A New Look for Rural Revitalization

2023-03-05 20:36:28 | Author:By Wu Xiaodi and Jiang Junfang | Source:en.qstheory.cn2023-03-02

Departing from the county seat of Ebian Yi Autonomous County in Sichuan Province, our vehicle climbed to the foot of the Songjia Mountains, which rise to over 1,300 meters above sea level. In the thick morning fog, the air was filled with the smell of fresh grass. On the road, villagers passed us in a steady stream, riding down the mountains on motorcycles with baskets on their backs. With the traditional New Year of the Yi ethnic group fast approaching, everyone was busy buying supplies.

At 8 a.m. on November 18, 2022, Aniu Guji and his family arrived at the square in front of the Mingxin Village Committee in Xinlin Town. Garbed in traditional Yi ethnic dress, they greeted several other families who were also waiting in the square. “Each year before the New Year, we take a group photo,” explained Aniu. It was an arrangement they had made five years ago. That year, Mingxin Village had just been founded, making it the newest administrative village in Sichuan at the time. In the fight against impoverishment, the village not only shook off poverty, but also made a name for itself.

“By taking these photos, we can document our increasingly prosperous lives,” Aniu happily explained.

Bustling activities demonstrate new industries.

We left the square and followed a paved road that wound up the mountains. On the roadside were several newly erected steel-framed buildings. An aerial photo offered a glimpse of the site’s future: a rural tourism park nestled among tea plantations. “This will be a family suite for a guest house. There will be a restaurant at the foot of the hill. There will also be a barbecue area in the front,” explained Zhang Junlin, secretary of the Mingxin Village Party branch, as he vividly painted the scene for us.

The opening of the new line of the Chengdu-Kunming railway will also serve as an “accelerator” for Mingxin Village, providing a boost to the rural tourism park. “The traditional Yi New Year is almost upon us, but the number of construction workers at the site is still increasing by the day,” said Zhang Shiyong, the site manager. On the day of our visit, there were more than 150 workers on site, with the steel-welded structures for eight guest houses to be completed in only two days. The buildings would then be decorated in time for completion at the end of November.

The head of Xinlin Town, Aku Dazhi, said that the project aims to turn the village’s resource advantages into advantages for industries that can better support its rural revitalization.

Further down the village road is an Asian mugwort processing plant and an agri-solar industrial demonstration project, which is an east-west cooperation initiative. Along the roadside, terraces carved into the hillside are green with tea seedlings planted the week before. “In addition to tea planting, next year we will expand the cultivation and processing of medicinal herb gastrodia and sow 20 hectares of Asian mugwort,” said the village Party branch secretary Zhang Junlin. He is confident that with the implementation of each project, the village’s collective income will continue to increase from the current 1.19 million yuan per year.

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Mingxin residents in festival attire head for Taiyang Square, November 18, 2022, to celebrate the Yi ethnic minority people’s traditional New Year and usher in new ways of life on the new journey. PHOTO BY CHEN JUNYI

A thriving supermarket signals a new atmosphere.

Jiduo Yiqu’s store is a points-based supermarket. Although small, it offers a wide range of goods. On the white wall above the shelves is written in red: “Earning Points Builds Good Habits, Hard Work Improves Lives.”

The supermarket opened in July 2020. Villagers can make purchases by exchanging points, which are rewarded for good habits and deeds. Jiduo Yiqu explained, “President Xi has said that escaping poverty and growing prosperous means enriching our pockets and our minds. The points-based supermarket is a tangible expression of a civilized countryside and has created a new atmosphere in our village.” As we spoke, a tanned man entered the store. His name is Gebi Daha, and he lives in Mingxin. “I slaughtered a pig for the New Year,” Gebi said, “so I need to buy some salt to make bacon.” As he spoke, he took out his points card and handed it to Jiduo. Gebi’s mother died at the end of June. On the advice of village officials, he eschewed an extravagant ceremony and followed the new residents’ code of conduct, with people expressing condolences by giving money instead of live animals. “Not only was he commended for this, but he also became the leading points-holder in our village. Nowadays, funerals and weddings are all held according to the new customs,” Jiduo said.

After Gebi left, Jiduo’s nephew, Jiduo Lani, quickly restocked the shelves with goods from the warehouse. Lani was 16 when he first left the village with his father to find work. “You can also get points for working outside of the village,” Lani said. Now 23, he smiles as he points to the “Management Rules for the Mingxin Village Points-Based Supermarket” posted on the wall, which state that villagers working outside who earn more than 30,000 yuan per year will be rewarded with 100 points. “I earned these 100 points,” declared Lani.

A lively village square gives shape to a new life.

“When will the sound system arrive? We cannot begin dancing until we have music.” Villagers in festive dress are gathered around a bonfire in the village square. A three-wheeled motorcycle can be heard approaching in the distance. A young ethnic Yi man called Nili Wuliao is coming down the mountain to deliver the sound system.

“This young man is hardworking and intelligent, and he knows how to make money.” Nili Wuliao, 30, is well-known in Mingxin Village. A few years ago, having returned home after working as a rural migrant worker in cities, he settled here and began raising chickens, sheep, and pigs. When an agricultural product processing company opened in the village, he offered his landscaping services to the enterprise and started growing flowers and plants on several plots of land.

“Next year, I want to open the village’s first farm stay,” said he. After he had finished adjusting the sound system, he confidently explained his plans. “The rural tourism park is almost ready. When the tourists arrive, they will need a place to eat. I want to make traditional Yi cuisine for them to try.”

A lively conversation ensued as everyone discussed their plans for the coming year. Lengleng Luzi, a worker who had returned from Chengdu a week earlier, said, “I heard a village official say that when the guest houses are finished, service staff will be recruited to work in them. I’ve already applied. If I’m hired, I’ll remain in the village. The minimum salary is around 2,000 yuan a month, plus commission and insurance. Most importantly, I will be able to take care of my family.”

“More and more people are choosing to leave the farmland but not the village,” said Zhang Junlin. “This encourages us to work harder to develop the village. We want to build a beautiful and harmonious countryside that is desirable to live and work in, just as described in the report to the 20th CPC National Congress.”

In the village square, the bonfire burns even brighter, warming the hearts of everyone there.

(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No. 23-24, 2022)

Source: English Edition of Qiushi Journal, 2023 No.1