Tangyue: Pros­per­ity from Ad­ver­sity

China Pictorial (English) - - Contents - Text by Li Zhuoxi Pho­tographs by Dong Fang

On the moun­tain near Tangyue Vil­lage are char­ac­ters read­ing “from ad­ver­sity to pros­per­ity.” This typ­i­cal poor vil­lage in China's moun­tain­ous ar­eas achieved com­pre­hen­sive poverty al­le­vi­a­tion and a well- off so­ci­ety in only three years. Vil­lagers paved the “Tangyue road” that led them from ad­ver­sity to pros­per­ity and united the vil­lage com­mu­nity for joint ventures.

Tangyue Vil­lage in An­shun city, Guizhou Prov­ince was once a typ­i­cal poor vil­lage in China’s moun­tain­ous ar­eas: Around 800 acres of its land is frag­mented, and farm­ers sub­sist on tra­di­tional agri­cul­ture. Among the 1400 work­ing-age res­i­dents of the vil­lage, nearly 900 leave the city ev­ery year to find work. Thirty per­cent of the vil­lage is waste­land.

In June and July of 2014, two rain­storms hit the vil­lage and al­most ev­ery house and field was swal­lowed by the ris­ing cur­rent, rub­bing salt into the wounds of the di­lap­i­dated vil­lage.

“Noth­ing is dif­fi­cult un­der the guid­ance of party cadres”

The floods forced the im­pov­er­ished vil­lage into de­spair. “My house was flooded 3 years ago,” re­counts 82-year-old Zhu Shun­hua. “The waist-deep wa­ter washed all of our crops and food away. I didn’t know how I could go on liv­ing.”

With an al­ready-poor vil­lage dec­i­mated by nat­u­ral dis­as­ter, what could be done? “From ad­ver­sity to pros­per­ity, we have come to a key cross­roads for change,” de­clared the vil­lage’s party sec­re­tary Zuo Wenxue, propos­ing trans­for­ma­tive change with­out turn­ing back.

Shortly af­ter elec­tion of the vil­lage com­mit­tee and Party branch mem­bers, with sup­port and lead­er­ship of the higher Party com­mit­tee, the vil­lage de­cided to use the ur­gent need to save the vil­lage as an op­por­tu­nity to bring peo­ple to­gether and pro­mote joint de­vel­op­ment.

The day af­ter the dis­as­ter, An­shun mu­nic­i­pal Party com­mit­tee sec­re­tary Zhou Jiankun ar­rived. Thanks to his in­spi­ra­tion, Zuo de­cided to guide ev­ery­one in set­ting up co­op­er­a­tives, and unite all as­signed re­spon­si­bil­ity crop­land with uni­fied man­age­ment to re­al­ize in­dus­trial-scale de­vel­op­ment.

“Noth­ing is too dif­fi­cult with the guid­ance of party cadres,” said Zhu on the changes that took place after­wards. “I never ex­pected Tangyue Vil­lage to be­come such a well-off place in my life­time.”

As Zuo said, “Choose a road, build a team, train the team, adopt a set of poli­cies, and great changes will take place.”

“Unit­ing the vil­lage for joint ventures”

Land is­suance be­came the fo­cus of dis­cus­sion among vil­lagers dur­ing post-dis­as­ter re­con­struc­tion. “We can­not go on with our cur­rent fields, so why not find a com­pany to con­tract the vil­lage land, so the younger res­i­dents can travel out­side to work?” asked some vil­lagers. How­ever, oth­ers op­posed the idea: “Mi­grant work does not last long. Af­ter that, we must come back. Fur­ther­more, if only old peo­ple and chil­dren are left in the vil­lage, is it still a vil­lage?”

Zuo knew that Tangyue, like many vil­lages, faces ru­ral hol­low­ing, an ag­ing pop­u­la­tion and de­creas­ing agri­cul­tural la­bor qual­ity. Mea­ger pro­duc­tion failed to re­spond to myr­iad changes in the big mar­ket. This was why the vil­lage was hav­ing such a hard time shak­ing off poverty. Only when farm­ers be­came united and man­aged across a large patch of land could they main­tain a sta­ble wage.

The Tangyue Vil­lage Com­mit­tee and Party branch found ba­sis for re­form in the res­o­lu­tion of the Com­mu­nist Party of China in the third Ple­nary Ses­sion of the 18th CPC Cen­tral Com­mit­tee, and de­cided to launch the “golden land” co­op­er­a­tive and the land trans­fer cen­ter.

This move marked a risky turn­ing point for the en­tire vil­lage. Farm­ers re­tained the right to con­tract land and trans­ferred us­age rights to co­op­er­a­tives. Pre­vi­ously, Tangyue Vil­lage mainly planted pota­toes and corn, which did not pro­duce great eco­nomic ben­e­fits. Af­ter the es­tab­lish­ment of the golden land co­op­er­a­tives, plant­ing in­come in­creased by sim­ply ad­just­ing the plant­ing struc­ture and plant­ing veg­eta­bles on the trans­ferred land.

In just three years, 90 per­cent of farm­ers in the vil­lage had joined the co­op­er­a­tive. The co­op­er­a­tive united around 700 acres of land that pro­duced crisp red plums and lo­tus roots, and a pheas­ant breed­ing in­dus­try was de­vel­oped. About 30 per­cent of in­come was dis­trib­uted to the co­op­er­a­tive, 30 per­cent to the vil­lage col­lec­tive and 40 per­cent to the vil­lagers.

Vil­lager Zhang Fuyou, 54, re­vealed that his half an acre of land is now all shared by the co­op­er­a­tive. Ef­fi­cient us­age of land re­sources to max­i­mize prof­its greatly mul­ti­plied their pre­vi­ous land in­come. In pre­vi­ous days, Zhang’s fam­ily were all mi­grant work­ers, and the land was left un­cul­ti­vated. Lit­tle was saved from their hum­ble earn­ings. Now with the de­vel­op­ment of co­op­er­a­tives, the fam­ily’s an­nual in­come has reached 50,000 yuan (around US$7,500), and they found the money to build a three-story house

“Unit­ing the vil­lage com­mu­nity for joint ventures” is also great mo­ti­va­tion for mi­grant work­ers to re­turn home. Peng Yan­quan, who works in the co­op­er­a­tive trans­port team said, “I used to re­ceive fre­quent calls from bosses ask­ing me to go back to work. I told them our vil­lage is un­der con­struc­tion, and we have work and in­come all year round. Fur­ther­more, we can take care of the el­derly. There is no place like home."

In 2015, 70 per­cent of the vil­lage land had been trans­ferred to co­op­er­a­tive shares, and by 2016, ev­ery vil­lager was a share­holder of the co­op­er­a­tive. This has pro­vided im­por­tant land re­sources and the man­power for scaled agri­cul­tural man­age­ment and ad­just­ing plant­ing struc­ture.

Changes in Tangyue Vil­lage are even sig­nif­i­cant in the form of data: in 2014, the num­ber of mi­grant work­ers from the vil­lage was 860, a fig­ure which dropped to 50 in 2016. The pop­u­la­tion in poverty fell from 643 in 2014 to zero in 2016. In 2014, the vil­lage col­lec­tive econ­omy pro­duced less than 40,000 yuan (around US$6,000), and in 2016 it soared to 2.024 mil­lion yuan (around US$300,000). The 2014 per capita in­come was 3786 yuan (around US$568) com­pared to 10,030 yuan (around US$1,504) in 2016.

“Nine Red Rules” and Vil­lage Self-gov­er­nance

Another char­ac­ter­is­tic of “unit­ing the vil­lage for joint ventures” has been the si­mul­ta­ne­ous de­vel­op­ment of eco­nomic con­struc­tion and grass-roots gov­er­nance.

A res­o­lu­tion passed at a meet­ing of vil­lage rep­re­sen­ta­tives de­fined the unique “nine red rules” that reg­u­late the health sys­tem, ban­quet sys­tem, loans and rules for re­spect­ing the old and cher­ish­ing the young. The for­mu­la­tion and im­ple­men­ta­tion of rules ef­fec­tively solved decades’ ac­cu­mu­la­tion of cor­rupt cus­toms. More im­por­tantly, the re­la­tion­ship be­tween vil­lagers, and be­tween vil­lagers and the col­lec­tive, has been ef­fec­tively and ra­tio­nally con­structed to max­i­mize de­vel­op­ment po­ten­tial.

To en­sure that ev­ery Party mem­ber in the vil­lage serves as an ex­em­plary role model, vil­lagers reg­u­larly score Party mem­bers. Mem­bers who score less than 60 points on three con­sec­u­tive ap­praisals are asked to re­sign from the Party. This mode is used to as­sess whether the party re­ally plays an ex­em­plary role, and with it, Party con­struc­tion in the vil­lage has run smoothly, and Party mem­ber­ship has in­creased rapidly.

The vil­lage au­ton­omy in Tangyue has not only for­mu­lated an ef­fec­tive method to in­cor­po­rate the Party branch in vil­lage gov­er­nance, but also solved man­age­ment prob­lems. It com­bined the lead­er­ship of the Com­mu­nist Party and tra­di­tional Chi­nese vil­lage gov­er­nance while pro­vid­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for the ex­plo­ration of vil­lage and Party co­op­er­a­tion in the process of ur­ban­iza­tion.

Once weath­ered brick houses in Tangyue Vil­lage have now be­come yel­low walled west­ern-style houses with red roofs.

The con­struc­tion site of Tangyue food courts. Tangyue Vil­lage co­op­er­a­tives fea­ture their own con­struc­tion teams that car­ried out all con­struc­tions in the vil­lage, solv­ing em­ploy­ment prob­lems for many poor house­holds.

A self-built bas­ket­ball court in Tangyue Vil­lage.

Work­ers in the vil­lage co­op­er­a­tive con­struc­tion team re­pair a road. Pre­vi­ously, Tangyue Vil­lage faced an out­flow of la­bor. Al­most all young peo­ple chose to be­come mi­grant work­ers. To­day, more peo­ple come back to the vil­lage to learn tech­nol­ogy and achieve pros­per­ity.

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