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2.1 Geography1

The People's Republic of China is vast. Its territory sprawls over 9.6 million km2. The distance from borders in the east to those in the west measures 5 000 km and from north to south it spans over 5 500 km.

China's present population is about 800 million2.

Administratively, China consists of three municipalities (Peking, Shanghai and Tientsin) directly under the central authority, 22 provinces and five autonomous regions. Figure 1 shows the main administrative subdivisions and their capitals.

China's topography varies widely. Cloud-capped peaks give way to basins of different slopes and sizes. Wide, rolling plateaus alternate with low, broad plains. There are great deserts and wilds in the northwest. Rivers, streams and lakes slice the plains on the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtse River. The Mission, while travelling almost 4 500 km within China, saw only part of this diversity.

Some areas are warm the year round; others have long winters and short summers. Most of the land lies in the temperate zone. A combination of high temperatures and adequate rainfall provides favourable farming conditions, especially in the east and south.

China has rich water resources. From the Changpai Mountains in the northeast to the Hengtuan Mountains in the southeast, huge potentials for generating hydraulic power and building water conservancy projects exist.

The three major plains - the Northwest, the North China and the lower Yangtse Plain-have a total area of about a million square kilometres. They make up roughly one tenth of China's territory. These plains are the most densely populated part and the region where most cities are located.

Today, about 107 million ha (1 600 million mu) are under crops. These are concentrated mostly in the plains which, with thick top soil and suitable climate, constitute the key farming areas. The Yangtse Plain is also a key fishery area with large lakes and a terrain favourable to fish culture.

2.2 Recent history and social organization3

To understand China's recent progress in agricultural and aquacultural production, it is necessary to keep in mind a little of her history.

China's cultural and technological histories are very long. Nevertheless development and modernization were slow in coming. The general large-scale expansion of agriculture and industry, which is now occurring, is relatively recent.

This expansion began with the end of the Revolution and formation of the Socialist People's Republic in 1949. The new government, under Chairman Mao Tse-tung's leadership, instituted a programme of land reform, distributing the holdings of the landlords to peasants. Mutual-aid teams were formed to enable pooling of resources to fight recurrent floods and drought. The central government emphasized control of the major rivers along with general reconstruction.

1 This information is summarized from Anon., China, a geographical sketch, 1974.

2 Estimate given by Huang Shu-Tse, leader of the Chinese delegation to the UN World Population Conference in Bucharest, 1974.

3 Most of this material is taken from the briefing given to the Mission by Mr. Liu, Ho Law People's Commune, the Report of the First Professional Study Tour, and Solecki (1966).

Fig. 1

Fig. 1 China, with main administrative subdivisions and their capitals

Success of these mutual-aid teams led to the formation of the so-called primary cooperatives in 1955. In these units, regular as well as emergency work was shared. Income was distributed according to the individual's share in the cooperative (land and other means of production).

By 1956, primary cooperatives were changed to advanced cooperatives. All land and machinery holdings were transferred to the cooperative with work assigned according to ability and income. This period coincided with the first Five-Year Plan (1954–68). It stressed development of irrigation. Most of today's reservoirs were constructed then. The cooperatives usually had only a single economy.

In coincidence with the Great Leap Forward (1958), cooperatives were welded together to form communes with diverse economies and strengthened financial resources.

It may be debated whether the Great Leap Forward did succeed in its immediate aims. But it is clear that the initiation of the commune system marked the beginning of comprehensive, simultaneous development of all sectors of production. With this came a shift in emphasis toward an agricultural economic base.

In 1957, the Yangtse was bridged for road and rail traffic. The first successful artificial spawnings of pond-reared Chinese carps were also made, in Kwangtung, in 1958 - a significant turning point in the expansion of fish culture and production.

By 1961, the main outlines of the new China had taken shape. Considerable progress in agriculture and industry produced improvements in income but along with these came problems of elitism in the professions and Communist Party cadres. This eventually became the stimulus for the Cultural Revolution.

“The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution” (1966–69) brought important changes in organization. Measures to provide more emphasis on social motivation or “political consciousness” were undertaken. They also gave more participation in decision-making to the worker-farmer, especially within communes and in traditionally professional activities such as medicine, teaching, research and the military. The stress on practical experience and on “learning from the masses” brought a markedly practical orientation to all education and research, including that on fish management and culture.

Evolution of China's socialist society is still continuing.

Today, land is owned by the commune, a merger of social, political and economic administration and a kind of township. It generally covers an area of 1 000 to 10 000 ha.

Hand tools, small tractors, boats, etc. are usually owned by the unit that financed their purchase, generally the production team. The team, at present, is the basic accounting unit. On the average, a team takes in about 100 workers.

Tractors, trucks, larger boats and heavy equipment are generally held by production brigades. These are a more diversified grouping of 10 or so teams.

Much of the housing is individually owned and inheritable. Personal acquisitions such as bicycles and radios are also owned personally. Gradually, however, basic accounting is being passed from the production teams to higher levels. An upward movement of ownership of the means of production is also occurring. In a number of communes the ownership of individual houses has already been transferred to the commune.

2.3 Status of freshwater fisheries and aquaculture

China also has a very long history of freshwater fisheries and aquaculture. A Chinese named Fan Li started breeding and raising fish (common carp) in Wushi, Kiangsu Province, eastern China, more than 2 400 years ago. In the year 473 B.C. Fan Li wrote a book, “Fish Breeding”, which is the first known document on fish culture.

Today China has about 20 million ha (300 million mu) of freshwater areas. One third, or about 6.7 million ha (100 million mu), can be used for fish culture. Of this area, about 60 percent is fish ponds (lowland and upland), irrigation ponds and village ponds, while 40 percent is lakes and reservoirs.

The major freshwater fish-producing areas are located in the Heilung drainage system and the lowland reaches of the Yellow-Yangtse and Pearl Rivers. The Yangtse, with its many large and small lakes, is the most important, and includes the provinces with the highest production, Kiangsu and Hupei (Solecki, 1966). Owing to the many canals and lakes the Yangtse Delta is known as the “water net area” of China. Its focus is the city of Wushi, China's Venice.

The next most important production area is in the Pearl River Basin. Like the eastern Yangtse Basin, the lowland areas of the Pearl have long been traditional fish culture regions owing to plentiful water and extensive natural spawning areas for the Chinese “family fish” or major carps.

While four cyprinid species dominate the freshwater fish production, there are over 500 species occurring in the fresh waters of China of which at least 200 are suitable for table use. The species to which reference will most often be made in this report are as follows:

Four majors (family fish, or Chinese carps):
 Grass carpCtenopharyngodon idella
 Black carpMylopharyngodon piceus
 Silver carpHypophthalmichthys molitrix
 Bighead carpAristichthys nobilis
Other species commonly used in mixed culture with the above:
 Mud carpCirrhinus molitorella
 Common carpCyprinus carpio
 Golden carpCarassius auratus
 Wuchan fishMegalobrama amblycephala
 TilapiaTilapia mossambica
Favoured predatory species include:
 Mandarin fishSiniperca chautsi
 SnakeheadOphiocephalus argus

Freshwater fish culture in China can be divided into two kinds: (i) pond culture, and (ii) lake and reservoir culture. In lakes and reservoirs, culture primarily consists of stocking fish raised in nearby ponds, while in pond culture the fish are also provided with supplementary food both directly, and indirectly through fertilization of the water.

Pond culture is carried out by two types of communes: (i) fishery communes, and (ii) agricultural communes with fishery as sideline occupation. Fishery communes usually adopt “all-round production”, i.e., integration through use of fish, pigs and vegetables in the production process. Agricultural communes, with fish culture as a sideline occupation, adopt a comprehensive development of grain, fish, livestock and other crops.

There are three forms of lake and reservoir fishery management: (i) state-owned, (ii) brigade or commune, and (iii) brigade and commune together. Usually, however, reservoirs are under commune management. In the biggest reservoirs, the State does the fish stocking while production brigades organize the commune members to catch fish.

At all levels - from national down to the provincial, county and commune - Chinese agricultural policy is repeatedly presented in the form of Chairman Mao's sayings. Every citizen is aware of these sayings and the policies.

The major ones include:

  1. “Take agriculture as the foundation and industry as the leading factor”

  2. “Water conservancy or irrigation is the lifeblood of agriculture”

  3. “In water conservancy, take the direction of undertaking small-size projects”

  4. “Take grain as the key link and ensure all-round development of agriculture, industry, animal husbandry, forestry, sideline occupations and fisheries”

The Mission found that freshwater fishery, especially pond culture, has always been taken as an integral part of the farming system. Grain and fish promote each other and they have developed together.

In freshwater fisheries, stress is laid on fish culture and the simultaneous development of culture and catching.

Fish fry and fingerling production form the base for fish culture. In the people's communes, fish fry and fingerling stations have been set up and run by the communes themselves.

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