BEIJING, June 11 (Xinhua) -- Vice Premier Hui Liangyu on Monday pledged to increase legal protection and policy support to enhance the vitality of China's rural cooperatives, which have played a critical role in China's agricultural modernization.
At a conference held in Beijing to mark 2012 as the first year of the International Year of Cooperatives (IYC), Hui praised cooperatives for their role in ensuring China's social equity and promoting common prosperity.
Thriving cooperatives have mobilized more farmers to head for the "big market" from their "small workshops" in recent years, Hui said, adding that they have become an important pillar of China's agricultural modernization.
According to Hui, more than 17 percent of China's rural households, or about 43 million rural families, have joined 550,000 domestic cooperatives.
While addressing the conference attended by representatives from both home and abroad, Hui called on government administrations worldwide to use cooperatives as a means to reduce poverty and bolster grassroots entrepreneurs in starting businesses.
Hui also underlined the importance of increased exchanges and cooperation among cooperatives worldwide, especially with regards to the agricultural produce trade and agricultural science.
The United Nations has declared 2012 as the first year of the IYC.
The IYC is intended to raise public awareness of the invaluable contributions of cooperative enterprises to poverty reduction, employment generation and social integration, according to an introduction posted on the UN website.