Following the Right Path Forward
On August 15, 2005, Xi Jinping, then Secretary of the CPC Zhejiang Provincial Committee, paid a visit to Yucun Village in Anji County, where he introduced the key concept that "lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets" for the first time. On March 30, 2020, he visited the village once again. Seeing how it had changed, he said that the village's success is a proof that green development is the right path, and that we must persevere in following this path forward.
Local resident Pan Chunlin bubbled with excitement when he spoke about Xi Jinping's visit. Mr. Pan, who was the first person in Yucun Village to have a go at opening a farm stay, said, "I never would have thought that the President would visit my business. This is a day I will never forget!"
Mr. Pan once worked as a tractor driver in the mining area near the village. Eventually the mine was closed and he lost his job. After that, he decided to get into the farm stay business, and opened up a large mountain leisure area. Not only is this business now earning millions of yuan every year, it is also helping return the mining area to nature.
The course that Mr. Pan's life has taken over the last few years is a reflection of the broader changes that have taken place in village. In the past, the village followed an extensive approach to economic growth centered on unbridled extraction and consumption of resources. The mine produced riches, but these came at great environmental cost.
Mr. Pan has a gloomy recollection of those years. "Every family had money," he said, "but every day workers would go home and eat fine food with their faces covered in dust and ash. Is that really a good life? I think not." This is why, according to local Party branch secretary Bao Xinmin, the decision was made back then to take the leap and close both the mine and the cement plant. The explosions echoing from the mine stopped, and the environment showed gradual signs of recovery, but local residents who were out of the job were starting to get anxious, and the village authorities were thinking about how to move forward.
Xi Jinping's introduction of the concept that "lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets" gave Yucun Village and its residents the breakthrough they were looking for. For more than a decade now, the people of the village have worked on improving the former mining area by removing hazards, restoring green coverage, and practicing environmental conservation. In the process, the pockmarked landscape of the mine has been turned into a park, muddy village roads have been replaced by country greenways, and the old grounds of the cement plant have been transformed into a scenic area with beautiful fields and gardens. By bringing back its lucid waters and lush mountains, the village has revived the harmony between its people and the environment.
Natural beauty is a precious gift endowed by nature. The people of Yucun Village have put much thought into how to best protect and make use of this gift, and continuously explored a variety of different business models to this effect. One option is to run farm stays. The village is blessed with a great location, with the two metropolitans of Hangzhou and Shanghai both less than a two-hour drive away. Rural tourism has thus become the most attractive choice for local residents, who are able to make a business out of people's desire to get closer to nature and connect with their rural roots.
Country greenways passing through Yucun Village string together the area's beautiful scenery, showing that the village's residents are committed to putting the idea that "lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets" into practice and to following the path of green development forward. PUBLICITY DEPARTMENT OF THE CPC COMMITTEE OF ANJI COUNTY / PHOTO BY XIA PENGFEI
"At first, the farm stay business was by no means booming, and there weren't many tourists," Mr. Pan recalled. "Then in 2006, the government of Anji County started providing a lot of support and guidance for farm stay operators, and the number of customers coming to my business gradually increased." As Mr. Pan began getting a taste of success, more and more local residents opened farm stays of their own. In 2010, he and multiple other farm stay operators in the area jointly established the Tianhuangping Farm Stay Service Center, which began offering direct shuttle buses between Anji County and Shanghai to pick up and drop off tourists. According to Mr. Pan, at busy times there are 20 busloads of visitors each day.
Another local resident named Hu Jiaxing, who previously worked elsewhere, recognized this important opportunity and returned to the village to start a business. In 2007, he used all of his savings to open a rafting business in Yucun Village. "It was already successful in the first year," Mr. Hu happily remembered, "I earned back everything I invested!" He repeatedly emphasized that the prospects for success are just as bright in the village as anywhere else.
Currently, there are 42 households in the village engaged in the tourism and leisure industry, with more than 300 employees. In 2019, the village had more than 900,000 tourist visits. Taking rural tourism as its starting point, Yucun Village has found a new path for itself to turn its "lucid waters and lush mountains" into "invaluable assets."
Today's Yucun Village is already moving forward on the fast lane of green development. Per-capita net income of village residents increased from 8,732 yuan in 2005 to 49,598 yuan in 2019, and the village has also earned honorary titles including National Advanced Culture Village, National Model Village for Beauty and Livability, National Model Village for Rural Governance, and National AAAA-Rated Scenic Area.
Yucun Village has gradually transformed into an exemplar of moderate prosperity under the guidance of the concept that "lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets," and its story of success is a vivid testament to the truth of this concept.
(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No. 16, 2020)