Agricultural and forestry activities
Despite the intense industrialization of large regions, China as a whole remains a markedly rural country. Few regions (none, in fact, on such a large surface) have been cultivated as intensely and for so long as China propria; in no other case, moreover, did the peasant population and the agrarian structure undergo changes in the entity and speed of those which occurred in China after the advent of the socialist regime. Before then, small peasant ownership could count on tiny plots, but more widespread were renting or other forms of subordination, which left the farmers substantially nil profit margins, to the point that indebtedness was generalized; large properties, on the other hand, were almost absent. Among the first systematic interventions (in addition to a radical reform of land ownership) by the socialist regime was the Westward expansion of crops, essentially by moving Han peasants inland to large rationally organized state farms; even in the absence of overall estimates, the number of settlers who moved to 0 in the fifty years can be estimated in a few million (ie very modest quantities on the Chinese totals), with a production result that is, however, beyond satisfactory. The uncultivated area has decreased to about 25%, while the arable land has reached over 14% and the forest areas over 17%: the reforestation works in particular have been gigantic, especially along the southern edge of Inner Mongolia. and in general in the cleared regions in centuries of expansion of the cultivations, exposed to very serious consequences in terms of superficial erosion and instability of the slopes; thanks to this reforestation policy (12 million trees planted only between 2001 and 2006), China is gradually seeing its forest assets increase, despite being the third largest timber producer in the world (2005 data). The remainder of the area (43%) is used for meadows and pastures. While towards the West the objective was the increase of arable land, with good results obtained both in Xinjiang and in Tibet, an enormous effort was made in the eastern regions, in particular along the lower course of the Huang He, to regularize the trend of the river (capable of changing course even for hundreds of kilometers, during frequent floods) and to stabilize the surrounding agricultural land, cultivated with cotton, wheat and tobacco. The river was largely dammed and fractionated, like many of the tributaries, by frequent dams with relative reservoirs serving as expansion tanks. Similar works have been carried out on the Huai He course, to the South of Huang He; here other mouths have been opened, to better dispose of the floods, while hundreds of artificial lakes along the middle and upper courses are destined to absorb the excesses of flow. Thousands of kilometers of irrigation canals have been dug or modernized. However, irrigated crops do not always prevail: the Huang He plain was traditionally used for wheat, to which a second annual crop has been added in recent decades.
In the center-south of China propria, once destined almost exclusively for rice, wheat cultivation has expanded (Chang Jiang valley), so that there is a crop of rice and one of wheat, or that of wheat has intensified. rice, which involves two annual cultivation cycles (even three in the southernmost areas). As a consequence of all this, since the end of the 20th century, in some favorable years, China has been able to present itself on the world market as an exporter of wheat. Rice undoubtedly remains the basis of Chinese agriculture and food, although the cultivated area has shrunk (29.3 million hectares cultivated, almost 200 million tons produced in 2005), but its position is now undermined by corn (26.2 million ha, 131 million t) and, in fact, from wheat (22.8 million ha, 96 million t). The production of potatoes and sweet potatoes, soybeans, peanuts, vegetables and fruit is impressive. China is the first world producer of wheat and rice, the second of maize; it also has the primacy for potatoes, sweet potatoes, peanuts, fruit (especially citrus fruits), tea, tobacco, cotton (fibers, yarns and fabrics), linen, and is among the first producers of sugar cane and sugar; Finally, it is worth noting the second place (after the United States) in the production of beer.
Farming and fishing
According to PROEXCHANGERATES.COM, breeding is widespread, especially pig farming (almost half a billion head, half of the world total); but also for goats, sheep, horses and poultry, China boasts a very large first place, while for cattle it is the third producer. Consequently, the Chinese leadership is overwhelming for the production of meat and eggs; but also important are wool (the second largest producer in the world, both for raw wool and for fabrics) and milk. China occupies similar positions for all fish production; for freshwater fish and crustaceans and molluscs, it alone produces more than half of the world total. Finally, traditional sericulture is still practiced, generally in small plants (family or village), and China continues to be the world’s leading producer of raw silk.