Yu Li­ufen: Her Peo­ple’s Leader

China Pictorial (English) - - Contents - Text by Li Zhuoxi

It once took hours of hik­ing along a wind­ing alpine path in the moun­tain­ous Guizhou Prov­ince to reach the vil­lage of Yanbo, home to more than 300 house­holds of the Yi eth­nic group. To­day, vis­i­tors will be met with blocks of villa build­ings with white walls and gray tiles. Many fam­i­lies in the vil­lage have their cars parked in front of their houses. Against the hill­side be­hind the build­ings are sev­eral vil­lage-run en­ter­prises in­clud­ing dis­til­leries and chicken farms. At the sum­mit are well-equipped pub­lic build­ings such as sports fa­cil­i­ties and a med­i­cal clinic.

The dif­fer­ence from 16 years ago is unimag­in­able—then, the vil­lage lacked roads, elec­tric­ity and tap wa­ter. Vil­lagers lived in shabby houses built with earth or huts. The vil­lage’s ac­count was com­pletely empty and the an­nual per capita in­come of vil­lagers was less than 800 yuan.

“Things would be to­tally dif­fer­ent with­out her,” some vil­lagers em­pha­size. “Her” refers to Yu Li­ufen, who was in her thir­ties when she be­came the first fe­male sec­re­tary of the vil­lage’s Party branch at the be­gin­ning of 2001, when she vowed to lead her fel­low vil­lagers to pros­per­ity.


“At that time, Yanbo Vil­lage was too poor,” says Sec­re­tary Yu. “I vowed to make a dif­fer­ence the mo­ment I took of­fice.”

Trans­porta­tion was the ma­jor ob­sta­cle keep­ing the vil­lage in poverty be­cause the moun­tains are high and dan­ger­ous. Cargo

had to be trans­ported on horse or by foot. On the day she took of­fice, Yu held a vil­lage meet­ing and pro­posed build­ing a road. There was no money in the vil­lage’s ac­count, and no­body could pay for the con­struc­tion of the road or the land it would re­quire. The pro­posal seemed im­pos­si­ble.

Yu had opened a small gro­cery store be­fore start­ing her new job, so she had some sav­ings. She of­fered to use 40,000 yuan of her own money to buy ma­te­ri­als. But how to ac­quire the land needed to build the road? She and other Party mem­bers in the vil­lage vis­ited af­fected fam­i­lies door-to-door to fig­ure out the so­lu­tion: All the Party mem­bers of­fered to ex­change their own land for that needed for the road. Fi­nally, the con­struc­tion be­gan.

A win­ter of con­struc­tion led to a four-kilo­me­ter road. The sound of New Year fire­crack­ers chris­tened it, fol­lowed by the de­liv­ery of 10 tons of coal in two big trucks. “All of this is at­trib­uted to the work of our Party sec­re­tary,” grins a vil­lager. “We would have re­mained iso­lated from the out­side world for the rest of our lives if she hadn’t taken this chance.”

Shak­ing Off Poverty

By throw­ing out a “life­line,” Sec­re­tary Yu led the whole vil­lage in its fight against poverty.

The nat­u­ral con­di­tions—high al­ti­tude and cold cli­mate—al­low for the pro­duc­tion of noth­ing but corn and pota­toes. Yu Li­ufen had big­ger dreams: She tried to plant higher-earn­ing crops such as fruits and medic­i­nal herbs, but failed due to the cold.

Af­ter some set­backs, Yu turned her eyes to the for­est. Learn­ing that it was to be trans­ferred due to poor man­age­ment, she and the vil­lage cadres dis­cussed the pos­si­bil­ity of col­lec­tively pur­chas­ing the for­est.

“Many liked the idea, but ev­ery­one was quiet when it came to fundrais­ing,” re­calls a vil­lager. “We couldn’t let it go so eas­ily.” The un­yield­ing Party sec­re­tary pulled out all the stops to raise 110,000 yuan in ad­di­tion to get­ting a 60,000-yuan loan in her name.

“I would bear the loss if we failed,” Yu promised.

The vil­lagers sel­dom saw her around af­ter they ob­tained man­age­ment rights. They later dis­cov­ered that she had been busy shut­tling be­tween forestry de­part­ments to get log­ging ap­proval and look­ing for clients. Within a year, the vil­lage had paid off all the loans and earned hun­dreds of thou­sands of yuan from the for­est.

Big Pic­ture

“A for­est farm is a green bank,” as­serted Yu af­ter their first suc­cess­ful at­tempt. Af­ter that suc­cess, she has ori­ented her vil- lage in­dus­try to fo­cus on any­thing green: veg­etable green­houses, cat­tle ranches and chicken farms.

Af­ter sev­eral years of prac­tice with small-scale busi­nesses, both the vil­lagers and the com­mu­nity ac­cu­mu­lated a cer­tain amount of sav­ings. Yu Li­ufen, how­ever, was not sat­is­fied with the slow pace and mapped out plans for the big pic­ture by es­tab­lish­ing a farm­ers’ spe­cial­ized co­op­er­a­tive.

The new sys­tem fea­tured a large col­lec­tive split into shares that vil­lagers were free to pur­chase at any small pro­por­tion. This at­tracted the at­ten­tion of many vil­lage stake­hold­ers. Tech­ni­cal in­no­va­tion was con­ducted in farms, which mor­phed into hi-tech farms for blue- eggshell chick­ens. Brew­eries evolved into a dis­tillery, en­abling large-scale pro­duc­tion of a lo­cal liquor brand, known as Yanbo. To­day, a large dis­tillery has an an­nual out­put of 5,000 tons thanks to the in­tro­duc­tion of out­side in­vest­ment.

Along with speed­ing up in­dus­trial pace, ef­forts have also been made to im­prove the en­vi­ron­ment of the vil­lage. Ren­o­va­tions were made on res­i­den­tial build­ings, pub­lic toi­lets, court­yards and pub­lic spa­ces, fi­nanced by both the gov­ern­ment and pri­vate par­ties. Roads con­nect ev­ery house­hold to the high­ways. Di­lap­i­dated build­ings and huts are nowhere to be seen.

Lead­ing Body

“Noth­ing can be done with­out the three for­mu­las: ba­sic Party build­ing, poverty al­le­vi­a­tion and a col­lec­tively owned eco­nomic sys­tem,” as­serts Yu Li­ufen, on the key to shak­ing off poverty. “I’m so proud that our vil­lage’s lead­ing body has been united and prag­matic, win­ning pub­lic cred­i­bil­ity through fair­ness, jus­tice and open­ness.”

“I lit­er­ally could not have achieved any­thing with­out great sup­port from both my fel­low vil­lagers and the lead­ing body,” she adds.

To­day, the lead­ing body has ac­cel­er­ated the de­vel­op­ment of vil­lage-run in­dus­trial en­ti­ties with in­no­va­tion, amass­ing col­lec­tive-owned as­sets of 62 mil­lion yuan and col­lec­tive eco­nomic liq­uid funds of 4.72 mil­lion yuan. An­nual per capita in­come has grown from less than 800 yuan to 15,500 yuan.

“I owe ev­ery suc­cess to our lead­ing body, which has brain­stormed bril­liant ideas, and my fel­low vil­lagers, who have made great ef­forts to­wards chang­ing their own lives,” re­marks Yu.

But lo­cal vil­lagers owe the vil­lage’s dra­matic change to their leader, Yu Li­ufen, who pulled the lead­ing body and over 900 vil­lagers to­gether to pave a new path for a green in­dus­try and pros­per­ity in the new era.

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