ANALYSIS: Beijing Conducts Training for Village Officials Nationwide as Rural Conflicts Intensify

Expert says conflicts between communist cadres and the masses are concentrated in the countryside
By Jessica Mao
Jessica Mao
Jessica Mao
Jessica Mao is a writer for The Epoch Times with a focus on China-related topics. She began writing for the Chinese-language edition in 2009.
and Lynn Xu
Lynn Xu
Lynn Xu
Lynn Xu is an Epoch Times contributor focused on contemporary China issues.
May 26, 2023Updated: May 26, 2023

China’s ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) recently conducted a rare training session for village officials nationwide. Experts have suggested the move would be part of the CCP’s attempts to address its power crisis resulting from intensified conflicts in rural areas.

The large-scale simultaneous training courses, jointly organized by the Central Committee and the Party School, lasted from April 24 to 28, according to a May 16 report by state-run media Xinhua.

The training catered to all village party organization secretaries and village committee directors nationwide, with the primary training classes set up in Beijing and 3,568 sub-classrooms distributed at provincial and county Party schools (administrative colleges) and related training institutions.

Ministerial officers from the Party School, the Organization Department of the Central Committee, the Secretary Bureau of the Central Agricultural Office, the Central Discipline Inspection Commission, and the Bureau of Law and Legal Governance of the Ministry of Justice delivered speeches or lessons via video broadcast.

“This is the first time that the CCP has conducted training directly for all village leaders in the country, and it is also the most extensive training event for rural grassroots cadres in recent years,” Xinhua’s report said.

Such rare training reflects “the crisis of grassroots political power that has alarmed Zhongnanhai, the seat of CCP’s decision-making core in Beijing,” U.S.-based current affairs commentator Li Yanming told The Epoch Times on May 18.

China’s social contradictions and conflicts “is now concentrated in the countryside, and it is escalating,” according to U.S.-based political and economic analyst Lu Tianming, who also expressed a similar opinion to The Epoch Times that this training is designed to strengthen the CCP’s leadership of village cadres in its governance crisis.

Lu held that the CCP convened village officials nationwide for so-called training with two main purposes, “One is to let them [village officials] bridle the jobless people at the grassroots level.” The other is that barbaric “agricultural management” in rural areas has promoted strains and clashes between cadres and villagers.

“The CCP requires these village officials to appease local farmers to avoid inflaming conflicts,” Lu said.

According to Lu, the CCP’s years of extreme and ineffective containment measures during the COVID-19 epidemic have brought severe hardship to the urban economy, leading to supply chain disruption and mass layoffs from labor-intensive industries such as manufacturing and construction companies which rural migrant workers had majorly staffed.

“The return of massive jobless workers to the countryside was a destabilizing social factor for the communist rulers, and they fear it will affect their rule,” Lu said.

Epoch Times Photo
Migrant workers standing near signs advertising their skills as they wait by a street to be hired in Shenyang, in northeastern China’s Liaoning Province on Feb. 6, 2023. (STR/AFP via Getty Images)

Rural Enforcement

“Rural enforcement (or nongguan農管 in Chinese)” has become a buzzword on the Chinese internet this year, accompanied by the acceleration of the CCP’s policy of “restoring forests to farmlands.”

The official name of “rural enforcement” is Comprehensive Agricultural Administrative Law Enforcement Team. The public compares it to the “urban enforcement” (or chengguan城管 in Chinese)” in the city and sees similarities between the two: oppressing the lower class people in the name of law enforcement.

“Restoring forests to farmlands” requires farmers to cut down trees and plant crops instead. The move is a complete reversal of CCP’s previous approach of “returning farmland to forests,” which has been in place for over 20 years after floods swept through China, affecting millions of people in 29 provinces between June and August 1998.

Epoch Times Photo
A strawberry farmer walks past a greenhouse at his farm where sales have been severely affected by the coronavirus outbreak in Jiujiang, Jiangxi Province, China, on Feb. 4, 2020. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

Lu pointed out that China is facing an increasingly severe food crisis, and the CCP is relying on “rural enforcement” to carry out its new strategy to speed up the release of more arable fields.

The State Council Information Office held a press conference on May 11 entitled “Safeguarding Food Security, Securing China’s Rice Bowl,” at which Cong Liang, secretary of the Food and Material Reserves, said it was estimated that the national emergency processing capacity was 1.64 million tons of rice per day by the end of 2022 that can only meet the needs of all of the population for two days, warning, “there are still weaknesses in China’s food emergency security system.”

In recent months, in provinces like Henan, Hunan, Guangxi, violent rural enforcement has sparked outrage among farmers, with viral videos showing some officials spraying fields with lime, demanding villagers replant ginger fields with rice, destroying tobacco harvests, demolishing homes, and confiscating livestock.

“This phenomenon is severe among village cadres and rural enforcement staff, and they do not talk about the law or reason,” said Li Yanming. “The Communist Party’s grassroots regime has long been criticized as an organized crime syndicate.”

The thuggish and rogue practices of the CCP’s rural officials have stirred up great public discontent, aggravating conflicts and creating more instability, and even leading to a spate of rural bloodshed, according to Li.

Bloody Cases

Since May of this year, Chinese media have reported three consecutive incidents of villagers stabbing village cadres in northern and northeastern China, involving 18 deaths and one injury.

Shanghai-based Chinese media Guancha reported on May 12 that a stabbing case happened on May 11 in Majiagang village, Yiquan town Donggang city, Liaoning Province, resulting in multiple casualties.

A local source said that the suspect, surnamed Jin, 64, was a farmer in the village who had a clash with a neighbor over a land dispute.

Out of anger at the village chief for favoring his relatives in dealing with the land dispute, Jin first stabbed the village chief’s relatives. The village chief was out that day, and the village chief’s wife was killed.

On May 10, Liu Jijie, the village clerk of Xili village in Changqing district, Jinan city, Shandong Province, and his family were killed, according to a report from the Chinese portal site NetEase on May 13.

The suspect, Jia Qiang, was the deputy director of the education department of Changqing No. 1 Middle School. His daughter was molested by Liu’s son, who was detained after Jia Qiang called the police. Liu used his contacts and connections to get his son out of police custody soon after. After that, Liu’s son kept harassing Jia’s daughter until the girl was driven crazy. Jia killed himself after killing the entire Liu family.

Liu was 63 years old when he was killed, his wife 37, and his son 16.

On May 1 at 3:00 pm, a murder case occurred in Xishe village, Hongdao Town, Dingxiang County, Xinzhou City, Shanxi Province, NetEase reported on a May 8 report.

The report said 38-year-old Xu Guoqiang and the village cadre had quarreled before but didn’t mention for what reason. On May 1, Xu went to the village cadre’s home and killed the village cadre and three others, then fled in his car until he was arrested at a hotel in Taiyuan, Shanxi, on May 4.

The police released a police report explaining the arrest process but not a word about Xu’s motive for the killing.

Those bloodbaths are reportedly more than occasional isolated incidents but have been linked to rebellious actions against long-standing oppression by cadres, such as the public outrage over the May 2 beating and kneeling of a villager in Shantou City, Guangdong Province, by a village security team led by the village chief, according to the report.

“The foundation of the CCP’s authoritarian rule is crumbling,” Li Yanming said.

Li said China’s rural problems are closely intertwined with the food, population, unemployment, and economic crises. He said it’s further brewing to become social and political turmoil.

Kane Zhang contributed to this report.