VIL­LAGES WALK 40-YEAR PATH TO WEALTH

Re­form brings far-reach­ing changes to Jiangsu

China Daily - - FRONT PAGE - By LIU WEIFENG in Suzhou, Jiangsu li­[email protected]­nadaily.com.cn

The book Peas­ant Life in China, writ­ten by pres­ti­gious an­thro­pol­o­gist and so­ci­ol­o­gist Fei Xiao­tong in the 1930s, lifted the veil on the na­tion’s ru­ral ar­eas to the out­side world by doc­u­ment­ing tra­di­tional life in a small vil­lage in Suzhou, Jiangsu prov­ince.

Fei was a pi­o­neer­ing re­searcher and pro­fes­sor noted for his stud­ies of China’s eth­nic groups. He was born in Wu­jiang, Jiangsu, in 1910 and died in Bei­jing in 2005.

Bri­tish so­cial an­thro­pol­o­gist Bro­nis­law Mali­nowski (1884-1942) wrote in the pref­ace to Fei’s book: “Our at­ten­tion here is di­rected not to a small, in­signif­i­cant tribe, but to the great­est na­tion in the world.” The book was pub­lished in 1939 in the United King­dom by Rout­ledge.

far-reach­ing changes that have taken place in Suzhou since the book was pub­lished have trans­formed it into one of China’s wealth­i­est ar­eas in the four decades since the re­form and open­ing-up pol­icy was launched.

Fei coined the term “the Su­nan pat­tern” — lit­er­ally the de­vel­op­ment path in south­ern Jiangsu — in 1983 at the age of 73 when he saw fam­i­lyrun vil­lage and town­ship en­ter­prises boom­ing along the south bank of the Yangtze River, mainly in Suzhou, Wuxi and Changzhou.

He had con­cluded decades ear­lier that this vast ru­ral area could de­velop in­dus­try to adapt to chang­ing times. Grad­u­ally in­tro­duced ur­ban­iza­tion led by in­dus­try helped to lift the peo­ple out of poverty in the early 1980s.

Cheng Changchun, a gov­ern­ment coun­selor in Jiangsu and dean of the Jiangsu Yangtze River Delta Eco­nomic Re­search In­sti­tute, said, “The suc­cess and the trans­for­ma­tive abil­ity of the Su­nan pat­tern is tes­ti­mony to the ef­fec­tive­ness of the re­form and open­ing-up pol­icy.”

Cheng said that as the Chi­nese econ­omy finds it­self on the “cusp of yet an­other quan­tum leap”, con­tin­ued pros­per­ity un­der the Su­nan pat­tern un­der­scores the need for the na­tional re­form and open­ing-up pol­icy to be deep­ened and widened.

To­day, not many col­lege grad­u­ates can re­sist de­cent pay and bright ca­reer prospects in a big city, but a few do.

He Luwei, 37, who has a mas­ter’s in eco­nom­ics, grad­u­ated from Zhe­jiang Univer­sity in Hangzhou, the pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal, with a Cer­ti­fied Pub­lic Ac­coun­tant qual­i­fi­ca­tion, but chose a ca­reer path dif­fer­ent from that pur­sued by his peers in cities.

Ten years ago, he went to Huaxi vil­lage in Jiangyin city, Wuxi, Jiangsu, and to his sur­prise found an ideal job and a dream place for a longterm stay.

Now a se­nior ac­coun­tant at a chem­i­cal fiber plant in Huaxi, where his wife was born, He said, “I’ve never re­gret­ted my de­ci­sion to stay for the past 10 years.” His wife grad­u­ated from Suzhou Univer­sity.

The cou­ple’s an­nual in­come is about 400,000 yuan ($57,720), equiv­a­lent to that of a mid­dle-class fam­ily in Bei­jing.

Dubbed the wealth­i­est vil­lage in the coun­try for decades since the re­form and open­ing-up pol­icy was launched, the av­er­age an­nual per­sonal in­come in Huaxi last year was 90,500 yuan. It was just 220 yuan in 1978.

Ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Bu­reau of Statis­tics, the coun­try’s an­nual per capita dis­pos­able in­come was 25,974 yuan last year — 36,396 yuan for ur­ban res­i­dents and 13,432 yuan for the ru­ral pop­u­la­tion.

Huaxi, or “the vil­lage”, as peo­ple still re­fer to it, is now a com­mer­cial gi­ant with di­ver­si­fied busi­ness and in­vest­ment in man­u­fac­tur­ing, min­ing, fi­nance, met­al­lurgy, tex­tiles, tourism, ma­rine in­dus­try, new en­ergy, high-tech­nol­ogy and mod­ern agri­cul­ture.

The vil­lage has a Shen­zhen-listed com­pany, Jiangsu Huaxi­cun Co, which saw rev­enue of just over 2 bil­lion yuan last year, ac­cord­ing to its an­nual re­port. The com­pany was listed in 1999, mak­ing Huaxi the first vil­lage in the coun­try with such an en­ter­prise. The same year, the vil­lage’s sales rev­enue reached 3.5 bil­lion yuan.

Jiangsu Huaxi Group Co, which is over­seen by the vil­lage and is col­lec­tively owned by the res­i­dents, saw rev­enue of 50 bil­lion yuan last year, driven by its trans­for­ma­tion from low-ef­fi­ciency steel and tex­tile busi­nesses to high-end man­u­fac­tur­ing, mod­ern agri­cul­ture and high-tech­nol­ogy.

Wu Xie’en, the vil­lage Party chief, said, “Our debt ra­tio is around 67 per­cent — com­pletely rea­son­able and un­der con­trol.”

Vil­lagers who were born and grew up in Huaxi, who num­ber about 2,800, re­ceive div­i­dends each year as well as monthly pay.

“We are get­ting big­ger and stronger by eat­ing the ‘re­form meal’,” Wu said. “Huaxi has caught the rhythm and each op­por­tu­nity pro­vided by re­form and open­ing-up in the past 40 years.”

Wu, the son of the for­mer Huaxi Party chief Wu Ren­bao, who died in March 2013 aged 85, took over from his fa­ther in 2003 as vil­lage Party chief and chair­man of Jiangsu Huaxi Group, which owns and in­vests in more than 80 en­ter­prises at home and abroad.

Turn­ing point

Most of the older gen­er­a­tion in the vil­lage have Wu Ren­bao to thank for lead­ing them out of poverty and into bet­ter homes with the wages to af­ford cars in the 1980s and ’90s, when most of them took jobs at steel fac­to­ries, ther­mal power plants and fiber busi­nesses.

In 1988, Huaxi be­came the first vil­lage in Jiangsu to be named a “100 mil­lion yuan vil­lage”. Just three years later, it had more than 20 en­ter­prises with busi­ness worth 500 mil­lion yuan.

Such progress was partly due to neigh­bor­ing Shang­hai. Wu Xie’en said, “From 1978, we in­vited groups of en­gi­neers and tech­ni­cians from Shang­hai to train us at week­ends with in­dus­trial de­vel­op­ment and tech­ni­cal skills.

“The week­end en­gi­neers’ train­ing course was a turn­ing point, help­ing us to build up Huaxi’s in­dus­trial base and broaden our hori­zons.”

Led by Wu Xie’en, Jiangsu Huaxi Group’s fi­nan­cial unit, V-cap­i­tal, was launched in Shang­hai in Au­gust 2015. With reg­is­tered cap­i­tal of 2 bil­lion yuan, V-cap­i­tal was man­ag­ing 10 bil­lion yuan in as­sets last year. V-cap­i­tal has in­vested in CATL and Hero En­ter­tain­ment, both uni­corn en­ter­prises (star­tups whose val­u­a­tion has ex­ceeded $1 bil­lion).

Ten heav­ily pol­lut­ing and in­ef­fi­cient steel plants have been closed in Huaxi since 2004, re­duc­ing 1.5 mil­lion met­ric tons of steel and iron ca­pac­ity, or one-third of out­put.

“Dis­man­tling ‘blocks and walls’ is cru­cial in our think­ing to make fur­ther progress,” Wu Xie’en said. “We have changed our meth­ods and ways, but the path and be­liefs re­main the same.”

Huaxi spread its wings to Africa in 2015 by in­vest­ing in min­ing in Mozam­bique, and also the semi­con­duc­tor sec­tor in the United States.

By in­vest­ing in a re­search team at Stan­ford Univer­sity and in Gyr­fal­con Tech­nol­ogy in Sil­i­con Val­ley in the US, V-cap­i­tal has en­abled Huaxi to hit the fast track to in­dus­trial up­grad­ing and trans­for­ma­tion.

A laser chips project based at the Wu­jin high-tech park in Changzhou, Jiangsu, is ex­pected to start mass pro­duc­tion next year, en­ter­ing a mar­ket es­ti­mated to be worth 500 bil­lion yuan.

Zhang Jian­ping, di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for Re­gional Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion af­fil­i­ated to the Min­istry of Com­merce, said, “The Su­nan pat­tern needs to progress and trans­form in the new era, and lo­cals know they can’t rest on past achieve­ments.

“It’s good to see the Su­nan pat­tern seek­ing new growth points and an in­no­va­tive de­vel­op­ment model and path.”

With tal­ent be­ing the most im­por­tant re­source for fu­ture de­vel­op­ment, some pro­fes­sion­als were sent to the US for short-term train­ing, while oth­ers ex­pe­ri­enced week­long “life ex­pe­ri­ence” vis­its to the most un­der­de­vel­oped ar­eas in Qing­hai and Guizhou prov­inces and the Xin­jiang Uygur au­tonomous re­gion.

He Luwei, the se­nior ac­coun­tant, was among the first batch of 26 sent to Chuan­dong vil­lage, Kaiyang county, Guizhou, in Oc­to­ber 2013.

“The trip al­lowed me to em­brace dis­rup­tive think­ing. Some of the pains and suf­fer­ing I had com­plained about in the past were just imag­i­nary ill­nesses,” he said.

Chen Feng, 38, who grad­u­ated from Xi’an Jiao­tong Univer­sity in Shaanxi prov­ince, is now deputy head of the rice busi­ness in Huaxi’s mod­ern agri­cul­ture sec­tor, and mar­ried to a lo­cal. Huaxi in­vested in the Asahi Noyu Farm in Ja­pan to learn the tech­niques to grow high-qual­ity rice and to learn about ad­vanced farm­ing.

The price of Nan­jing 46, a type of Huaxi rice dubbed the tasti­est in Jiangsu, dou­bled to more than 20 yuan per kilo­gram after it was grown us­ing the tech­niques and ex­pe­ri­ence used in Ja­pan.

Chen was among the first group to be sent to the West Point Mil­i­tary Academy in the US for a nine-day train­ing course in De­cem­ber 2014.

“I now have a deeper un­der­stand­ing of what duty, honor and coun­try means. Most of all, I came to re­al­ize hu­man­ity is the most im­por­tant el­e­ment. It helped to shape and con­sol­i­date my lead­er­ship style — that is to cher­ish tal­ent ,” she said.

At Jiangsu Huaxi Group, 39 per­cent of the top ex­ec­u­tives are non­lo­cals, 60 per­cent of the mid­dle man­age­ment come from many dif­fer­ent ar­eas of the coun­try, and 92 per­cent of the grass­roots em­ploy­ees are from out­side the vil­lage.

While send­ing its tal­ent on peo­ple-to-peo­ple ex­changes, Huaxi re­ceives 2 mil­lion vis­i­tors an­nu­ally from home and abroad, in­clud­ing 400,000 who ar­rive in groups to learn from its ex­pe­ri­ence, said Ge Xiaoyan, who works in the vil­lage’s re­cep­tion of­fice.

Yonglian vil­lage in Zhangji­a­gang, Suzhou, of­fers a sim­i­lar story to that of Huaxi, but with vari­a­tions.

Zhang, the Re­gional Eco­nomic Re­search Cen­ter di­rec­tor, said, “Huaxi and Yonglian have grown si­mul­ta­ne­ously, both in sim­i­lar and dif­fer­ent ways. Both have made great ef­forts in up­grad­ing and in­vest­ing more on re­search and de­vel­op­ment to en­hance their com­pet­i­tive edge.”

A gi­ant golden sculp­ture fea­tur­ing four fingers and a thumb stands at the en­trance to Yonglian, which lies on a trib­u­tary of the Yangtze River with res­i­den­tial build­ings on one bank and a vil­lage hall and mu­seum on the other.

The magic touch of Wu Dong­cai, 83, the vil­lage’s for­mer Party chief, trans­formed Yonglian from poverty to one of the coun­try’s rich­est model vil­lages over the past 40 years. The golden fingers sculp­ture is a sym­bol of Yonglian’s unity and a mark of re­spect for Wu, who lost the lit­tle fin­ger of his right hand dur­ing the Korean War (1950-53).

In­comes rise

It is hard to be­lieve that this mod­ern and beau­ti­ful com­mu­nity is still called a vil­lage. But it is not dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand why Yonglian was cho­sen as the only Chi­nese vil­lage to fea­ture at the Mi­lan World Expo in 2015, and one of only two from the coun­try to be in­cluded in the Shang­hai World Expo in 2010.

How­ever, 40 years ago, Yonglian was the poor­est, small­est and most iso­lated river town in Suzhou.

Founded in 1970, and built on 46.6 hectares of reed swamp along the Yangtze, it had just 254 house­holds, or 700 vil­lagers whose av­er­age an­nual in­come was 68 yuan in 1978. How­ever, in the same year, Huaxi res­i­dents had flush toi­lets, and the vil­lage’s de­vel­op­ment stoThe ry had been her­alded as a suc­cess in a lead story on the front page of Peo­ple’s Daily.

Yonglian now cov­ers 12 sq km and is home to 19,000 peo­ple, whose av­er­age an­nual in­come last year was 43,688 yuan, higher than China’s ur­ban res­i­dents’ per capita in­come of 36,396 yuan and 2.5 times the av­er­age ru­ral in­come in Jiangsu.

Yonglian has be­come one of the rich­est vil­lages in Suzhou, rank­ing top among the 640,000 coun­ties in China in terms of eco­nomic achieve­ment, tax pay­ments, eco­log­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment, le­gal progress and cul­tural ad­vance­ment.

“We were a small, poor vil­lage with lim­ited arable land that was flooded ev­ery year. So why not try to grow the fish­ing in­dus­try in­stead of farm­ing?” said Wu Dong­cai, who faced op­po­si­tion when he first raised the idea.

“I took the lead in dig­ging a pond. We worked day and night for months be­fore a me­ter-deep pond was com­pleted,” Wu said. Fish were raised in the pond and then sold.

By the end of 1978, each fam­ily had plenty of food, in­clud­ing fish, and in 1979 each vil­lager re­ceived a year-end al­lo­ca­tion of ex­tra food and ne­ces­si­ties.

That year, the term xi­aokang (moder­ately pros­per­ous so­ci­ety), was used by late leader Deng Xiaop­ing when he met with vis­it­ing Ja­panese prime min­is­ter Masayoshi Ohira and de­tailed the Four Mod­ern­iza­tions, part of China’s de­vel­op­ment roadmap and blue­print.

The Four Mod­ern­iza­tions were goals set by Deng to strengthen the fields of agri­cul­ture, in­dus­try, na­tional de­fense, and science and tech­nol­ogy.

On Feb 5, 1983, Deng be­gan an in­spec­tion tour of Suzhou, Hangzhou and Shang­hai to study the fea­si­bil­ity of xi­aokang. Yonglian was one of the three vil­lages cited in a re­port to Deng for their ad­vanced ru­ral en­ter­prises.

Twenty years later, Yonglian was among the first vil­lages in the coun­try to em­brace the xi­aokang stan­dard of liv­ing. By the end of 1983, it was home to eight plants pro­duc­ing iron and steel, fur­ni­ture, ce­ment and pil­low cov­ers, with com­bined as­sets of 200,000 yuan.

Yonglian’s in­dus­trial rise emerged from an op­por­tu­nity to run a steel mill after an out­sider ar­rived in the vil­lage to sell a steel rolling ma­chine.

“He was on the point of leav­ing be­fore I stopped him, be­cause I re­al­ized the busi­ness op­por­tu­nity pre­sented by the metal, driven by vil­lagers’ de­mand to build big­ger and bet­ter houses after they be­came bet­ter off,” Wu Dong­cai said.

On April 1, 1999, when Fei Xiao­tong, the an­thro­pol­o­gist, made a field study tour of Yonglian, he left with a cal­lig­ra­phy work ti­tled Huaxia Diyi Gang­cun (China’s No 1 steel-mak­ing vil­lage).

Last year, sales rev­enue in Yonglian reached 40.3 bil­lion yuan, gen­er­ated mainly by its steel busi­ness the Yong­gang Group, with a 75 per­cent stake held by the com­pany and the re­main­ing 25 per­cent owned by all the vil­lagers.

Last year, Yong­gang Group ranked 121st on a list of the coun­try’s top 500 pri­vate busi­nesses by the All-China Fed­er­a­tion of In­dus­try and Com­merce.

Wu Huifang was a colonel be­fore he left the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army and re­turned to Yonglian to serve as its Party chief and to help im­prove liv­ing con­di­tions. “Our vil­lagers have be­come cit­i­zens who need ed­u­ca­tion and de­serve more civil rights,” he said.

He was also be­hind the idea of build­ing a vil­lage hall, which fea­tures Western-style ar­chi­tec­ture with state-of-the-art tech­nol­ogy.

The idea of de­sign­ing the hall came in 2011 when he was sent to Cal­i­for­nia for a train­ing course.

Vis­its to coun­cil venues in Car­son, a city in Los An­ge­les County, im­pressed him. “Civ­i­liza­tion can be learned and ex­changed with oth­ers,” Wu told on­line out­let The Paper.

He re­ceived in­spi­ra­tion from his US visit to build the 5,000-sq-m hall in Yonglian, de­scrib­ing it as “a place that en­ables grass­roots democ­racy to be more vis­i­ble and ap­proach­able among vil­lagers”.

We are get­ting big­ger and stronger by eat­ing the ‘re­form meal’. Huaxi has caught the rhythm and each op­por­tu­nity pro­vided by re­form and open­ing-up in the past 40 years.” Wu Xie’en, Huaxi vil­lage Party chief

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

A view of Yonglian vil­lage in Zhangji­a­gang, Jiangsu prov­ince, which has risen from poverty over the decades.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Huaxi in Jiangsu prov­ince is one of China’s most pros­per­ous vil­lages thanks to re­form and open­ing-up.

LIU WEIFENG / CHINA DAILY

Right: A sculp­ture at the en­trance to Yonglian vil­lage, Jiangsu, stands as a sym­bol of Yonglian’s unity, and com­mem­o­rates for­mer vil­lage Party chief Wu Dong­cai.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Left: Wu Ren­bao (cen­ter), for­mer Party chief of Huaxi vil­lage, chats with res­i­dents in the 1970s.

XU CONGJUN / FOR CHINA DAILY

A worker from He­nan prov­ince at the Huaxi Tex­tile Fac­tory is one of 25,000 mi­grants em­ployed in the vil­lage.

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