Runners participating in a race that traversed a network of newly-completed rural roads demonstrate how new life is created in China’s countryside.
AT the crack of dawn, Peng Chunling can be found busily loading ripe watermelons onto a truck. From growing grains to planting melons in a highly efficient agricultural operation, villagers like Peng of Zhenzhuozhuang Village, Suqian City in Jiangsu Province, have seen their incomes rise and livelihoods flourish. And all the positive changes can be ascribed to one thing — construction and upgrading of rural roads.
Booming Rural Tourism
Rural roads are a basic requirement for rural economic and social development. In the past, the weak transportation infrastructure was a bottleneck for the development of the Chengzi Lake area in Siyang County, Suqian City. While in recent years, a total of RMB 1 billion has been invested in key transportation projects in this area, improving interconnectivity of the county via expressways and provincial highways with better developed urban areas.
Apart from connecting to outside markets, the upgraded rural roads have also facilitated the development of tourism. Several ecotourism projects have already been completed in the Chengzi Lake Tourist Resort in Siyang County.
As the roads have become more accessible, the surrounding environment has improved. Zhao Yuqin, a resident of the Chengzi River Community, has personally witnessed these developments and changes.
“Houses and sanitation facilities have been built, and the greening project has beautified the roadsides. I can earn money working in a fruit company. Now, my annual income exceeds RMB 20,000. We are content with our life,” said Zhao.
Like Zhao Yuqin, there are many farmers benefiting from the improved transportation. “The roads used to be unpaved and the villages were untidy. Now, the sanitation and the environment have greatly improved thanks to the new roads,” said Shao Qizhuang, a senior villager living at the Bohu Residential Community in Siyang County.
At present, the mode of “rural road + tourism” has seen more farmers in Su-qian City get rich. Making use of the new rural roads in the Chengzi Lake area, Siyang County government invested nearly RMB 30 million in building a peach park at Luji Township, an agricultural scenic spot which is expected to increase local collective income by nearly RMB 300,000. In 2019, Suqian City received 27.87 million tourists, who brought a tourism revenue of RMB 33.6 billion. The per capita disposable income of local rural residents has exceeded RMB 18,000.
In addition to connecting rural areas to the outside market, upgraded rural roads also facilitate the development of local tourism.
Connected by E-Commerce
How many packages can a delivery center in a Chinese town handle every day? Hu Yun, who manages such a delivery center in Xinhe Town, Shuyang County of Suqian City, offered an answer: around 10,000. “At the peak time, the figure reached 80,000,” Hu said, attributing the brisk business to upgraded transportation.
Hu’s delivery service center is just one of many in the E-commerce Express Park in Xinhe Town, the first of its kind in Jiangsu Province. Built in 2016 with an investment of RMB 5 million, the park now houses 11 courier services companies.
“From January to July this year, the park has processed and shipped out more than 19 million shipments. It is estimated that the 26 express delivery centers in the park will ship out more than 70 million shipments this year,” said Ge Hengping, Party chief of Xinhe Town.
Fueling the buoyant courier services is the bonsai planting business that underpins the township economy.
Xinhe Town is home to 11,000 online stores selling bonsai plants, and the annual sales exceed RMB 2.5 billion. “After the express park started operation, it has provided efficient and convenient delivery services for farmers, effectively promoting a sound development of the bonsai planting industry,” said Ge.
At the bonsai market in Zhouquan Village in Xinhe Town, Jiang Aihua is busy trimming and packaging bonsai orders for her customers. At the same time, she is livestreaming her daily routine via a social media platform. In one hour, she attracts more than 20,000 online viewers, and receives over 20 orders worth RMB 10,000. “In the past, we had to send the goods to the downtown market. Since the bonsai is too large to transport, transportation was a problem. Now with the roads built, we can package the goods at home and use the door-to-door delivery service,” said Jiang.
Through the rural roads, the courier service in Xinhe Town has become fast and efficient. Today, there is an average of 2.2 parcels sent across the world every second from Xinhe Town.
A new road leads to beautiful Huaixi Village.
Infrastructure connectivity has fueled thriving agricultural industries in Suqian. Since 2014, like Siyang, some other counties including Shuyang and Sihong in Suqian have also witnessed rapid growth of industries suitable to local conditions.
Farmers in Dianhu Village, Sihong County, have long been growing pecan seedlings. In 2014, a pecan seedlings nursery measuring about 2.7 hectares was built. Local farmers’ concern at the time was how to ship the seedlings out of the remote hinterland village.
They were emboldened to expand the nursery business a year later as a highway connecting Suqian with Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu Province, and neighboring Shanghai region, was completed.
Today, the formerly poor Dianhu Village takes on a totally different look featuring broad roads, rows of new houses, and stretches of greenhouses, along with more than 10 companies that have settled there. He Xiaojiao, a local firm’s employee, said: “Now we can find a job without leaving the village. Our annual income can reach RMB 40,000 to 50,000.”
Transportation connectivity is also a priority of local governments in fighting poverty. Since 2012, Suqian City has invested RMB 1.5 billion to develop transport infrastructure, which has uplifted nearly 100,000 people out of poverty. “The transportation now available for bringing in supplies and selling our grain has made business much more convenient than before. It saves labor and expense. I contracted out 220 hectares of land, which now generates an annual net income of RMB 800,000 or more for my family,” said Shi Suwen, a major grain farmer working in the area.
In Henan Village of Sihong County, the decrepit village road was only 3.5 meters in width. Now it has been renovated and broadened out to 5.5 meters. “It connects our farmland and has brought tangible benefits to our farmers,” said Zhu Xiumin, Party chief of Henan Village, noting that the 3.2-km-long broad road makes people’s daily life much easier.
“In the past, due to poor road conditions, when it snowed or rained, we had to stop business; now, transport is no longer a concern. In the past, we traveled on foot or by bicycle, but now every household has motorcycles or even cars. In the past, we farmers went on a long journey to see urban scenery, but now, urbanites come to enjoy the idyllic rural life,” said Ge Yimei, a farmer from Qiaozhuang Village in Sihong.
Coming along with the improved road conditions is a rising number of tourists and returning of young people starting up businesses in their hometowns, according to Ge Yimei, who believes the youth is the future of the countryside.
As rural roads are spreading all over the country and helping accelerate rural vitalization, China’s hinterland villages are becoming more prosperous, modern, and livable.