Research and Teaching Blog
It's been a while since I posted, and this post hopefully will allow me to catch up and note the highlights of our visits to Jilin University.
Professor Han hosted us. One of the first things we did was to go to an agricultural expo. It was immense in size, and included everything from model greenhouses growing a host of different food and landscape crops. A neat idea was the wooden trellises that were used to support variously shaped colorful gourds. A few of them looked like chinese lanterns. Besides gourds, some trellises were also used for tomato and sweet potato vines.
There were a large number of (presumably) farmers who were displaying their best corn and selling their own variety of seed. Apparently, given the small size of an individual farmer's holdings, they only buy about a pound or two pounds of seed for planting.
Among farm machinery, there were quite a few kinds of planters, harvesters, sprayers etc., but most of them were designed for small, narrow plots, with 4-6 rows in a planter. I wonder if the power farm machinery business works the same way in China as it does in the US (e.g. contractor-owned machinery)
Another highlight of the Jilin visit was the trip to a farming village which grew corn and raised swine. We met with the leader of the village, who was also a member of the Communist Party. They had an ambitious plan to reorganize a village through the following steps:
- Organize small farmers into a single co-operative to gain more control on the land, and therefore more control on problem areas such as overuse of fertilizer and pesticides.
- Construct an apartment complex 'village' to consolidate and vertically raise residential area.
- Increase farm mechanization, as a direct consequence of farm consolidation.
- And hence, as an ultimate goal, reduce farm labor, freeing up people to work on value added, off-farm jobs such as raising and processing swine.
- This would also necessitate the creation of other support structures such as health care facilities and social security in the farm of guaranteed jobs for people under 60.
- Interestingly, their schools would also need to consolidate with schools from neighboring villages since the number of children is basically reducing over time
The last point makes me think of a more philosophical question: Let's assume that a knowledge-based economy is a necessary stage in the economic development of any nation, and is one which follows the stages of subsistence and service-based economies. Can such an economy develop inside a socialist, top-down model? In other words, is capitalism a necessary (but maybe not sufficient) condition for a knowledge-based economy? Isn't knowledge a form of a capital? Comments welcome...