Villages find new prosperity as visitors arrive

Updated: Dec 30, 2021 Print
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In northern China's Shanxi province, there are a number of ancient villages that date back over 1,000 years. As China works to complete its national goal of "building a moderately prosperous society in all respects", these villages now glow with new vitality.

Boat trackers in Niangniangtan village were once symbols of poverty along the Yellow River. The village occupies the only inhabited island along the river, which is the country's second-longest.

Li Sihan, 71, was one of the boat trackers. When he was younger, he made his living transporting sulfur from the Inner Mongolia autonomous region on the other side of the river, earning less than 300 yuan ($47) a year.

Nowadays, the last generation of Yellow River boat trackers have bid farewell to poverty and live in a new village not far from the old.

Before 2017, there were 21 impoverished households in Niangniangtan, accounting for nearly 30 percent of its population, but thanks to national poverty alleviation policies, Li and his fellow villagers are no longer impoverished.

He and his wife now benefit from subsistence allowances, endowment insurance and income from a photovoltaic power station in the village, which adds up to over 10,000 yuan a year.

Niangniangtan has also been included in the county's 14th Five-Year Plan as a place with the potential for tourism, and a new highway to the village along the Yellow River will soon be completed and open to traffic.

In Shenxi village in Datong city, precious cultural heritage and a beautiful environment have become strong driving forces in consolidating China's rise to becoming a prosperous society.

With a 1,500-year-old temple and a 300-hectare wetland park, Shenxi attracts tourists from across the country. In the past four years, the local government has invested some 10 million yuan in vitalizing the 1,000-year-old village.

Zhao Ling, 38, was a housewife with a family of four that depended on her husband's income transporting coal. When tourists began to visit three years ago, she decided to start a business making bean jelly, a famous local treat. During peak season, she is able to earn an extra 30,000 yuan over the course of three months.

The popular snack is also helping other residents earn money. According to village official Yang Xiaoyuan, Shenxi's per capita annual net income reached 10,200 yuan last year.

Niangziguan village, a famous tourist attraction close to the Great Wall, that became prosperous three years ago, is now focusing more on green development and common prosperity, according to village official Yang Wenbao.

In 2018, tourism income exceeded 20 million yuan, with more than 500 villagers involved, raising Niangziguan's per capita annual net income to about 18,000 yuan.

The lure of tourism is also enticing young people back home to open businesses. Shuai Zhongcheng, a former truck driver, quit his job transporting coal four years ago and returned to his hometown to open a guesthouse. Before the pandemic, he made more than 200,000 yuan a year.

"We will continue to expand tourism, help more villagers find jobs in their hometowns and promote common prosperity," Yang said.

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