‘Modernized’ countryside: China’s way of empowering village populations

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Zubair Qureshi

Changsha, hunan province

Located in the centre of China, Hunan province is known for its profound culture and history, lakes and river, tea gardens, forests and above all its modernized countryside that is unique, innovative as well as supportive to the rural community in finding new sources of income without having to leave their land.
This revitalization of rural economies not only complements President Xi Jinping’s vision of empowering the local communities and eliminating poverty from China by the end of 2020, it also helps the provincial government particularly the capital city Changsha’s administration to manage the comparatively less number of people migrating to urban areas every year in search of job and better living opportunities.
A visit to a number of villages and smaller towns in the suburbs of Changsha provided the delegation of Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) countries that is currently on a global media training programme in China a clear picture of how this model is working successfully to empower the rural communities financially and attracting the urban communities to visit these counties and stay there for weekends or pass their holidays.
Changsha County, Kaihui Town and Xifu village are some shining examples of this development model that is upheld by Changsha city government, business enterprises and local farmers.
Changsha county with a number of touring spots including Xunlong River Eco-art Town is rich in natural resources and picturesque scenery. A thick bamboo forest intertwined with other forests is the main interaction of the town besides its rural, industrial and cultural patterns. Founded in 2009, the town started from the use of rural resources and the promotion of livelihood and now boasts an ecological environment and a profound cultural heritage.
Kaihui Town is another model of developing rural economy where B&RI journalists were taken. The town is a major attraction for cultural tourists. Located in the north of Changsha county some 30km from downtown Changsha, Kaihui Town is crowned as ‘Romantic Town’ and is considered a popular holiday resort. Besides, Beijing-Zhuhai Highway also runs through this town and sets apart an entry for national road.
According to guides and organizers of the trip, a few years ago these rural areas were a liability for the local and city governments but with innovative planning and investment by various construction companies they are now generating quite reasonable revenue.
Last but not the least Xifu village successfully adopts the model of villagers committee plus enterprises plus peasant households and taking advantage of its scenic beauty, running waters, parking lots and public toilets is a popular tourist resort. The villagers here are encouraged to cooperate with enterprises and turn their idle houses and other properties into modern homestays according to the modern lines and to meet the tourists/guests’ needs. At present there are around 20 homestay tourist points with 107 rooms, 126 beds, a country bar, a camping centre and a service centre.
While talking to Pakistan Observer, an elderly village committee’s member said, this kind of new concept with all around integration of resources which not only re-uses the idle rural resources but also solves the problems of local employment for some farmers and the youths.
In Pakistan’s perspective one only wishes Prime Minister Imran Khan’s dream of revitalizing country’s tourism potential could be realized. It is possible only by following such ‘revitalization of rural economies’ models as Pakistan is rich in such scenic, cultural and heritage sites and the government only needs to develop these areas in accordance with tourists’ point of view.