China's rural residents saw faster income growth than urban residents during the first quarter of 2017, according to China's National Bureau of Statistics. Rural income growth came from migrant workers' income, injections of fixed asset investment, and soaring transfer payments to rural residents.
Average disposable income for urban people in China averaged 9986 yuan/month, while the rural average remained far behind, at 3880 yuan/month. But the statisticians found that the urban-rural gap between incomes is closing, which keeps China on track toward its goal of a relatively well-off society by 2020. Urban disposable income rose 6.3 percent, but rural disposable income rose 7.2 percent. The average urban income is now 2.57 times the average rural income--that's .02 less than a year ago!
China's agricultural GDP grew only 3 percent year-on-year, less than half the reported overall GDP growth of 6.9 percent in Q1 2017. Only a few crops like sugar cane and winter vegetables are harvested in the first quarter. Sugar production was up 6 percent, according to estimates by the Ministry of Agriculture. Meat production was stagnant at 0.5 percent from a year earlier. The swine inventory was up 0.1 percent from a year ago, essentially unchanged.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, corn prices received by Chinese farmers during Q1 2017 were down 19.9 percent from a year earlier, while wheat prices were up 3.7 percent and rice prices were up 0.5 percent from a year earlier. Vegetable prices were down 11.6 percent, but fruit prices were up 9.4 percent from a year earlier. All livestock and poultry prices received by farmers fell from a year earlier. Poultry prices were down 7 percent and egg prices were down 17.5 percent from a year earlier.
The number of rural migrant workers totaled 172.53 million during Q1 2017, 2.7 percent more than the same time last year and a record high, according to the Bureau. The monthly income of rural migrants averaged 3483 yuan, up 6.4 percent from a year earlier. The combination of more rural people working off farm and higher wages pulled up the rural income average.
While agriculture had GDP growth of just 3 percent, its fixed asset investment was up 24.6 percent from a year ago, more than double the year-on-year growth in total fixed asset investment which grew 9.2 percent from a year earlier. These totals do not include fixed asset investment by rural households, but their investment is primarily in building and refurbishing their houses.
China is back to its old growth model of building things. Infrastructure investment was up 23.5% from a year ago, public infrastructure was up 27.4 percent, transportation was up 20.2 percent, and water management investment was up 18.3 percent from a year earlier.
Rural transfer payments are booming. The average rural income from transfer payments was 746 yuan per person, up 11.7 percent from a year ago. The National Bureau of Statistics attributes this rise a 52-percent increase in rural residents' revenue from government purchases of goods and services, a 22.5 percent increase in agricultural subsidies, and a 34.5 percent increase in aid to individuals.