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The word of the secret agreement was leaked, and local bureaucrats cut off fertilizers, seeds and pesticides. But surprisingly, peasants in other villages also began to abandon collective ownership before Xiaogang could be arrested. In Beijing, Mao Zedong was dead, and a new set of leaders, who saw the productivity gains, decided to continue the experiment. The Xiaogang farmers` agreement inspired the end of municipal agriculture in China thirty years ago, but unfortunately the Chinese government still refuses to legalize land ownership. 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. In 1984, Xiaogang`s system of responsibility for family contracts was disseminated nationally. Xiaogang`s name has since been defined as the beginning of Chinese reform in the memory of the nation.

(Xinhua/Zhang Duan) The big leap forward was a big step backwards – farmland 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. „Work hard, don`t work hard – everyone has the same thing. So people don`t want to work. These are the words of Yan Junchang, the Chinese peasant, who led a secret agreement that ultimately saved millions of lives.

For example, with regard to this secret agreement, covered in seals and red fingerprints of the villagers, there was a wobbly line that said, „If a word is spread about it and the team leader goes to jail, other team members share the responsibility of raising their child until he is 18.“ It is the cradle of China`s rural reforms. Xiaogang Village in Anhui Province, eastern China, is a well-known name in the country. Already in November 1978, 18 peasants from the village signed a secret contract to divide their common farmland into family land. That was the beginning of the fiscal accountability system.