 or enterprises 企业 - he, too, used 市场主体 market entities instead.
So, why? Why deliberately avoid much easier words?
The highlighted sentences, from Xi, offer a hint:
Since the reform and opening up, China has gradually established and continuously improved the socialist market economy system, the market system continues to develop, and all kinds of market entities are growing vigorously. By the end of 2019, China has 123 million market entities, including 38.58 million enterprises and 82.61 million individual business households.
It’s because, apparently, Beijing believes neither 公司 companies nor enterprises 企业 is comprehensive and accurate enough to be used as an umbrella term for all the business entities in China.
As per the logic in Xi’s words, 市场主体 market entities = 企业 enterprises + 个体户 individual households.
In fact, 企业 enterprises in the Chinese context can be divided into further categories, including but probably not limited to 公司 companies and 合伙企业 partnerships, and they got separate laws governing them.
Have a nice weekend.