Dynamic Changes in a Mountain Village


       By GAO TING 


 The hard-surfaced mountain road leading to the newly built Longmen residential community.


IN 1988, the more than 650 people of Yaozhihe Village in Hubei’s mountainous northwest scratched out a living on a total 700 mu of arable land (1 mu equals 1/15 hectare). Annual per-capita production of grain was less than 150 kilograms and per-capita cash income less than RMB 300 that year. Life was frugal; neither electricity nor phone lines were available. A mountain trail was the only link between the village and the outside world.

But things started to change that year when the village committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) decided to lead the villagers to develop local economy. By the end of 2011, thanks to over 20 years of hard work, their gross value of industrial and agricultural production exceeded RMB 1.3 billion, contributing revenues of RMB 250 million. Annual per-capita income that year reached RMB 10,000 and the fixed assets of the village surpassed RMB 2 billion. Alongside this fast economic growth, every family in the village has moved into new houses and Yaozhihe Village has become a paradigm of China’s Construction of New Socialist Countryside program.

Connecting to the Outside World

The journey to prosperity started in 1988 when the villagers tried to open a phosphate mine. Sun Kailin, formerly a teacher, was in charge of the project. “We had phosphate rock reserves, but without a road it was difficult to sell them to the outside world,” said Sun.

Sun realized that to change things he had to take matters into his own hands. He took the initiative and withdrew his entire savings of RMB 4,000 and took out a loan of RMB 3,000. He used these funds to buy the explosives needed to build a road.

“At first the villagers were worried about failing. I thought I should take the lead,” said Sun. He tied a rope around his waist and slid down the mountainside, swinging a hammer, like an acrobat. With his encouragement and leadership, the villagers built a six-kilometer-long mountain road to the first mining site in a little over two months. Some villagers sacrificed their lives during the construction.

Once rock phosphate could be moved out, the next problem was selling it. In order to promote their product, Sun, together with two village cadres, took samples of the rocks and set out in search of potential buyers.

After finding a chemical plant, they visited its managers several times and even worked there for half a month without asking for payment. Their dedication won the managers’ approval, and they signed a purchase and sale contract worth RMB 30,000.

Thereafter their phosphate rock business became more and more successful. To increase the value of their product, Sun led the villagers in the establishment of six ore crushing plants, which not only raised their profits but also provided many job opportunities. In October 1993 Sun was elected secretary of the CPC Yaozhihe Village Committee.

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