BEIJING — The government soon may allow Chinese peasants to buy and sell their land rights, letting some leave the land for good and others farm more efficiently on a larger scale, a Communist Party official said today.
The announcement came as the party held its first national congress in five years to reaffirm top leader Deng Xiaoping's policy of introducing market reforms and opening to the world.
"We are now considering the transfer of (land) utilization rights," Du Runsheng, head of the party's Rural Policy Research Office, said at a news conference.
Du stressed that only land rights would be sold and not the land itself, which still is considered public property even though communes have been dismantled and families farm separate plots.
Today's meetings of the national congress were not open to foreign reporters, as was the opening session Sunday.
Instead, the party arranged what it said would be a daily news briefing for reporters.
The proposed agricultural policy would be in line with the government's stated goal of reducing the farming population by 30 million more by 1995. Already this decade, 70 million peasants have left the fields to work in new rural industries, but in most cases their plots have been farmed by other family members.
Some localities have allowed peasants to sublease their plots on a temporary basis, but those who lease ultimately remain responsible for meeting state grain quotas for the land.
About 80% of China's 1 billion people live in rural areas.
Du was joined at the news conference by Gao Shangquan, vice minister for the State Commission for Restructuring the Economy. Gao acknowledged popular discontent with rising prices under the reforms.
The government has said inflation will average 6% to 7% this year, and the prices of some foodstuffs have doubled due to selective decontrol.
"We will persist in efforts" to reform the pricing system, said Gao, "but proceed in a steady manner to maintain basic stability of prices."