Fengdu’s Transformation

2019-09-10 21:33:32 CHINA TODAY 2019年9期

By staff reporters ZHANG JUAN & MA LI

MANY years ago, Fengdu was known for its poverty, legendary ghosts and long driving hours from the burgeoning downtown of Chongqing.

In September 2011, when Cao Ling, who worked in the local government in Chongqing, first visited Fengdu, she couldnt believe it that the county, with a population of 500,000, had only one cinema.

“Being poor, for Fengdu people, did not just mean materially, but also poor in spirit,” she recalled. Meanwhile, the over four-hour-drive from downtown Chongqing to Fengdu gave Cao the feeling of not only the vast physical distance that separated the two places, but also the wide gap between the backward county and the more abundant world outside.

Fengdu has long been known as the Ghost City. However, its hinterland location and poverty had hampered people outside from learning more about its culture. Lack of adequate knowledge about Fengdus ghost culture meant that people tended to associate the ghosts here with the “scary” world of the supernatural. “The ghost culture here is to motivate people to perform good deeds through ghost stories that praise virtue and punish vice, thus maintaining social harmony. After understanding the culture, youll not be scared by ghosts here,” said Cao.

Cao was later transferred to work in the county government. She recalls that after she had been there for a few months, the local government reluctantly shut down two chemical plants in a push for green development for regions along the Yangtze River. “The plants had contributed half of Fengdus GDP,” said Cao.

Nearly eight years later, Fengdu now has five cinemas and the driving time from downtown Chongqing to Fengdu has been halved to less than two hours. “High-end residential blocks are mushrooming, peoples cultural and recreational activities have been enriched and diversified, and the place is taking on a new look,” said Cao.

According to Cao, the government has strictly adhered to green development in its poverty reduction work. Fengdu has transformed its lucid waters and lush mountains into peoples invaluable assets.

Now, Fengdu, literally meaning a capital of harvest in Chinese, is living up to its name.

Green Development Benefits

During his inspection tour in Chongqing in April 2019, Chinese President Xi Jinping noted that Chongqing should become a model municipality in advancing green development in the Yangtze River Economic Belt. Situated in the Three Gorges Reservoir Region, Fengdu sees the Yangtze River run through the county for 47 km. Its total area of 2,901 square kilometers is situated on the Yangtze Rivers water-collection region, endowed with a favorable ecological environment, but crippled by its fragile ecological foundation.

To protect the ecological environment along the Yangtze River in Fengdu, Zhanpu Town authorities assisted farmers in planting peppers along the Yangtze River bank, promising to both fix the soil and bring economic benefit. “After years of cultivation, now more than 700 hectares of pepper crop farmland has helped 155 impoverished households, out of the total 261 in the town, shake off poverty,” said Xiang Hailin, chief of Zhanpu Town.

Chen Xingwen, who operates a seedlings wholesale base in Daxi Village, Huwei Town, ran a plastic plant in the past.

In 1996, encouraged by the local drive to develop township businesses, Chen, who had years of experience in the plastic industry, started a plastic factory in his hometown.

“It ran pretty well at first. However, later many factors made it difficult to operate,” said Chen, adding that due to the pollution emanating from his factory, it was not sustainable. “Rural people are aware of the importance of environmental protection,” said Chen.

In 2002, he had the opportunity to start a seedlings planting and wholesales base in Daxi Village.

Today, Chens base has become part of the green industry fueling the villages economic development. Chen can also earn a net income of more than RMB 100,000 (US $14,194) a year from selling his seedlings.

However, becoming wealthy is not his main focus. Over the past two years, in his drive to add value to the natural environment, Chen led his fellow villagers to plant commercial fruit trees, including honey pomelo, kumquat, loquat, and kiwi fruit.

“On the premise of ensuring a green environment along the Yangtze River, we have intensified our efforts to lay out and build green industries in the water-collection region of the river, including a red pomelo corridor, a shoot-bamboo industrial belt, a pepper planting base, and longan picking gardens. We have sought to build three ecological economic belts along the Yangtze River, Longhe River, and Quxi River, thus ensuring the sustainable development of the ecological economy in the Yangtze River Basin,”said Cao.

Self-Motivation

June was harvest time for potatoes in Wuping Town and peppers in Zhanpu Town, Fengdu, where the aroma of fruits fills the air.

Zhang Jisheng, who hails from Baishui Community, Zhanpu Town, is from a registered low-income family. After the government-initiated poverty alleviation model transformed from giving pure aid to improving the poor peoples ability to increase their income, the family has seen their fortunes change.

“My wife has mental health problems. My son is the same. I felt desperate about life. I never expected that our life would ever improve,” Zhang Jisheng told China Today.

In 2014, the national fight against poverty reached a decisive stage. Director of the stationed poverty alleviation working team in Baishui Community, Zhang Yuqun, tailored a measure to help Zhangs family rise out of poverty after learning about their situation. Whats noteworthy is that the team has helped the family improve their confidence in life and gain independence through this process.

“Financed by the local government, the Zhang family has moved into their new house and enjoys a basic living allowance and allowance for the seriously disabled,” said Zhang Yuqun, adding that what is more important is the family has regained its confidence in life.

She said Zhang Jisheng has become more self-motivated and while taking care of his wife and son, he operates a pepper farm of 1,000 square meters with income expected to surpass RMB 20,000 (US $2,839) this year.

Early this year, Zhang Jisheng applied for a subsidized loan of RMB 30,000 (US $4,258) for his pepper plantation. According to Zhang Yuqun, it is feasible that Zhang Jishengs family will rise above the poverty line this year with governments assistance and their own efforts.

In recent years, the poverty alleviation model implemented by Fengdu of motivating the poor and nurturing a sustainable economy by finding the right industries, cultivating leading enterprises, and providing funds, has quickly lifted its poor townships, villages, and people out of poverty. Fengdu County was once identified as a key county for the national poverty alleviation campaign in 2002, and was included onto the list of pilot counties for poverty alleviation in the Wuling Mountain area in 2011.

November 2017 saw Fengdu being removed from the national poverty-stricken county list with its poverty incidence dropping from 12.1 percent in 2014 to the current 0.67 percent.

In 2018, Tang Daixiang of Xinhechang Village, Wuping Town, tried his luck in planting a new variety of potatoes introduced by local government from Tengzhou, Shandong Province, and enjoyed a bumper harvest the same year. His 1,300 sq. m potato fields generated an income of RMB 14,000 (US $1,987), more than 10-fold that of traditional crops like corn. His family has since expanded the potato plantation scale, in an effort to further increase income.

This year, more than 800 farmers in Fengdu have increased their income by expanding their potato fields. Among them, 208 farmers come from registered poor households. Like Tang Daixiang and Zhang Jisheng, more and more poor people have been inspired and become more self-motivated to shake off poverty with assistance from the government.

Flourishing Beef Industry

Stir-fried dishes and hotpot are two major cuisines in Fengdu. Beef hotpot from the county has gained a good reputation and also driven the local cattle farming industry.

Now, beef bearing the Hengdu brand can be found in many supermarkets in Beijing, Chongqing, and Sichuan Province. In 2009, the Hengdu Company was founded in Fengdu with an investment of RMB 1 bil- lion (US $142 million) from the CET Group, a Beijingbased manufacturer of copying equipment, aiming to comprehensively build a local beef industry.

Within four years, Hengdus business had developed by leaps and bounds, even expanding to neighboring counties, cities, and even provinces. This has led to Hengdu being rated as a national leading company in agricultural processing. In addition, a batch of local leading companies have also blossomed in Fengdu County, becoming the frontrunner of the local beef industry.

Demonstrated by the leading companies and supported by local favorable industrial policies, Fengdus beef industry has made great headway, sparking local poor peoples passion for raising cattle.

Zeng Baochang and his family from Feixiandong Village, Baoluan Town, lifted the shackles of poverty at the end of 2016 thanks to cattle farming. Now, they raise 20 cattle and earn an annual income of over RMB 100,000 (US $14,194)