In China, more than 3,600 villages and towns like Bairuopu have successfully developed pillar industries and integrated primary, secondary and tertiary industries.
Since the launch of the rural revitalization strategy in 2017, rural industries have been regarded as “the foundation to realize rural revitalization and the precondition of solving all rural problems,” as stressed in the State Council’s guideline issued in 2019. The guideline encourages capitalizing the diverse functions and values of rural areas to cultivate and expand rural industries, and stimulates the issuance of supportive policies in fiscal investment, financial support and tax preferences. In 2022, the central government’s subsidy for rural revitalization totaled 165 billion yuan (US$22.8b) and over half of it will be used for industrial development, a MARA official said in a press conference held on September 28.
This has significantly changed the economic landscape of the Chinese countryside. Industries that center around planting of cash crops, e-commerce, agricultural product manufacturing and rural tourism are growing in many regions.
Haitong Township of Puyang County, Henan Province, along the Yellow River, was an impoverished township. But now it is a popular tourist destination famous for lotus gardens, taking advantage of the readily available water resources. From July to October, the town gets more than 10,000 visitors a day.
Farmers were encouraged to plant lotus and sell the roots in 2013. When countryside tourism became trendy, the township built an extensive lotus garden in 2015. Now tourism has turned to other ventures including ornamental koi carp breeding, walnut and rice planting and food processing. In total 37 cooperatives and 56 family farms have been established, and the 650 mu (43.3 hectares) of ornamental koi alone earns farmers over 20,000 yuan (US$2,780) per mu.
In 2018, Li Shuchang came back to Haitong Town and built Dongsen Industrial Park with support from the township government, which mainly produces daily use products like tissue and laundry detergent. In 2020 he established a professional e-commerce center which trains locals in ecommerce and is an important channel for local agricultural products to reach a larger market. The industrial park provides over 300 jobs.
Changes are also happening in remote mountainous villages. In Damiao Village, Yiliang County, Yunnan Province, a new coffee shop is popular with young people, and some have become skilled baristas. A year ago, the Miao ethnic village was still impoverished and people lived under the same roof as their livestock.
In 2021, the village was chosen as a pilot site for Yiliang County’s poverty alleviation efforts. With government support, the village built a collective tourism enterprise and embarked on rebuilding houses, roads and other modern facilities such as the coffee shop, public toilets, hotels, convenience store and children’s play facilities. Visitors experience Miao culture and see demonstrations of traditional crafts like wax printing. They planted marigolds on a hillside that they can sell and also to take advantage of the craze for photography and Insta-culture.
Some residents who worked away were encouraged to return, participating in construction and training courses that help them run the new businesses. Between June, when the village opened to tourists, and September, turnover reached over 900,000 yuan (US$125,100).
Li Shanmei, a county official tasked with helping the village, told NewsChina they plan to plant turnips in winter after the marigolds are harvested and build a processing plant to make dried turnip. As a local dish of fried pork proved popular, they hope there will be more pig raising and meatpacking plants in the future.
More places are tapping their resources, improving the commercial environment and attracting talents to get on the bandwagon. In September, Gu Guoming, head of Dongwangzhuang Village of Laiwu, Shandong Province, is busy leading the villagers to clean up the rivers and the village environment. He wants to develop it as a tourist hotspot. The village’s roads and toilets were improved in the past two years, part of the national campaign to improve living standards in rural areas.
In 2018, Gu, who also manufactures mats and rugs, came back to the village as Party secretary and introduced the hand-knit braided rug business to the mountainous village. “It doesn’t demand much in technique, and it’s suitable for elderly people and women who have to stay at home taking care of children,” Gu said.
The mats they make to put under drum kits are exported to countries like Belgium, the US, Russia and many Southeastern Asian and African countries via Alibaba. This cross-border business earns each villager up to 4,000 yuan (US$556) a month during peak seasons. The revenue from the workshop is reserved for village construction and dividends for villagers. In 2021, sales totaled 5 million yuan (US$695,000). Each villager received dividends worth 4,000 yuan (US$556) earlier this year.
But Gu believes tourism is a better way, and he is planning to build a collective enterprise to develop tourism based on the village’s natural and historical resources. He told NewsChina that the village used to be a location for strategic manufacturing like vehicles and telecom equipment in the 1960s, but this ended in the 1980s.
“Over 400 young people came here to work for the country under arduous conditions. We have old plants and sites that are of great historical value. We should protect and pass on the relics to the next generation,” Gu said. They have repaired the buildings and Gu wants to turn them into a museum of telecommunications.
“The village also boasts over 10,000 mu of forest and two ancient trees over 600 years old that we can make use of,” Gu said. He is passionate when talking about his plans, explaining he has contacted a professional to help make a blueprint based on the resources the village has. “We want to turn the resources into capital and let villagers be the shareholders and eventual beneficiaries,” he added.
Social forces including universities and companies are also playing an important part in boosting rural industries, particularly in cultivating professionals, which is essential for rural development.
Li Xiaoyun, executive vice dean of China Agriculture University’s Rural Revitalization Research Institution, has been engaged in building pilot zones for rural revitalization in many villages in Yunnan Province. His team, consisting of teachers and graduate students, participated in the redevelopment of Damiao Village, from design to training villagers. Some of his students are still there.
In 2021, the university launched a program with internet giant Tencent to train managers. In 2018, Tsinghua University and social organizations including the China Charity Alliance launched the Leader Plan to empower new farmers primarily aged under 45 to start village enterprises. By the end of 2021, the program trained nearly 100,000 new farmers from 31 provinces and cities.
At a press conference held in June in Beijing, Deng Xiaogang, vice minister of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, said that rural areas have made marked progress in agricultural produce processing and circulation, countryside tourism, ecommerce, the integration of multiple industries and rural business startups.
In the past 10 years, the number of market entities engaged in leisure farms and agritourism reached over 300,000, with turnover surpassing 700 billion yuan (US$97.3b). There are more than 30,000 e-commerce companies involving agriculture, whose online sales of agricultural products totaled 420 billion yuan (US$58.4b), while 140 industrial clusters and 250 national modern agricultural industrial parks and 1,300 towns strong in multiple industries have been established, Deng said.
In 2021, per capita disposable income of China’s rural population reached 18,931 yuan, a rise of 125.7 percent over 2012, data from the National Bureau of Statistics shows.