Work at What You Enjoy
Triple outputs of grain crops in 1979 testified to the reliability of the household responsibility system. Li Zuzhong stands as witness to the success of reforms three decades ago and to the present land rental reforms, both of which have benefited his village and his family.
“The changes in Xiaojingzhuang Village are immense. Before the reforms of 30 years ago, few households could even afford tiles for their roofs, but now we have everything we need,” Li Zuzhong said. In 1978, Li, his wife, son and daughter lived in a three-room thatched hut. His offspring have since married and moved into two-story villas.
Li Zuzhong’s son Li Liecang, now 50, lives in a tastefully decorated 150-square-meter house with granite floors. It is fully equipped with telephone, flush toilet, computer, solar water heater and other modern home apparatus.
Li Liecang was playing with his grandson when we went to see him. He spoke proudly of his son and two daughters. The former works in Xiamen in Fujian Province and earns an annual salary of RMB 168,000 supervising 100 or more chefs, and has spent RMB 1.9 million on buying a house there. Li’s elder daughter worked away from the village for some years and has since set up a clothing factory in Xiaojingzhuang Village that employs local farmers and earns her a cool RMB 200,000 to RMB 300,000 a year. Li’s youngest daughter earns even more from her mould-processing factory.
When we asked Li about his income he told us that he is a good cook and earns a decent living catering for wedding and funeral gatherings. With that and the takings from the shop his wife runs on the first floor of their house, they command a combined annual income of RMB 50,000. “I have had three cell phones and now want an iphone 4. But you can’t buy them locally,” Li said.
Li admitted that he does not have much in savings because he prefers to invest rather than deposit money in the bank. Several years ago, he invested RMB 680,000 in opening a processing factory which last year brought him dividends of RMB 130,000. “But I don’t buy shares because I know nothing about the stock market. Last year, I bought a 128-square-meter house for more than RMB 300,000, and spent another RMB 200,000 on decorating it. It’s purely for investment,” Li said.Li made his first fortune after the reform and opening-up policy came into effect. There was a shortage of grain on the market at that time, so he and a few other villagers bought grain from elsewhere and sold it. He then invested in pig and duck husbandry and later in free-range chickens before quitting small farms and moving on to industries.
Li’s story is not unusual in his village. Many villagers who were previously migrant workers are now local entrepreneurs. Li’s two daughters are among them. He reckons ten or more households in the village have achieved his level of wealth.
When talking about his dreams and ambitions, Li recalled that 30 years ago, having enough to eat was all he desired. After the reforms of the late 1970s, the common hope was for meat on the table. Now that they are wealthy, everyone can eat whatever they want, and particularly enjoy the organic vegetables that the village cultivates. When asked about his hopes for his grandchildren he told us, “I want them to be well-educated. We used to work purely for money, but we now know that money isn’t everything. It’s better to do things that you enjoy.”
We met someone in Xiaojingzhuang Village whose work is indeed a source of enjoyment – Zhao Yonggang the cadre mentioned earlier. Zhao was born in 1978, the year of the rural reforms. After graduating from Hefei University of Technology in 2000, he worked in direct sales of mechanical machines and cell phones. He then seized the chance that rural development offered to establish a small mechanized construction enterprise. “I helped turn the first spade of soil for the Shannan Town Industrial Zone,” Zhao said proudly. With only two excavators, his company made a gross annual income of more than RMB 1 million. He has since bought an apartment in Hefei and sent his son to the best school in the provincial capital.
After achieving affluence, Zhao Yonggang reflected on the significance of his riches. He then appointed someone to manage his company and applied for the post of village cadre at a monthly salary of RMB 700. Serving his fellow villagers made him consider ways of enriching each and every inhabitant of Xiaojingzhuang Village.
Zhao has drafted a feasibility report on the village’s future development and submitted to the town government. The plan includes developing the village’s ecological and sightseeing agriculture and, bearing in mind the village’s role in historical rural reforms, promoting tourism and leisure culture. He has high hopes of increasing villagers’ per capita income from RMB 8,000 to RMB 50,000.