Developing National Economy
Relationship Between Agriculture,
Light Industry and Heavy Industry
— Summary of a discussion among cadres in Kwangtung Province
[This article is reprinted from Peking Review, #34, Aug. 25, 1972,
pp. 7-9, 20.]
CHINA’S industrial and agricultural production has been developing
steadily. 1971 witnessed the tenth bumper grain harvest in a row and a 10 per cent increase over 1970
in total industrial output value. Steel output last year was 21 million tons. The fundamental cause of
all these achievements lies in the implementation of Chairman Mao’s revolutionary line, particularly
the correct handling of the relationship between agriculture, light industry and heavy industry.
Leading cadres in charge of economic work in several administrative
regions and counties in Kwangtung recently discussed some questions on the relationship between
agriculture, light industry and heavy industry. They laid special emphasis on studying Chairman Mao’s
Chairman Mao long ago scientifically elucidated the dialectical
relationship between agriculture and industry and showed the way to correctly handle the relationship
between agriculture, light industry and heavy industry. In his speech On the Correct Handling of
Contradictions Among the People made in 1957, Chairman Mao once again pointed out clearly: “In
discussing our path to industrialization, I am here concerned principally with the relationship between
the growth of heavy industry, light industry and agriculture. It must he affirmed that heavy industry
is the core of China’s economic construction. At the same time, full attention must be paid to the
development of agriculture and light industry.” “As China is a large agricultural country, with over
80 per cent of her population in the rural areas, industry must develop together with agriculture, for
only thus can industry secure raw materials and a market, and only thus is it possible to accumulate
fairly large funds for building a powerful heavy industry.” “As agriculture and light industry develop,
heavy industry, assured of its market and funds, will grow faster.” Later, further explaining the
theory that agriculture is the foundation of the national economy, Chairman Mao summed it up in these
words: “Take agriculture as the foundation and industry as the leading factor” — which makes up
the general principle for developing the national economy. He pointed out that first place must be
given to the development of agriculture. These instructions of Chairman Mao’s are profoundly dialectical;
they reveal the objective laws governing the growth of socialist economy in China and are a development
of the political economy of Marxism.
The consensus of opinion among the cadres taking part in the discussion
was: Guided by Chairman Mao’s revolutionary line, the entire nation has carried out the general principle
of “taking agriculture as the foundation and industry as the leading factor” and put a timely stop
to the interference and sabotage of the revisionist line pushed by Liu Shao-chi and company, namely,
“stressing industry but neglecting agriculture” and “developing heavy industry at the expense of
agriculture.” As a result, the relationship between agriculture, light industry and heavy industry has
been handled comparatively well and a steady increase in agricultural production has been achieved. The
growth of agriculture has given great impetus to the swift growth of light and heavy industries and other
branches of the national economy. Our markets are brisk, prices are stable, and agricultural and side-line
products and consumer goods are rich in variety. All this contributes to the relatively rapid advance of
China’s socialist industrialization.
Taking Agriculture as the Foundation
A coastal province in south China, Kwangtung had some light industrial
and handicraft enterprises but little heavy industry. Though heavy industry later developed to some
extent, the speed of its growth still lagged behind that of some other provinces, and its products fell
short of the needs of the province’s developing agriculture and light industry. It was, therefore,
necessary to further develop heavy industry.
On the other hand, Kwangtung is a high-yielding farming area. Its
average grain yield has topped the target of 800 jin per mu set by the state. Its sugar
output accounts for a big proportion of the nation’s total, and its jute, oil-bearing crops, aquatic
products and subtropical produce also make up a fairly large proportion. The country’s economic
development calls for a further growth in the province’s farm production so that it can provide the
state with more grain and more raw materials for light industry.
Heavy industry must be developed simultaneously with the further
growth of agriculture. But how should the relationship between agriculture, light industry and heavy
industry be correctly handled? And how should contradictions in regard to the distribution of labour
power, funds, equipment and materials among the three be solved?
Practice in their localities has enabled the cadres taking part in
the discussion to come to a deep understanding that they must first of all firmly bear in mind the
principle of taking agriculture as the foundation of the national economy if the relationship between
the three is to be handled satisfactorily.
Raw materials, equipment and technique are indispensable to industrial
development; but if we consider the national economy as a whole, it is agriculture, in the final
analysis, that determines the scope and tempo of industrial development.
The example of Kwangtung’s Hsingning County abundantly proves this.
Though the county abounds in coal and iron resources, it had to get iron and steel from other areas
before the Great Cultural Revolution to meet its needs. To change this situation, the former county
leadership appropriated a large amount of funds, equipment and labour power to build a number of small
blast furnaces, with the result that agriculture and light industry were adversely affected. Moreover,
its iron and steel industry did not get anywhere.
After the county revolutionary committee was established, it adhered
to the principle of “taking agriculture as the foundation and industry as the leading factor”
and worked out an overall plan and a rational arrangement for the county’s agriculture, light and
heavy industries. It mobilized the masses to emulate Shansi Province’s Tachai Production Brigade, a
national pace-setter in agriculture, in an effort to accelerate farm production. Since 1969, the
county’s average grain yield has exceeded 1,000 jin per mu every year and there has
been a big increase in industrial crops, forest and side-line products. This has provided light
industry, including sugar-making, with abundant raw materials and stimulated its quick development.
On this basis, they went in for heavy industry in a selective and
planned way and achieved encouraging results. The county has now built and put into operation 38 small
blast furnaces as against only seven in 1968. Its 1971 pig iron output was over 4,300 tons, 27 times
that of 1968. Coal output also increased fivefold.
Taking Industry as the Leading Factor
Participants in the discussion held that when engaging in socialist
economic construction we must keep to the principle that “heavy industry is the core.” It must
be affirmed that top priority must be given to the development of heavy industry. This is because
heavy industry turns out the means of production, and only with an increase in the means of production
can agriculture and light industry as well as heavy industry itself constantly obtain new technology
and equipment, and only in this way can national defence be strengthened and the development of the
entire national economy be expedited.
Meanwhile, we must bring the leading role of industry into full play
in order to continuously strengthen the role of agriculture as the foundation. Chairman Mao has pointed
out: “The fundamental way out for agriculture lies in mechanization.” Only by mechanizing
agriculture can labour productivity be steadily raised, the socialist collective economy of the rural
people’s communes strengthened and the backward state of our countryside changed, thereby narrowing,
the difference between city and countryside and further consolidating the worker-peasant alliance.
Mechanization of farm production depends on help from industry. An important aspect of industry’s
leading role is to support agriculture with more and better farm machines, chemical fertilizer and
These cadres fully realized this from the experience of Hsingning
County and other regions. When Hsingning’s iron and steel industry had made some headway, the Huangpi
Commune, which was the first to build small blast furnaces here, used the iron it produced to make
25,000 pieces of farm tools such as ploughshares, rice threshers and huskers in a little over a year.
Other communes which had built small blast furnaces and coal-pits also relied on their own efforts to
produce large quantities of farm machinery and implements. With funds accumulated from industrial
production, many communes bought chemical fertilizer, tractors, lorries, draught animals and other
means of production, thus putting agriculture on a solid material base and bringing about its swift
development. In 1971 the county’s grain output hit an all-time high, averaging 1,100 jin per
mu, while its industrial crops, stock-breeding and side-line production also reported big
During the discussion, the cadres stressed that in implementing the
principle of “taking agriculture as the foundation and industry as the leading factor,”
industrial departments must take supporting agriculture as their long-term task and pay special
attention to producing urgently needed farm machines and accessories. They cited the Pearl River Delta
as an example.
A big power network was set up by the state in the delta which is
crisscrossed by waterways. With a complete electrically operated drainage and irrigation system, some
people thought that everything would be plain sailing. But the fact was that while the plain had the
benefit of the power network, some hilly areas did not have electric supply. Moreover, the amount of
power generated by the big hydroelectric stations dropped as a result of long spells of drought in the
past two years and so could not meet irrigation needs. In view of this, industrial departments in many
counties promptly produced power-generating equipment and necessary accessories to help rural people’s
communes build small hydroelectric stations to supplement the big power network. This gave powerful
support to agricultural production and helped bring about an all-round development, of the economy. In
other counties where industrial departments did not take effective measures to solve the problem of
electricity shortage, farm production was adversely affected because of inadequate means to combat
drought, and this in turn was unfavourable to the further development of industry.
Interdependence and Mutual Promotion
Practical experience has enabled the cadres to realize that “more”
agriculture leads to “more” light industry, and “more” agriculture and light industry lead to “more”
heavy industry, while “more” heavy industry makes for “much more” agriculture and light industry. This
is the dialectics of the growth of agriculture, light industry and heavy industry.
Closely related to this growth is the rational arrangement of labour
power. There is an objective ratio for the allocation of labour power to industrial and farm production,
which in the last analysis is determined by the level of agricultural development.
At present, the level of mechanization of farm work in China is still
not high; the greater part of the work is done by manual labour, that is to say, labour power constitutes
the main productive force. Such being the case, it is therefore imperative that there is sufficient
manpower on the agricultural front. This is a major condition for the further development of agriculture
and a guarantee for the advance of industry. Farm production will be retarded and both agricultural and
industrial development will be affected if the increase of industrial labour power and urban population
goes beyond the limit permitted by the level of agricultural production and too much labour power is
transferred from the rural areas to the cities.
Hsuwen County is a case in point. Prior to the Great Cultural ReVolution,
much of the county’s waste-land had not been reclaimed. Sugar-cane acreage was small and yields were low
due to poor cultivation. This notwithstanding, much labour power was transferred from the countryside to
build a sugar refinery.
The result, of course, was that its sugar-making industry failed to
develop swiftly. In the light of this situation, the county revolutionary committee took measures to
ensure stable and sufficient labour power for agriculture. During the sugar-producing season, the refinery
did not engage additional people from the countryside as it had done before, but employed city dwellers
and dependents of workers and staff on a seasonal basis. In running their mining industries, the rural
people’s communes and production brigades worked out production plans with an eye to the actual conditions
in the busy and slack farming seasons.
Thanks to the proper arrangement of labour power which first of all
ensured normal agricultural production, this county has over the past few years completed a number of
water conservancy projects and reclaimed land to expand the acreage sown to food crops and sugar-cane.
What with improved field management, the result was a 100 per cent increase in sugar-cane output in 1971
as compared with the year before the Great Cultural Revolution. In addition to the old refinery which now
has an abundant sugar-cane supply, a new sugar refinery has been built. Hsuwen County has thus become a
rising sugar-making centre, and its industry and agriculture have developed simultaneously.
The cadres held that the development of the national economy would be
handicapped if the needs of industry are not taken into consideration while developing agriculture. With
respect to agriculture, to correctly handle the relationship between agriculture and industry, it is
essential to implement the principle of “taking grain as the key link and ensuring an all-round
development” put forward by Chairman Mao. That is to say, while firmly grasping grain production,
measures suited to local conditions should be taken to raise the output of industrial crops and develop
forestry, animal husbandry, side-line production and fishery. In this way, more raw materials will be
supplied to industry, and at the same time both the accumulation funds of the rural collective economy
and the commune members’ income will be increased thereby providing a bigger market for industrial
products and ensuring the continued growth of agriculture and industry.
Surpassing the planned target set by the state for grain output in
1970, Chungshan County supplied more than 300 million jin of grain to the state. But its sugar
output and other light industrial products decreased, that year owing to the shortage of raw materials.
As a result, it failed to bring about an all-round development of its economy.
Guided by the principle of “taking grain as the key link and
ensuring an all-round development” in 1971, the county Party committee made readjustments with
regard to the acreage sown to food and industrial crops and succeeded in reaping a bumper harvest of
both. In the wake of a big increase in sugarcane, sugar output soared and other branches of the light
industry also developed. The county’s economy is thriving as never before. This year, while putting
rice production on a solid base, the county added 28,000 mu of fertile farmland to its acreage
of sugar-cane and other industrial crops in an effort to supply the state with more grain and more raw
materials for light industry.
The cadres taking part in the discussion have come to the following
conclusion: Being a socialist country, China develops her national economy in a planned way and
proportionately. Not only can the central leading organs and planning departments work out an overall
plan for agriculture, light industry and heavy industry, but each region can also handle well the
relationship between the three to fit in with the needs of the entire nation. This can never be done
under the capitalist system.
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