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Authoritarianism and artificial fertilizers in China Since the 1970s

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Abstract:

The case of artificial fertilizers in Chinese agriculture suggests that authoritarian rule hastens environmental degradation and might also strengthen efforts to protect natural resources. This paper examines synthetic fertilizer use in the People’s Republic of China to explain why China’s agricultural sector today uses 36 percent of synthetic fertilizer applied worldwide on 7 percent of the world's cultivated land. The paper recounts the role of Sinochem, a state monopoly directing the rapid expansion of fertilizer imports and manufacturing that began in the 1970s. It also discusses how Chinese authorities have de-emphasized the importance of industrial inputs in raising crop yields since the 1980s, when the “household responsibility system” instituted a fundamental reorganization of China’s agricultural sector. Scholarly analysis and policy studies in China conventionally attribute dramatic increases in agricultural production to the improved incentives for farm labor resulting from the break-up of Mao’s communes. Other important causes of dramatic growth in agricultural output have been downplayed, particularly the expanding availability of artificial fertilizers, along with sharp increases in official crop prices that made the fertilizers more affordable for farmers. Because the authoritarian state has claimed that the reorganization of farming was the major cause of increased output, the general public remains unaware that food supplies are dependent on environmentally unsustainable practices. However, Chinese officials are now becoming aware of the damaging consequences of the overuse of artificial fertilizers and are promoting decreased application, explaining to farmers that they might even see higher yields thanks to such reductions. Reviewing such efforts, the paper will also assess prospects that the Chinese authoritarianism of today will succeed in bringing fertilizer use under control.
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Association:
Name: ASEH Conference – San Francisco
URL:
http://aseh.net


Citation:
URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p679988_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Hill, Emily. "Authoritarianism and artificial fertilizers in China Since the 1970s" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the ASEH Conference – San Francisco, Parc 55 Wyndham Hotel, San Francisco, California, <Not Available>. 2014-12-10 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p679988_index.html>

APA Citation:

Hill, E. M. "Authoritarianism and artificial fertilizers in China Since the 1970s" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the ASEH Conference – San Francisco, Parc 55 Wyndham Hotel, San Francisco, California <Not Available>. 2014-12-10 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p679988_index.html

Publication Type: Panel Paper
Abstract: The case of artificial fertilizers in Chinese agriculture suggests that authoritarian rule hastens environmental degradation and might also strengthen efforts to protect natural resources. This paper examines synthetic fertilizer use in the People’s Republic of China to explain why China’s agricultural sector today uses 36 percent of synthetic fertilizer applied worldwide on 7 percent of the world's cultivated land. The paper recounts the role of Sinochem, a state monopoly directing the rapid expansion of fertilizer imports and manufacturing that began in the 1970s. It also discusses how Chinese authorities have de-emphasized the importance of industrial inputs in raising crop yields since the 1980s, when the “household responsibility system” instituted a fundamental reorganization of China’s agricultural sector. Scholarly analysis and policy studies in China conventionally attribute dramatic increases in agricultural production to the improved incentives for farm labor resulting from the break-up of Mao’s communes. Other important causes of dramatic growth in agricultural output have been downplayed, particularly the expanding availability of artificial fertilizers, along with sharp increases in official crop prices that made the fertilizers more affordable for farmers. Because the authoritarian state has claimed that the reorganization of farming was the major cause of increased output, the general public remains unaware that food supplies are dependent on environmentally unsustainable practices. However, Chinese officials are now becoming aware of the damaging consequences of the overuse of artificial fertilizers and are promoting decreased application, explaining to farmers that they might even see higher yields thanks to such reductions. Reviewing such efforts, the paper will also assess prospects that the Chinese authoritarianism of today will succeed in bringing fertilizer use under control.


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