Yo farmer, read one book a year
Trip Start Jan 30, 2007
632Trip End Dec 31, 2011
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In order to build up cultural services for its farmers, Yunnan
Province has publicized a regulation that “on average each farmer
[should read] one book annually, [watch] one drama per quarter and
[participate] in one cultural activity twice a month by 2010.” The
provincial government plans to hand out small 0.5 yuan subsidies for
the cultural plan. From Chen Chenchen of the Global Times:
The Yunnan provincial government recently publicized a
regulation to invest 18 million yuan ($2.6 million) to improve a public
cultural service system in rural areas. Specifically, the money is to
ensure that on average each farmer reads one book annually, watches one
drama per quarter and participates in one cultural activity twice a
month by 2010.
People in metropolitan areas may be hard pressed to imagine what a
poor cultural life people have in rural places. Critics who understand
rural China have lampooned the goal of “one book per capita per year”
as another “Great Leap Forward Movement,” since even this moderate goal
is too great a luxury for people there and can hardly be realized.
Ninety percent of China’s illiterate population lives in rural
areas, making up one fifth of the rural population. Even those who have
had some education rarely read. Men play cards, women get together to
chat, and kids eagerly scribble in their textbooks. Simply providing
them books will not guarantee them reading.
By one writer’s calculations, the addition of the province’s 0.5
yuan cultural subsidy would, at optimum conditions, bring the total
amount of cultural subsidies for farmers up to 10 yuan per person. Wang
Yuchu writes his opinion piece in People.com.cn:
May 2nd, I went into a Xinhua Bookstore and glanced at the books on the
shelves. Few books were under 10 yuan. Therefore, it will be difficult
for farmers to realize the one book a year average estimate with this
10 yuan dependence. Seeing this, how can we speak of other cultural
activities? Of course, in the course of this plan, some are thinking
about “using one constituent to represent the whole” (“以点带面”) and using
the collective funds to make one “big event.” The entire year’s funds
would go towards a few test site villages. Therefore, it would seem
possible for farmers to read a book in a year, see an opera every
quarter year, and participate in cultural activities bimonthly.
However, this kind of thing only fulfills the cultural needs of a
minority of farmers. It doesn’t even begin to speak to the basic
cultural rights and privileges that farmers as a group should enjoy.
In a separate opinion piece, Liu Yongtao (刘永涛) criticizes the
applicability of the regulation. From rednet.com.cn, via sina.com.cn:
The reasoning is not all that complicated. For example,
let farmers read one book a year on average — [but the issues of] what
book, how to read, and what is the application are not questions that
can be controlled. Many farmers have not received education and can
only recognize a limited amount of characters. How they will read will
likely be a problem. Further, there are those who have received
a high school education. However, after starting agricultural
production, they’ve likely put aside their books and may find it
difficult to pick up particular interest in them. [...] In China’s
villages, most young people have left to find work, leaving behind the
elderly and children. Don’t expect them to show huge results.