Chinese farmers learning from Kansas counterparts
Zhengzhou, Henan, China
What does the province of Henan have in common with the state of Kansas? "We are an agricultural region," said Luo Gan of the Henan provincial government. "So are they [Kansas]. We are in the central part of our country. They are in the central part of theirs."
Of course, there is more to the sisterstate relationship Henan has established with Kansas than that, as Mr. Luo, deputy director of the province's foreign trade commission, quickly points out.
The contrasts between the two regions are as striking as their similarities, perhaps more so. Aside from the obvious political and economic difference between communist Henan and capitalist, free enterprise Kansas, there is an enormous disparity in numbers. Kansas has 2,310,000 people on 82,264 square miles.
Henan, has more than 70 million people squeezed into 65,000 square miles. "Aiya [dear me]," exclaimed Mr. Luo in a recent interview here, "we have too many people! That's why we have to promote the movement to have just one child per couple."
That in itself is a subject for an entire article, and on this occasion Mr. Luo was more eager to talk about the exchange of protocols on sister-state relations that his province and Kansas had just carried out. A nine-man delegation from Kansas headed by John Armstrong, president of the Kansas Farm Bureau, was feted here recently during and after the protocol-exchanging ceremony. Both Kansas and Henan governments seem eager to expand the relationship begun a year ago when the governor of Kansas visited Henan.
The most important aspect of cooperation between the two is in agriculture. Henan is particularly eager to learn from Kansas experience in breeding livestock and in developing new seed strains. "Kansas wheat has a higher protein content than ours," said Mr. Luo.
"Kansas has sorghum with a high sugar content, and excellent grass for livestock. Their pork contains 70 percent lean meat. Ours are only 30 to 50 percent lean. They have offered to send us experts to help us develop their lean breeds, particularly Yorkshires and Hampshires, and we are now discussing the details.
"We would like to buy instruments to measure protein and amino-acid content, and they may help us. We want to expand trade between ourselves and Kansas, to export gunnysacks, porcelain, and arts and crafts. And we would love to have more of their tourists."
Henan has a string of historic cities and monuments to welcome the visitor from afar. This province, which has been continuously inhabited by Chinese-speaking people for at least 6,000 years, is the cradle of Chinese civilization. The imperial cities of Luoyang and Kaifeng and the Lungmen caves with their marvelous Buddhist sculptures are in Henan. The Yeloow River, which has brought both calamitous floods and lifesustaining water to China's millions, flows through the northern part of the province from east to west. Visitors who do not fear rugged accommodations may prefer smaller towns like Gongxian, which has its share of historic relics but is also an ideal headquarters from which to explore Henan's yellow loess uplands, characterized by rolling plains abruptly gouged by steep, painstakingly terraced valley and gorges.
Visits to agricultural communes can be arranged, some of them cheek by jowl with stone lions and elephants from the tombs of Sung emperors, standing guard over fields of ripening wheat. A whole production brigade (the operating subdivision of a commune comprising 2,000 or 3,000 people) may farm an area not more than 300, 400, or 500 acres.
The Kansas farmer may have difficulty adjusting to the man-centered scale of farming. But when he walks a village's dusty lanes and sees a two- or three-room brick house abuilding, neighbors pitching in to finish the roof before dusk, or enters a cool cave dwelling to talk with its undershirted owner and his wife, he may become conscious of something else Kansas folk share with their Henan friends: short, direct speech, lack of frill s, openness, sincerity.