If We Don't Let the Environment Down, the Environment Won't Let Us Down
On April 21, 2020, President Xi Jinping paid a special visit to Nuwa Phoenix Modern Tea Industry Demonstration Park in the remote mountain village of Jiangjiaping. After talking with a number of tea growers there, he made the following heartfelt statement: "If we don't let the environment down, the environment won't let us down. Lucid waters and lush mountains are not only natural riches, but also material riches. I hope that you keep following a path of green development that makes protecting the environment the priority, and use tea as the means of growing your businesses and wealth so that you can shake off poverty and reach moderate prosperity."
Pingli County, in which Jiangjiaping Village is located, has long been a tea producing area due to its mild climate and abundant rainfall. The officials and people there also maintain a tradition of caring for and protecting the forests, with forest coverage in the area reaching 76%. The village's collective tea plantation was established in 1974, and covers more than 130 hectares. Thanks to the favourable environmental conditions, the tea produced in the village is not only high in quality and pollutant free, but also rich in selenium. However, due to a lack of sophisticated technology and management as well as challenges in transportation, for several years the tea plants began aging, the yield dropped, and the fields gradually fell out of cultivation. The scent of this excellent resource thus faded from the village, and tea did not bring the villagers a more prosperous life.
In 2014, there were 540 people in 197 households registered as living in poverty in Jiangjiaping, and the village had a poverty rate of 44.4%. Driven by the campaign to eradicate extreme poverty in the new era, the Jiangjiaping Village CPC branch brought in Nuwa Phoenix Tea Co. Ltd., which remodelled and improved 80 hectares of outmoded tea plantations and built a 1,000 square meter plant for standardized processing of tea leaves. Efforts were also made to explore a new mode of development featuring coordination between the Party branch, key enterprises, and poor households in order to help drive people out of poverty and toward prosperity. Meanwhile, the village maintained strict environmental protections in the process of growing the tea industry, imposing severe penalties for behavior including indiscriminate logging and excavation and working hard to make green the area's most prominent color.
The Nuwa Phoenix Modern Tea Industry Demonstration Park in Jiangjiaping Village, Pingli County, Shaanxi Province is part of cooperation on poverty alleviation between Jiangsu and Shaanxi provinces. This tea plantation, which is run collectively by Jiangjiaping Village, covers 80 hectares and is located on hillsides approximately 600 meters above sea level. PHOTO PROVIDED BY THE PUBLICITY DEPARTMENT OF THE CPC PINGLI COUNTY COMMITTEE
Since 2016, integration of the tea and tourism industries has served as a breakthrough for Jiangjiaping in eradicating poverty. Whereas the main road into the village was once a dirt road only two meters wide, it has now been paved and widened to 4.5 meters. Home stays and farm stays have started springing up, and an industrial chain for the tea business featuring integration of planting, processing, sales, and tea tourism has begun to take shape. In 2019, Jiangjiaping leaned on its strengths as a green and mountainous area with selenium-rich and pollutant-free tea to turn itself into a model tourism village. With the momentum provided by the tea industry, the tourism industry has also experienced vigorous growth. Tea has thus truly become the village's pillar industry. By the end of 2019, 531 people in 195 households in the village had been lifted out of poverty, with the poverty rate falling to 0.74%, all thanks to this humble plant.
A local resident named Ding Guoquan was once poor, but now has a job at the tea processing plant. He makes over 20,000 yuan per year and has become an expert in tea production. Seeing the tea industry in the village flourish, he has a new plan now that he has escaped poverty: "I want to open a small tea processing plant on my own to help small individual growers process and produce tea so that they can increase their incomes and reach a level of moderate prosperity just like me." Another local named Zhou Li, who worked elsewhere for many years, has also spotted business opportunities in the village and recently opened a farm stay. She says, "Business is great right now. In the future we're going to give up the grind of working away from home and just focus on building up our farm stay."
This process of rebirth, in which neglected tea fields were turned into profit-making plantations and a village that could barely support itself began booming, would not have been possible without the guidance of Party building. According to Luo Yanhui, general manager of the Nuwa Phoenix tea company and a Party member, the example set by the Party members sparked the local public's enthusiasm about getting to work and starting businesses, and the area's development thus shifted into high gear. Particularly during the Covid-19 epidemic, the Party branch has done an enormous amount of work and firmed up confidence in business growth.
Recently, Party branch secretary Luo Xianping has been working even more vigorously and can be seen in the hillside tea fields on a daily basis. His greatest aspiration is to see that the village enjoys bluer skies, clearer waters, and more verdant mountains, and to translate this natural wealth into material benefits so that the locals can earn more money. He says, "The president has placed his hopes in this place. We will ensure that it is appropriately protected, managed, utilized, and developed, grow and strengthen the selenium-rich tea industry, and truly transform these tea covered hills into 'mountains of gold and silver.'"
While bidding farewell to everybody present at the end of his visit to Jiangjiaping, President Xi said, "Your village is already changing, and it will keep changing for the better." This statement left an indelible impression upon the residents of Jiangjiaping, and provided these tea growing people with an immense boost for their journey out of poverty and toward moderate prosperity.
(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No. 17, 2020)