China's government Sunday warned 2009 could be the "toughest year" since the turn of the century for development of the countryside, which has fallen behind as reforms favoured the cities, state media reported.
Rural unemployment is high, and the situation has been exacerbated by the global economic crisis as at least six million migrant workers have been laid off from companies in the export sectors and have returned to their rural homes.
The stark warning came in the first broad policy document of the year issued jointly by the State Council and the Central Committee of the Communist Party, the Xinhua news agency said.
"The lingering global financial crisis and the slowdown of the world economy have exerted an increasingly negative impact on the Chinese economy," the document said, according to Xinhua.
Coming from two of the nation's most powerful political agencies, including the top of the Communist Party, the document is likely to exert significant pressure on local officials to do something for the rural economy.