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Relocation project navigates poverty-relief path for ethnic She

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Since Zhang moved down from the mountains in Jingning County two years ago, his life has undergone remarkable changes, with an expanded mushroom business and increased income.

XinhuaUpdated: October 19, 2020

In a newly decorated three-story building, Zhang Guangliang, 42, is planning to find a good market for his 50,000 mushrooms.

Since Zhang moved down from the mountains in Jingning County two years ago, his life has undergone remarkable changes, with an expanded mushroom business and increased income.

Jingning, in east China's Zhejiang Province, is the only autonomous county for China's ethnic She group in the country, and it used to be a national-level poverty-stricken county. With 779 mountains above 1,000 meters, the location is remote and the terrain steep, hampering the locals' efforts at development.

However, after years of hard work, Jingning finally eliminated poverty, with all households achieving an annual per capita income of at least 4,600 yuan (about 680 U.S. dollars) in 2015. Since then, the local government has been helping those who were relatively poor to shake off poverty for good, with the relocation of mountain residents providing the key to success.

A 10-minute drive from the county seat, a new community has taken shape in Hemuling Village. Each household owns a three-story building like Zhang's, and many of them have cars. There are also supermarkets and material processing plants nearby.

The community now hosts residents who have relocated from two villages in the mountains. By the end of the year, the whole community should be equipped with sealed roads and painted walls, and the living conditions will be as good as those in urban areas, said Zhang Liping, Party secretary of the village.

Lei Qishan, a 72-year-old ethnic She, is one of the residents in the community. He said it used to take him two or three hours to walk down from the mountains. "All we can see here is mountains and trees. How were we supposed to develop?" he said.

Lei Kaifu, director of the villagers committee, said what worried farmers most was whether they would have money to build new houses and have access to employment. The Jingning county government decided to allay their concerns by implementing beneficial policies, including land expropriation and subsidized loans.

"I was afraid that I couldn't afford to build a new home, and there would be no way to survive when I came down from the mountains," said Lei Qishan, who has now built a new house with a loan of 150,000 yuan. With compensation for his land and some part-time work, he now has a modern life and has paid off half of the loan.

So far, more than 2 billion yuan has been invested in the relocation project in Jingning, with 43 communities set up and 20,491 villagers from 291 villages relocated.

There is also a business incubator park covering an area of 347 hectares in Chengzhao Township of Jingning, with more than 10 enterprises already settled in. The park has provided local farmers with new routes to prosperity, by way of factory work, business start-ups and more. It is expected to help more relocated villagers from nearby areas to find jobs in the future.

A great number of villages in Jingning still retain their original way of life, including the traditional architecture of She villages. Rather than being demolished, these buildings have remained in place, serving as homestays for inbound tourists, said Chen Zhong, Party secretary of Jingning County.

In 2019, the average per capita disposable income for urban residents in Jingning was 40,014 yuan, up 8.8 percent year on year, while that for rural residents reached 20,005 yuan, up 10.1 percent.