China ’s agricultural economy in transition

Ever since the reforms towards a socialist market economy started in the late 1970s, the conditions under which Chinese farmers have to operate are changing rapidly, in particular due to the liberalization of trade policies and the changes in food patterns because of urbanization and increasing incomes. To analyze these developments and their likely impact on world markets, SOW-VU has been engaged in the last decade in a series of projects about the future of China’s agricultural economy. What started with the analysis of agricultural production relations as part of the Land Use Change (LUC) project of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), gradually developed into analysis of the agricultural sector within a full-economy context. For this purpose the Chinagro-model was developed in the EU-funded project of the same name.

The Chinagro model

The Chinagro-model is a geographically detailed general equilibrium welfare model that comprehensively depicts China’s farm sector in more than 2400 counties, while connecting these through trade and transportation flows to each other, to rural and urban consumers and to abroad. In the Chinagro-project SOW-VU cooperated again with IIASA, as well as with the Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy (CCAP) and the Institute for Geographical Sciences and Natural Resources Research (IGSNRR), both belonging to the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, and the China Agricultural University (CAU), also in Beijing. The project was concluded with the presentation of scenario simulations over the period 2000-2030 for a forum of policy makers and technical experts in January 2005 in Beijing.


Since then, the work continued in the follow-up project ‘Options for Agricultural Development in China’ funded by the Netherlands Ministry of Agriculture, Nature Management and Food Quality, and since January 2007 also in the EU-funded CATSEI project. In the latter project, SOW-VU cooperates with CCAP, IIASA, the School of Oriental and African Studies, London (SOAS), the Agricultural Economics Research Institute, The Hague (LEI), and the International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington DC (IFPRI). CATSEI studies the impact of China’s current economic transition on its agricultural economy, with special emphasis on social conditions and the environment in China’s rural areas as well as on markets in the rest of the world. The Chinagro model will be updated and extended under CATSEI, integrating the research results on its three distinct themes.

More information on CATSEI can be found in the leaflet and on the project site