Many Chinese peasants, emboldened by suddenly relaxed government controls, have begun to challenge China's collectivized farming system, in some places dividing up land and tools and cutting down communal forests.
The actions, vigorously protested by official broadcasts monitored here from several provinces, create a new crisis in China's attempts to bring modernization to its 750 million peasants.
Chinese economic planners want to increase peasant morale by loosening controls but still must maintain production. The broadcasts say in some areas peasants have ignored local Communist Party instructions, given fields to individual families and grown more cash crops and less grain.
"The draft animals and farm tools of some production teams were all divided up. People were mentally confused and were not interested in grasping production," said an Anhui (Anhwei) broadcast. A Guizhou (Kweichow) boardcast said, "Teams of brothers and father-and-son teams appeared. Mountain forests were indiscriminantly cut down."
A foreign traveler who recently visited a Chinese village said he thought some of the acts might be a protest against the modernization program, which was not popular among peasants he talked to.
"They think the program means life in the cities will get better, but the peasants will just have to work harder," he said.
Chinese who have come to Hong Kong after spending many years in Chinese rural communities say peasants look back fondly on the years of the mid-1950s. This was just after the Communists had given them landlords' properties and just before all lands had been collectivized and peasants required to work on common, rathan than individually owned, fields.
Since that time, Chinese peasants have tried to take advantage of two or three periods of relaxed political supervision and return to family-oriented and profit-making farming.
Recent broadcasts about the peasant problem appear to reveal differences among chinese leaders. Broadcasts from two large provinces, Sichuan (Szechwan) and Guangdong (kwangtung), both reportedly under the influence of pragmatic Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping (Teng Hsiao-ping), have favored letting peasants decide on their own what to plant and when.
Broadcasts from Hunan Province, home of the late chairman Mao Tse-tung and political base of his successor, Chairman Hua Guofeng (Hua Kuo-feng), have called such relaxed policies a failure of leadership .
"The basic accounting units on the commune all have the right to cultivate the land according to the season and local conditions, to . . . distribute their own products and cash, and to resist the blind commands of any leading organ or person," a Guang-dong broadcast said yesterday.
An article a week ago from Shang-dong (Shangtung) province praised peasant decisions to increase production of "fruits, vegetables, beets, medicinal herbs and tea," all crops that will bring more profits to the farmers than will the production of rice or other grains.
Friday, however, a broadcast from Hunan sharply criticized a prefecture that proposed a decrease in rice planting after "some production terms declared that they had the right of self-determination, that is was of no concern of the upper level leadership, and that they should not follow the bureaucratic will."
Official statements from Peking on farm methods have been confusing and probably damaging to China's plans to revive its agriculture under a clear modernization plan. Calls late last year for self-determination by peasants have been followed by warnings against forsaking arty leadership.
Human, one of the few provinces that does not appear to be run by close allies of Deng, has been particularly vehement in its attacks on lax control over the economy.
Official broadcasts from Peking last year praised peasant families that had reaped extra profits through hard work-a favorite Deng theme. These praises have been "misunderstood," a Hunan broadcast said Friday. Local leaders, the broadcast said, have failed to "put a stop to unhealthy trends such as laborers drifting away, people abandoning agriculture for commerce, everyone going his own way, and the people pursuing individual affluence."