China Publishing Company 1961
LAND REFORM achievements on Taiwan have attracted widespread attention. Countries of Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America have sent representatives to make on-the-spot inspections or have requested cooperation and the dispatch of Chinese personnel to help them solve their land problems. Foreign visitors have shown a keen interest in our program. Consequently, it is hoped that these pages will make a small contribution to better understanding of Taiwan land reform and serve as a reference for those who want to carry out similar projects.
A study of Chinese history for the last 2,000 years shows recurring pattern s of war and peace. Many causes may be listed, but the most important is inability to maintain a proper balance between land and population for any length of time. Whenever population increased to a point where land was insufficient, violent uprisings broke out and civil wars ensued. But with resulting reduction of population and restoration of the land-population equilibrium, another period of social and political stability would begin. Lasting peace and stability are not possible until this vicious cycle has been ended.
We know only too well that the best way to effect changes in an agrarian economy is to develop industry and trade. However, in a country where the economy is predominantly agricultural, capital investment in land and the exploitation of human labor constitute great impediments to such development. We must begin by setting and labour free throgh land reform.
Not only that. Even to step up land productivity, land reform is necessary. Under an unreasonable tenancy system, farmers have neither the interest to increase production nor the ability to improve land utilization.
When the author was Governor of Hupeh Province in 1939, a serious drought occurred. Curiously, farmers refused to cooperate with the civil and military personnel and students who were dispatched to help them pump water into their fields. We later discovered this was because they could enjoy the full fruits of their labor only by allowing the rice seedlings to wither and then planting drought-resistant crops in their stead. After the implementation of farm rent reduction on Taiwan in 1949, there was a steady increase in rice production. This was due to the fact that with increased income resulting from rent reduction, farmers have greater incentive and increased ability to boost production.
The author was appointed Governor of Taiwan Province in 1949. At that juncture the general situation on the mainland was deteriorating fast, the morale of the people on Taiwan was low, economic confusion and social unrest were rampant, and it looked as though anything might happen. To safeguard the island as a base of operations for national recovery, we required social stabi lity, and the first prerequisite had to be satisfactory solution of the problem of the people’s livelihood . Social and economic conditions of Taiwan still rested on an agricultural basis. Farmers constituted more than three-fifths of the population, and the number of tenants was more than two-thirds of all farm families. Social stability, improved people’s livelihood and economic development could take place only through land reform.
In view of the unstable situation on Taiwan at the time, it was decided that reform should not be rushed but should be undertaken in a series of steps. As the first of these, rent paid by tenant farmers was limited to 37.5 per cent of the annual yield of the main crop. The successful implementation of this program can be attributed to three factors: (1) reasonable rentals which gave the tenant more income but caused relatively slight loss to the landlord; (2) correct classification of land categories and grades, leading to just and reasonable appraisal of the yield of the main crop; and (3) heightening of the farmer’s incentive and productive ability in coordination with the government’ s policy to boost production of rice by 20 per cent. Consequently, the amount of the landlord’s income was not diminished in spite of rent reduction.
At that time, about 21 per cent of farmland in Taiwan was public land. As a part of its rent reduction policy, the Chinese Government offered such lands for lease at reduced rentals in order to improve the livelihood of farmers. Once the rent reduction program had been successfully carried out, the government decided, in 1951, to offer these lands for sale to incumbent tenants, who were given all necessary protection and assistance.
By 1953, the rent.reduction program had become solidly established and had produced excellent results. With this as a basis and with the experience gained from the sale of public lands, we decided to implement a land-to-the-tiller policy aimed at eradication of the tenancy system and the freeing of capital in vested in land to promote industrial and commercial development and the transformation of the economic and social structure of the country.
Five principles were adopted. (1) We decided to carry out the program gradually and by peaceful means. Landlords were permitted to retain a reasonable maximum of tenanted land. Amounts over and above this limit were compulsorily sold to the government at fairly fixed prices for resale to tenants. Next, the government extended loans to the farmers to enable them to buy the lands retained by the landlord. (2) Both the compulsory pur chase of land and its resale were effected through the government
Without direct contact between landlord and tenant so as to prevent abuses or disputes. (3) Care was taken to see that the buyer was the original tiller, that the land was the same he had been tilling and that the way of operating the farm was unchanged. (4) For protection of other enterprises, limits were set to farmlands owned by educational, social, and economic undertaking and industrial and commercial plants, and such lands were exempted from compulsory purchase and sale. (5) Protection was given to owner-cultivators by preventing the transfer or lease of farmlands purchased under the land-to-the-tiller program before the price had been paid in full. A production loan fund was provided to encourage the farmer-purchaser to operate the land on a cooperative basis with improved techniques.
Successful implementation of the land-to-the-tiller policy was attributable to these principles and four other important factors. First, a firm foundation had been laid by the operation of the rent reduction program. Second, the prior implementation of the general landownership classification program had resulted in clear and accurate data on land categories, distribution of rights, actual condition of use, and identity and number of resident and nonresident landlords. Third, the compensation paid landlords by the government was fair and reasonable. Issuance of land bonds and stock shares of public enterprises as compensation guaranteed landlords against the risk of possible inflation. Fourth, the government induced landlords to engage in industry and assisted those with small holdings to take up other occupations.
Several conspicuous results have emerged from land reform on Taiwan, social unrest and confusion have gradually given way to stability. Social order is especially good in the rural areas. After the farmers acquired landownership, they became deeply interested in maintaining peace and order in the community. The farmer’s productive capacity has been raised and economic development fostered. Increased income, a better livelihood and higher purchasing power have stimulated industrial and commercial development and economic prosperity. Gradual transfer to industry and trade of the capital originally tied up in land has led to a phenomenal development of trade and industry, trans formation of the social and economic structure, and a big forward step toward an industrial society.
According to our experience, the implementation of land reform is not only basic to the betterment of the people’s livelihood and the promotion of political and social stability, but also a motive force for furtherance of economic development and industrialization. The progress we have made in economic reconstruction is largely due to the influence of changes in agriculture.
As of today, our efforts are directed toward several goals. On the one hand, we have to preserve and expand the achievements of land reform and protect the interests of the farmers. On the other, we need to strengthen land utilization and make full use of the economic value of land in order to enrich the people as individuals and the nation as a whole. Meanwhile, we must accelerate economic development and foster industry. The author
is convinced that with the implementation of land reform on Taiwan, we can break China’s vicious circle of cyclical war and peace,and also fully develop our industry and trade so as to modernize the national economy and the people’s livelihood, and to guarantee and develop political democracy through economic freedom. We may even say that land reform on Taiwan will mark an important change in the course of our history.
The situation on the Communist-controlled Chinese mainland is entirely different. There, in the name of agrarian reform, the Chinese Comunists have deceived the people and created a reign of terror. As a result of Communist rule, Chinese farmers have fallen into the status of serfs. Years of farm failure have exposed all the people to starvation. The contrast with the situation on Taiwan is clear and indisputable.
We are sincerely sorry for our failure to carry out Dr. Sun Yay-sen’s land-to-the-tiller ideal while we were still on the main land. Though that failure may be partly attributed to internal disturbances and foreign invasion, it was due mainly to the selfishness of a small minority of people, to their shortsightedness and lack of courage. The achievements of land reform on Taiwan may compensate, to some extent, for that failure, but we cannot be satisfied with this limited accomplishment. We must make greater exertions to achieve still greater progress. We must be determined. on the basis of the experience gained on Taiwan, to put the land-to-the-tiller policy into effect on the mainland after its recovery. Our brethren there then may be delivered from starvation and slavery, and come to enjoy the freedom, stability, and happy life that they are entitled to.
THE LAND PROBLEM
Man cannot live without land, from which he derives his sustenance. Land is, as a matter of fact, the mainstay of human life. It must be observed, however, that while there has not been much change in the total area of land since ancient times, the increase of population, if unchecked, may have no limit at all. In primitive ages when there was plenty of land with few inhabitants, every person could have as much land as he wanted. Hence there was no land problem. But in later times, as land became scarce in proportion to increased population . the supply was insufficient to meet the demand. Land came an object over whose possession individual fought individual and nation fought nation. Thus the land problem gradually arose.
Though the land problem is complex, it may be said to consist of the following aspects:
- Problem of land distribution: This arose as a result of the lack of proper regulations to govern the ownership of land and the enjoyment of its fruits. The feudal form of land distribu tion was unjust and objectionable. Unrestricted appropriation of land for their own benefit by big landlords must be considered outrageous.
Note. We hope to add a précis of the rest of the book in due course.