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China’s rural vitalization: What three counties are planning to do

Rural provinces and regions in China are developing strategies to entice migrants to return.

Internal migration in China is one of the most extensive in the world, with many leaving their hometowns looking for better conditions in urban centers.

China set out a road map to vitalize rural areas in its “No 1 Central Document” released on Feb 4, which was followed by Communist Party of China (CPC) chiefs from three counties sharing their own blueprints to encourage remigration.

Zhejiang province in the east, Guizhou in the southwest and the northwestern Ningxia Hui autonomous region have distinct natural environments, diverse ethnic groups and, most importantly, are at different stages of development.

One thing they have in common is their ambition to lure villagers back home from big cities. It’s all part of China’s rural vitalization vision, which addresses issues related to agriculture and rural communities.

At a news conference on Feb 6 at the State Council Information Office, the Party chiefs of the three counties laid out their plans to entice villagers back.

Deqing county: Tourism retains local residents

The well-developed Deqing county in Zhejiang province is setting the bar high. Situated in the Yangtze River delta, the coastal county — where the picturesque Mogan Mountain is located — has been working hard to invigorate its tourism industry, spreading the word both at home and abroad.

“Rural residents in my county are not really interested in moving to the cities,” said Xiang Lemin, Party chief of Deqing county. “Instead, urban dwellers, including the well-educated, want to move to the countryside. One reason for that is we developed tourism, leisure agriculture and e-commerce. Second, we have also provided residents with good public services, including advanced transportation. Also, we have taken full advantages of our unique natural environment.”

Meitan county: Tea planting is the pillar industry

How Meitan, a typical inland county located in southwestern China, retains its talent, is a totally different story — tea planting.

Wei Zaiping, Party chief of Meitan country in Guizhou province, said that only by developing tea plantation and providing talented people with good platforms, will they be willing to return home and start their own businesses.

“For the last decade, we have established tea planting as our pillar industry, developing 400 square kilometers of tea fields,” said Wei. “Last year alone, the value of our tea output reached 4.2 billion yuan or nearly $670 million. We have also set up a big tea market and an annual tea expo. Meitan is famous for two categories of tea — a green tea named ‘Meitan Cuiya,’ and a red tea named ‘Zunyi Hong.’ If you are not familiar with them, it means we are not promoting them well enough.”

Yongning county: Help from other regions needed

Still, villagers across the country continue to flock to the cities. That’s certainly the reality for counties with harsh living conditions like Yongning in the Ningxia Hui autonomous region.

Facing problems like water shortages and drought, Yongning has to ask for help from better-developed regions. This requires nationwide policy coordination.

“We have been cooperating with the southeastern province of Fujian for 20 years. Located in northwestern China, our county faces harsh living conditions. Fujian has helped us in many areas, including financing, technology and human resources. Many entrepreneurs in Fujian have come to Ningxia to set up companies,” said Qian Kexiao, Party chief of Yongning county.

Qian firmly believes that once the county has been vitalized, talents will return home sooner or later.

Infrastructure construction, industrialization and natural environmental protection were the three key messages sent by Party chiefs from the three counties during the news conference.

For the 15th year in a row, China’s “No 1 Central Document” has targeted agriculture, farming and rural areas.

Following China’s vision for rural vitalization, many believe that now is the time for local governments to start putting their plans into practice.