By Tom McGregor, CNTV Commentator
Much of Western China remains rustic and sparsely-populated. Rural farm villages dot the landscape, where a modern-day world seems far away. A traveler may feel transported to a different era, where they have landed into an ancient China dominated by an agricultural society.
Beijing has implemented a “Go West” national economic policy more than a decade ago to encourage manufacturing businesses to shift operations from the prosperous east, south and north regions of the country and re-open them in the West.
Progress has been slow and steady, since the western region still needs more infrastructure, such as bigger highways, railways and transport hubs to keep deliveries of goods running smoothly.
Meanwhile, farmers are beginning to witness some growing prosperity, as they utilize new science & technology methods with enhanced agro-machinery to boost crop production and that has led to rising incomes.
Fufeng village emerges into big city
The town of Fufeng in Fufeng County, Shaanxi Province, northwest China is located 120 kilometers west of Xi’an. For an outsider visiting, the surrounding region appears to be an isolated outpost.
You find beautiful scenery with rolling hills in the distance, but this is a land where farmers labor and toil. Nevertheless, Fufeng town has transformed from a non-descript farm village into a boom town in just a few short years.
Even as recently as 2012, CNTV’s Panview visited Fufeng and only saw a small grocery store, hospital, PC room and motel in operation. But, Fufeng has gotten much bigger, where one can see rows and rows of high-rise apartment complexes, roads with traffic jams during rush hour, as well as crowded pedestrian streets and shops.
The ghost town that wasn’t
Meanwhile, the global media has spotlighted numerous stories of alleged “ghost towns” in China, cities where large apartment complexes were built but nobody is living there. And yes, some property developers have made bad investments, but other cities are blooming.
Fufeng is one such town. On paper, building a city there does not seem brilliant. Nearly all residents in the surrounding area have low incomes, either as farmers or shopkeepers. However, they are outstanding savers with close-knit families.
It’s their strong family values that make Fufeng so prosperous. Farmers are hardworking and they aspire to enjoying better lives too.
Hence, when major property developers announced a few years ago that they would construct new apartment high-rises, real estate agents had easily signed up many buyers, willing to pay 100,000+RMB just for a down payment.
Family love means family wealth
Chinese farmers may struggle to earn high incomes even during good years, but they save as much as they can. They instill dreams in their children and encourage them to get a proper education and find better jobs.
Accordingly, Children are expected to grow up and would likely migrate to cities for better opportunities, and then send back some hard-earned money to their parents.
Then when they get married, families from both sides of the bride and groom are expected to help the newlywed couple buy a home and furniture. Young families can now move into those newly-built apartment complexes in Fufeng Town.
Additionally, city officials made a smart move by building wider roads, permit architects to design stylish buildings and urban planners have blended ancient Chinese architecture with a trendy modern European look. You can find a number of parks where children can play freely.
Shoppers find plenty of imports
Visitors to Fufeng may uncover an added surprise. Many small shops focus on selling imported goods, particularly imported food from Europe, which are popular for local residents. There’s a number of bakeries and shops that sell food imported from Europe.
A few other clothing stores sell clothes designed by European brands. Efforts to encourage import buying can entice even more direct investments from foreign-based retailers and companies. Perhaps, later on, foreigners may consider living in Fufeng Town if they wish to escape the hustle and bustle of China’s major metropolitan areas.
Looking west for China’s future
China’s eastern and southern coast regions are already developed. Nevertheless, the western zone has a long way to go to urbanize, but Fufeng Town is setting an example as a “Can Do” city and that should inspire many other farmers living elsewhere to move ahead on progress and modernization.
Fufeng is a town rising in prominence and more deserving of greater recognition.