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Agrarian reform and rural development strategies in China, Japan and other rice-based economies of Monsoon Asia


IN MONSOON ASIA, THE models of rural development are divided between economies based on private and public land ownership. Economies based on private land ownership may follow the Japanese model of rural development which began in 1946 and features individual/cooperative mixed economies with individual ownership of small and fragmented farms plus rural cooperatives providing services, government rice-supporting policies and construction of rural infrastructure. Following this model leads to higher yields and multiple cropping of rice and other grains, diversified cropping and non-crop agriculture. Off-farm employment, which is one of the features, has lead to peasant migration to cities and towns. Because the small farm size has impeded the use of large machinery, achievement of economies of scale has been an obstacle to sustainable growth. Its expansion has been hampered by private land ownership.

The countries that could follow this model can be divided into four groups.

· Japan, Taiwan and South Korea. Rice self-sufficiency ended in 1994. The same process has been repeated by Taiwan and South Korea. The major proposal in the paper is to return land to public ownership and to set up a dual land operating system.

· Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. The speed of industrialization in these countries is high, but income disparity is unfavourable to rural areas. They should strengthen rural development following the Japanese model and also start to overcome the obstacle of small farm size.

· Sri Lanka, India, the Philippines, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Industrialization is less speedy. The majority of Asia's poor are in these countries. They should overcome social instability and strengthen rural development by following the Japanese model.

· Bhutan and Nepal. Progressed in road building but are still among the world's poorest nations. Land reform is imperative and could be achieved with the Japanese model.

Economies based on public land ownership are exemplified by the Chinese model of rural development. The Chinese model started in 1978 featuring collective/individual mixed economies with collective ownership of land and household-based operation of small and fragmented farms. It uses the collective/individual/capitalistic mixed economies to achieve economies of scale of land. The fact that there is agricultural mechanization with large machinery is different from and superior to the counterparts of the Japanese model, while other features are similar. Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar have followed the Chinese model and should strengthen their rural development efforts in this sense. North Korea still keeps its centrally-planned economy and should start reform along the Chinese model.

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