Thriving Industries for Prosperity

Reenergizing rural industries will top the agenda of China's rural vitalization strategy amid the country's efforts to build a modernized economy. China SCIO takes you on a tour of rural areas across the country to see how the local governments help industries thrive.


E-commerce revitalizes rural China

The Qiandao Lake in Zhejiang province has been known for its thousands of islands. Now, local officials are hoping to make a name for its agricultural products with the help of e-commerce tools.

At various tourist hotspots throughout the area, visitors can spot QR codes that lead them to the Qiandao Lake online store listing farmers' goods. Once ordered, the products could be delivered within hours by local postal workers.

"It was difficult to develop e-commerce in villages, because farmers lack the technologies and logistics capabilities," said Gao Xing, head of the post office in Chun'an county.

As express service is not available in remote villages, the Chun'an county government is exploring its own way to develop e-commerce between farmers there and enterprises, and creating the brand of Qiandao Lake.

"China Post has experienced technical staff for helping villagers to develop e-commerce," Gao introduced. "It has 261 village branches all over the county, and the express cars go to those villages every day."

Zhang Feiyan, director of the Tourism Commission of the Qiandao Lake scenic spot, added that the QR codes could now be found everywhere, on sightseeing boats, around wharfs, in hotels, or even at fruit and vegetable stands.

"Thanks to the QR codes, now in Chun'an, everyone has become a spokesperson for agricultural products labeled Qiandao Lake," Zhang said.

Since last October, the online store has received more than 8,000 orders. More and more agricultural products here have been sold to Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.

A courier sorts packages for online shoppers in Chun'an county. [Photo/]

Boosting agriculture with big data

New technologies not only contribute to increase in demand, they also help to ramp up supply in rural China.

In Fujian province, the government is promoting the use of big data analysis to boost agricultural production, which led to the yield of a new tomato cultivar named "fuxiaoxi" in Chongren village.

Huang Yueqin, the person in charge of a vegetable base in Chongren, now works in gathering the data of tomatoes, including real-time temperature, humidity, illumination and so on. Using the data, Huang could predict the growth rate and achieve year-round production with yields eight times higher than using traditional methods.

New tomato cultivar in Fujian province. [Photo/Xinhua]

Elsewhere in Fujian, Fuan city is known as the biggest grape production base in China. The grape farms between its hundred-plus villages covered 46.7 square kilometers, with an annual value output of 700 million yuan (US$111 million).

Through the internet and a customer database, 30 percent of the grapes are now sold online, with annual sales of 300 million yuan, and benefitting 75,000 village households.

All such villages are now known as "Taobao Villages," named after China's biggest e-commerce platform.

Statistics indicate that the Fujian provincial government has set up 17 national-level rural e-commerce model counties, 25 provincial-level rural e-commerce model counties, and 154 provincial-level rural e-commerce model villages by the end of 2017.

According to the Ministry of Commerce, China's online retail volume in rural areas topped 1.24 trillion yuan in 2017, up 39.1 percent year on year.

Over 9.8 million online shops were based in villages by the end of 2017, up 20.7 percent year on year, creating over 28 million jobs.

Source: China's Ministry of Commerce

E-commerce pitches in on poverty relief

As e-commerce boosts farmers' income and makes their lives more convenient, more and more local governments turn to it to lift low-income families out of poverty.

In 2017, the online retail volume of 832 national-level poor counties reached 120.8 billion yuan, up 52.1 percent year on year, 13 percentage points higher than the average rural growth.

Jinzhai in eastern China's Anhui province, once an important Red Army revolutionary base, was one of the country's poorest counties. More than 25.68 percent of the population was considered impoverished in 2013.

In recent years, the county government has allocated funds and offered favorable policies to villagers, aimed at winning the county's battle to alleviate poverty by developing e-commerce.

According to Shao Xiancheng, secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Tangjiahui Township Committee in Jinzhai county, the government set up an e-commerce street last September, offering 20,000 yuan for store renovations and free rent for five years. These preferential policies have attracted many e-commerce enterprises.

Thirty-four-year-old Zhang Chuanfeng is a villager in Tangjiahui township. "I made a living by raising sheep before, and earned less. Now I have my Taobao shop and make 20,000 yuan every month," Zhang said. "The products are from 50 poor households. I hope this business could help all of us get rid of poverty."

Zhang runs one of the large rent-free Taobao shops on the e-commerce street with his business partner Wang Lin, one of many shop owners here who quit their jobs in the cities and returned to their hometown.

"When I learned my hometown had set up an e-commerce street, I quit my job in Suzhou city to work with Zhang Chuanfeng," Wang said. "Now I could take good care of my parents after work, and I believe e-commerce has a bright future."

In 2017, the online retail volume in Jinzhai county reached 1.46 billion yuan, with a year-on-year increase of 45.9 percent. The number of e-commerce shops reached 5,000, employing 15,000 local people.

Additionally, Jinzhai county set up an e-commerce market for poverty alleviation. On the market's website, 12,000 village officials put up local produce and sold it online to help lift poor households out of poverty.

International recognition for poverty alleviation

China's efforts to reduce poverty through developing e-commerce has also won the applause all over the world.

Caroline Legros, deputy director of the World Food Program's China office, delivered a speech at a summit of poverty reduction in Chongqing on Jan. 18. She said the e-commerce platform could link farmers with the market and help them gain steady income by selling their produce online, which greatly enhanced the motivation of farmers.

"We believe that, in the near future, the mode of poverty alleviation through e-commerce could be promoted to other countries in the world," she said.

Her speech was echoed by Samuel Eduardo Varas Guevara, director of the IT Division of Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N., who said he would study the influence and impact of e-commerce on poverty reduction, and promote China's experience of e-commerce worldwide.

Zhang Chuanfeng shows off the receipts from express deliveries. [Photo/VCG]
Jinzhai county sets up an e-commerce market for poverty alleviation. [Photo/VCG]
Samuel Eduardo Varas Guevara speaks on e-commerce and poverty alleviation. [Photo/Xinhua]

Industrial restructuring boosts rural economy

Huang Tingxiang, a 64-year-old farmer in Xiuwen county, Guizhou province, recently began turning his cornfields into farms for kiwi fruits.

"One mu (0.07 hectares) of land could produce about 1,000 kilograms of kiwi fruits, worth 10,000 yuan (US$1,589). That amounts to the output value of several mu of cornfield."

Huang sold some 500 kilograms of kiwi fruits in 2017, and made 5,000 yuan. He then began growing kiwi fruits on 10 mu of farmland. He is also attending training courses held by the county government to learn planting skills, and planning to turn the remaining four mu of cornfield into kiwi farms.

This would be Huang's second attempt at growing kiwi fruits. His first try 10 years ago ended in vain, as he had no technological or management skills for it.

Today, Huang has the support of the Xiuwen county government, which has been stepping up efforts for industrial restructuring in its rural areas. Local farmers set up kiwi cooperatives on their own so as to explore a wider market for their fruits, while the county authorities have been promoting its kiwi fruit industry in other aspects, ranging from variety breeding, farming standards, cold-chain transportation, products processing, sorting and packing to marketing and technology support.

Through these efforts, more than 6,000 rural households now grow kiwi fruits in Xiuwen. Its kiwi farms combine to cover 167, 000 mu – far more than its cornfields. Xiuwen Kiwi has become a brand, exporting to the U.S., Canada, and countries and regions in Southeast Asia.

In Xiuwen, the saying goes,

If you want to get rich fast, growing kiwi fruits is a way to go."

In the next three years, the county plans to continue to reduce corn production and add nearly 40,000 mu of farmland for kiwis, according to the county's latest industrial restructuring plan.

China's Ministry of Agriculture recently announced a list of 135 agricultural products labelled "Agro-product Geographical Indications," and Xiuwen Kiwi from Guizhou province is on the list. This brand is becoming the local pillar industry to boost the rural economy, as echoed in the Xiuwen county government work report in 2018.

Harvesting kiwi fruits in Xiuwen county. [Photo/Guiyang Daily]

Meanwhile, many other counties and villages in Guizhou are also reporting successes in their rural vitalization efforts, and the initiative of industrial restructuring in rural areas has been sweeping across the province.

"We need to have a profound industrial revolution to boost the rural economy," said Sun Zhigang, secretary of the CPC Guizhou Provincial Committee, on the sidelines of the first session of the 13th National People's Congress. "This not only concerns a population of 2.8 million living in poverty, but influences Guizhou's essential target of helping 20 million farmers live a well-off life."

In Niaowang village, such a revolution has been changing people's lives.

The village is located in the Yunwu mountainous area in Guiding county, and it lies at an altitude of 1,200-1,500 meters. Once one of the poorest areas in Guizhou province, it is now famous for its Yunwu Tea.

"Living on high mountains, we have acid soil rich in humus and minerals," Lei Jiacai, a tea grower in Niaowang village, said. "There is abundant rainfall here, and the temperature varies widely from day to night. Such a climate is especially suitable for tea plant growth, and the tea here features fresh smells and rich flavor."

The village has a history of several hundred years in planting tea. However, the wild tea, once a tribute to the emperors of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), had quite a low yield. Households in the mountain produced very little and just traded it for salt. Most of the local farmlands were used to cultivating rice and corn at a lower output, according to Lei.

As the country called for a market economy with the policy of reform and opening up in the 1980s, people living outside the mountains rushed here to buy wild tea. Some villagers who left home for a living elsewhere also returned. They dug for tea seedlings on the mountains, and transplanted them around their own farmlands or houses. Some of the tea was left for the family to enjoy, while some was sold to tea-buyers.

Witnessing more economic benefits than what rice or corn could bring, the local government began to support the tea industry since 1997. At the beginning, only several households chose to plant tea in the farmlands. Over the next 20 years, almost every household in the village switched to growing tea.

By the end of 2017, the tea growing area has reached more than 12,000 mu in Niaowang village, with 19 mu per household and 4 mu per person in average. The village has set up 57 production lines for mechanized tea processing, creating an annual output value of more than 30 million yuan. The per capita disposable income here has surpassed 10,000 yuan.

"Good tea grows on high mountains," said Lei, who owns 40 mu of tea farm. "Nature gives Niaowang village a unique geographical environment, helping villagers become richer."

Besides growing tea, Lei is also engaged in the processing, wholesale and retail of tea leaves at home. "Tea has become a ready source of money for me, and I don't worry about the livelihood anymore."

From starting small family tea gardens to cultivating tea enterprises, businesses and cooperatives, Niaowang village has succeeded in adjusting its rural industrial structure, hence turning its resource advantage into economic gain. Its increasingly developing tea industry has helped local villagers to live a well-off life, thanks to local processing enterprises and cooperatives.

Not just in Niaowang village, the past 10 years have witnessed a rapid development of farmers' cooperatives all over the country. Such cooperatives offer services including purchasing the means of agricultural production, marketing, processing, transporting and storing farm products, and providing technologies and information related to agricultural production and operation. Through these services, farmers engaged in the same kind of agricultural production are able to pool resources and increase productivity.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, around 2 million farmers' cooperatives were registered in China as of November 2017, 76 times the number a decade ago.

Currently, over 100 million rural households have joined various cooperatives, accounting for 46.8 percent of the country's total.

Tea plucking. [Photo/VCG]
Niaowang village is famous for its high quality tea. [Photo/VCG]
Tea withering. [Photo/VCG]

Migrants return to Taiqian as entrepreneurs

Zhou Qingqiang and Zhang Chunhua found their first pot of gold in the business of automobile parts 10 years ago, but they were far from their hometown of Taiqian county in central China's Henan province. Therefore, after a few years of saving money and accumulating experience, the couple decided to return home to set up a generator factory. Taiqian has welcomed back 3,367 migrant workers who then started local business over the past three years. In turn, they created new jobs for over 32,800 farmers and greatly revitalized the local economy.

Located in the lower reaches of the Yellow River, the county was once one of the poorest in the country. Today, it has become a vibrant manufacturing base. The county is home to more than 500 factories for automobile parts; its down feather products are sold to more than 40 countries and regions; and its photo frame industry accounts for more than 50 percent of the national market share.

The dramatic revitalization was due in large part to a string of policies that facilitate and incentivize entrepreneurship and growth. Chang Qimin, secretary of the county's Party committee, said, "Many industries have been growing up from nothing. Groups of people returned home with their technology, funds and experience, which became the lighthouse of rural vitalization."

Zhou and Zhang's business in Taiqian grew quickly. In 2014, they secured additional land with the help of the Taiqian county government to expand the factory; two years later, they received a low interest loan of 500,000 yuan (US$79,711) and another 50,000 yuan in government allowance to expand even further.

Today, the factory supplies more than 100 clients with an annual output value of 50 million yuan. It also has 19 employees from poor households who earn a monthly salary of 2,300 yuan.

Zhou Qingqiang and Zhang Chunhua's generator factory. [File photo]

While Zhou and Zhang received aid from Taiqian, the county government also gained experience in creating jobs for poor households. In 2016, the county built and remodeled 124 workshops for poverty alleviation.

"If the county had not set up workshops, we could never have our own factory," said Fan Longsheng, whose factory produces stuffed toys. Fan moved the family business from his small house to the new workshop in May 2016, which tripled its production and created more than 60 jobs. Half of these jobs went to poor households.

With aid from the county government, Fan received a poverty alleviation loan of 300,000 yuan. The village committee also helped him to secure the new workshop, handle the administrative procedures and train workers.

The workshop was up and running in less than one month, and it began receiving more orders from around the country.

Han Yuxia, a villager who works at the stuffed toys factory, said it was convenient for her to work here. "It is near my house. The income is as much as I get working in the city. What's more, I could take care of my child and elders in my spare time."

Because she is from a poor household, Han had priority over other candidates to work in the factory. She also works a part-time job at the vegetable farm, and her annual income now reaches 20,000 yuan.

Developing special agricultural products is another way Taiqian county is attracting migrant workers back home. Zhang Lingli, previously a construction worker, returned to Taiqian after losing his job in 2014. He and three other members of his family lived by farming on 0.13 hectares of land and doing odd jobs.

After learning his situation, the village official suggested to him to learn planting technology of agaricus bisporus in the neighboring mushroom base, and helped him get a loan of 100,000 yuan. With this, Zhang set up more than 1,000 square meters of greenhouse for planting agaricus bisporus. His income now reaches 60,000 yuan every year, and more than 10 villagers have also been lifted out of poverty this way.

During this year's Spring Festival, the county government set up a personnel service site at the train station and the bus station, offering services to people who had the willingness to return home and start businesses.

Meng Qingchang was one of these people. He had worked in a vegetable base in south China. When he walked out of the train station, he was intrigued by the banner of "Rural Vitalization."

"When I mentioned that I had experience of planting vegetable, the staff of the personnel service site not only introduced to me the county's favorable policies, but also registered me as an agricultural technician."

After the spring festival holidays, the staff got in touch with Meng, and assisted him in leasing a field and obtaining a loan. "In only a few days, I built my greenhouse," he said. "Thanks to the government, I am not a migrant worker anymore."

Fan Longsheng (R) and wife Liu Xiaohui play with their newly produced stuffed toys. [Photo/Henan Daily]
A workshop in Taiqian county with employees from impoverished households. [Photo/Xinhua]