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Symposium: 10 Years of New Rural Reconstruction

by | 1 December 2009 | 3 Comments | Last modified: 2 Dec 3:59 am

The Liang Shuming Center for Rural Reconstruction has just announced that this Saturday (December 5, 2009), the Rural Reconstruction Center of Renmin University will host a public symposium to reflect on the past ten years of New Rural Reconstruction efforts by student volunteers, social workers, academics, and grassroots activists. The occasion will also mark the fifth anniversary of the founding of the Liang Shuming Center, which has become a national center of this movement.

The symposium will take place from 9:00 to 16:30 in conference hall 930, Mingde Building, Renmin University of China, Beijing (北京市海淀区中国人民大学明德主楼901乡建办公室). Below is my translation of the schedule and background information provided by the Liang Shuming Center:


09:00—09:30 Sign in
09:30—09:35 Opening remarks (Wen Tiejun)
09:35—09:55 Reflection on 10 years of New Rural Reconstruction and student research in support of the peasantry (大学生支农调研) (Liu Laoshi)
09:55—10:00 The course of development of the Liang Shuming Center for Rural Reconstruction over the past five years (Bai Yali)
10:00—10:10 Speech by a supporting institution (Zhao Shukai)
10:10—10:20 Speech by a representative of [professional] rural reconstruction [activists] (Qiu Jiansheng)
10:20—10:30 Speech by a partner (Wu Jie)
10:30—10:40 Speech by a representative of peasant co-ops
10:40—10:50 Speech by a representative of student groups for supporting the peasantry (大学生支农社团)
10:50—10:55 Tea break
10:55—11:10 Awards ceremony for “[key] figures throughout 10 years of New Rural Reconstruction and student research in support of the peasantry”
11:15—11:20 Introduction to the “Seed Fund for Student Support for the Peasantry”
11:20—12:00 Speech by an advocate of New Rural Reconstruction and student research in support of the peasantry (Wen Tiejun)
12:00 Lunch
13:30—16:30 Split into discussion groups
Group one: Liang Shuming’s theory and practice of Rural Reconstruction
Group two: Peasant cooperation and mutually beneficial interaction between the urban and the rural
Group three: Reflection on ten years of exploring student research in support of the peasantry

In addition, several spaces will be prepared for “exhibiting the fruits of ten years of New Rural Reconstruction and student research in support of the peasantry.” Here sibling rural reconstruction groups may display their own promotional literature, training materials, books, discs, handicrafts, environmentally-friendly agricultural products, and so on.

University students stepped back into the countryside at a time when all kinds of [social] contradictions were unusually sharp in rural China, and when the [Chinese Communist] Party and the government were focusing increasingly on “the rural problem in three dimensions.” From that [situation] emerged a New Rural Reconstruction movement that eventually helped to bring about the state’s important strategy of “constructing a New Socialist Countryside.”

Over the past ten years, students doing research in support of the peasantry have not only experienced but also directly promoted and taken part in the development of rural society as a whole. They used the passion and sweat of youth, and selfless dedication and struggle, to write ten years of New Rural Reconstruction history together with peasants and the state. This decade has also been a decade in which China’s system of higher education has undergone its own tortuous exploration, adding to young students’ pain, uncertainty and effort to find a new path. When students begin to tie their own fate to the fate of the peasantry, what they find is not only their own future, but the future of the Chinese nation as a whole. Thus the students and peasants stand closely together on this stage, New Rural Reconstruction, singing the most glorious song of our era.

This decade in the history of rural reconstruction and supporting the peasantry has been full of passion, struggle, thought, and even marvels. In 1999, professors such as Wen Tiejun and Zhang Xiaoshan initiated activities for students to support the peasantry through research. In 2003 began the phase of New Rural Reconstruction experimentation, and one by one were established the Rural Reconstruction Center of Renmin University, the James Yen Institute for Rural Reconstruction, the Liang Shuming Center for Rural Reconstruction, the Danzhou Training Base in Hainan, and the Guoren1 Home for Migrant Workers in Xiamen, giving life to the whole project of rural reconstruction. In 2005 the Guoren Green Alliance was established, linking together multiple peasant organizations and beginning combine environmentally-friendly agriculture with healthful consumption. In 2007, the Guoren Urban-Rural Mutual Aid Co-op was founded, and it pushed forward the exploration of environmentally-friendly agriculture, promoting the “Little Donkey” model [of community-supported agriculture]. After the Sichuan earthquake of 2008, student volunteers and their peasant friends rapidly and spontaneously formed a rescue team that arrived on the front lines within two days of the quake. Now, with the development of the New Rural Reconstruction endeavor, young activists2 are no longer content with the usual short-term visits to villages. Among them there are many who have already start to take root in the countryside. Urban support for the peasantry (城市支农) has likewise evolved, from its initial donations and volunteer teaching [to children of migrants from rural areas] to entering residential communities, construction sites, and deeply among both urbanites and migrant workers.

Great changes have come with this decade of rural development, and the reform of higher education is at a point of great turbulence (风口浪尖). At this important historical juncture, comrades (同仁们) in rural reconstruction advancing with difficulty but boldly to the crossroads of education and “the rural problem,” fellow-traveling friends and teachers of all circles who quietly support [the movement], let us gather at Renmin University on December 5 and, together, look back on history, examine the present, and envision the future. Our sword has been sharpening for a decade, the milestone is before us, let’s open a new chapter (十年磨一剑,里程碑前,再开新篇)!

  1. Guoren (国仁) literally means “state” (i.e. China) and “humaneness” (one of the Confucian virtues). It is a name used by several New Rural Reconstruction organizations and projects.
  2. Literally “team members in supporting the peasantry” (支农队员).
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3 comments on “Symposium: 10 Years of New Rural Reconstruction

  1. langyan on said:

    Do you know why they are saying this is the ten year anniversary?

  2. husunzi on said:

    That was one reason this announcement caught my attention. Apparently they’re dating it from the beginning of student zhinong research under Wen Tiejun et al in 1999. It’s a little ambiguous though: you notice how the announcement literally says “10 years of student zhinong research and NRR,” then they say the former started in 1999, and in 2003 began “the phase of NRR experimentation.” Its ambiguous whether NRR includes student zhinong research as one part and experimentation as another, whether NRR refers specifically to the experimentation. If the latter, then NRR started in 2003 and student zhinong research was a precursor or preparatory phase.

    Another thing I find interesting is that Qiu Jiansheng is introduced as a “rural reconstruction representative” (乡建代表), whereas the other speakers are “peasant co-op representatives,” “student zhinong representatives,” etc., and if rural reconstruction referred specifically to the professional activities of people like QJS and not the rest. But maybe i’m reading too much into that - which is why I translated it as “representative of professional NRR activists.”

    By the why, do you have any idea who might have written this? Liu Laoshi? It was posted on 3Nong.org by “千里马村,” and the email was sent out by Chen Yan.

  3. Pingback: china study group » Blog Archive » Alternative food networks in China, part III: an interview, & more on Chengdu

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