The secret agreement of 1978 to divide their common farmland into family land triggered rural reform. But like most of the Chinese landscape, the village of Xiaogang experienced a development crisis in the second half of the 1990s. People wondered why their lives had reached the living wage, but will not be far from it in twenty years. Cai Jin`an, president of the Panpan Food Group, a leading food supplier, who came from Fujian province to invest in the village, commented on the difficult situation. For more background, NPR`s Planet Money has a great story about this secret agreement, including this one: the big leap forward was a big leap forward – agricultural sanwein was less productive in 1978 than in 1949, when the Communists took over. In 1978, however, peasants in Xiaogang village held a secret meeting. Farmers agreed to share communal land and assign it to individuals — each farmer had to produce a quota for the government, but everything he or she produced beyond the quotas he or she held. The agreement violated government policy and, as a result, the peasants pledged that if one of them was killed or imprisoned, the others would raise their children until the age of 18. [The actual chord is shown on the right.] So it was hunger that fuelled the reforms in November 1978. Yan Hongchang and the head of the production team led farmers to sign a secret agreement to set production quotas for each household, when they risked breaking the law. In 1982, China`s No. 1 Central Paper on Agriculture was published and the process in Xiaogang village was then promoted throughout the country.
The system of fiscal responsibility has stimulated the enthusiasm of the country`s eight million farmers for grain cultivation. As a result, China has increased its cereal yield from year to year and villagers in Xiaogang have abandoned days of cereal shortages and famine. It was a long-term dream of the villagers in Xiaogang to develop the industry and increase their income by setting up a business. Yan Hongchang was one of the village officials who led the peasants to sign the 1978 agreement. His son Yan Yushan was already one of the first young people to leave the village in 1992. He tried several times and failed to set up a business in the village. Aerial photo taken on September 27, 2018 shows fields in Xiaogang village in Fengyang County, Anhui province, eastern China. Xiaogang is a circle in Fengyang District (Phoenix). The county, like its mythological namesake, has suffered hundreds of reincarnations over the centuries, while communities like Xiaogang struggle against a voluble environment to eat enough food to survive. In 1978, 18 peasants gathered for a secret meeting in one of the village`s clay huts and finally agreed to sign the secret contract to divide communal farmland into family land.