(Worldkings) On the road to the richest village in China … where people work seven days a week … where every household is worth at least 150,000 dollars… and every family owns at least one car. Welcome to the village that’s felt bullish for 30 years. Welcome to Huaxi.
Decades ago, this is the kind of transport you would’ve seen here in Huaxi being used by most of the people. But now, because of the policies brought about by Wu Renbao you’re much more likely to see a completely different form of transport on the streets of Huaxi.
By different, we mean brand new Mercedes, BMWs and Cadillacs, imported from America. Every adult in the village is entitled to one car, 100% free health care, education, a luxurious house … and free cooking oil … all given by the village committee.
But anyone aged over 40 in the village can remember when the roads were nothing but mud tracks, and when it wasn’t uncommon to see them full of oxen and hand-pulled carts.
“At that time this village was no different to other old-style Chinese villages. The houses were very small and simple, made of cheap tiles and bad quality materials. Now all you can see are very beautiful modern villas. Among Chinese villages Huaxi is number one. It’s wonderful,” said retired Huaxi resident Mr Yin.
There’s no chance of forgetting where you are when you’re in this village. The huaxi village song is everywhere coming out of the megaphones and loudspeakers. The first line of the song is: the skies above Huaxi are the skies of the Communist party, and the second line: the land of Huaxi is the land of socialism. And just a couple of seconds ago, a voice interrupted the music and in English said: Actually, we like this kind of socialism.
Remarkably, the village’s economic boom has been brought about by just one man – Wu Renbao – through a combination of traditional communist principles and free market economics. In 1998, Huaxi became the first commune to be listed on the stock exchange.
It has since grown from a small farming community to an industrial hothouse built on high-tech agriculture, steel manufacturing and textile production. Today, Huaxi has fixed assets of 2.1 billion Remninbi – or 300 million dollars.
“Over half of Huaxi’s income comes from the Iron and steel industry. We import raw material mostly from India and Brazil and export our products to more than 40 countries,” said Yang Yongchang, general manager of the Jiangyin Huaxi Iron and Steel Company.
Some commentators have called Huaxi the village that thinks it’s a town that thinks it’s a city. But in fact they have much bigger dreams and ambitions than that. A few months from now, this building behind me will be one of the 15 tallest buildings in the whole world. They have big dreams here, vast ambitions and very deep pockets to bring those dreams to reality.
But these dreams come at a price. Weekends are non-existent, with every worker toiling seven days a week for the greater good of the village.
However, there are those like Miao Qian, a young mother who works in a textile factory, who does not think working seven days a week is a bad thing.
“Working every day is not really a problem for us. And if there’s something really important I need to do I can sometimes ask for leave. And we get a day off from time to time.”
There’s another catch – if you ever leave the village, you lose just about everything. Your house, your money, your benefits… But the way Huaxi villagers like Zhao Yukai see it, when you’re already living in the best place in China, or indeed the world, why would you ever want to leave?
“We don’t need to worry about clothes, food and those basic things. What we are looking for now is to realize our higher dreams. I think our lives here can be as good as the lives of people in big cities like Shanghai and Beijing, and some parts of our lives may even be better.”
To quote the first line of the Huaxi village song, the skies above Huaxi are the skies of the Communist Party. But behind me, this isn’t the Great Wall of China. I’m here in the world park in Huaxi which also features reconstructions of the Forbidden City, the Arc de Triumphe from Paris, the Sydney opera house, and the Statue of Liberty and the White House from the United States. The thinking behind this theme park is if the people of Huaxi are working seven days a week, how can they see the world? So Wu Renbao decided if the people couldn’t get to the world, he would bring the world here to Huaxi.
For almost 50 years, Wu Renbao was the secretary of the local branch of the Communist Party and introduced a range of policies which transformed Huaxi from a small subsistence farming community into a modern industrial powerhouse.
A farmer by trade, Wu Renbao is a man who believes in the old values. Getting up early, going to bed early, working hard… He is a man who, even today, describes himself as a simple farmer with a simple philosophy. It’s ok to be rich but don’t forget the things in life that really matter; Family, loyalty, honesty and hard work.
Wu Renbao, the master planner of Huaxi, decided that the village’s citizens shouldn’t get wet in the rain. So he had this huge network of covered walkways constructed. Now, above each of the arches of the walkway are instructional stories taken from Chinese literature and mythology designed to help the citizens and workers of Huaxi live a good, clean socialist life.
They have some very strange laws in Huaxi. If you pick one of these from any of Huaxi’s public places, it’s taken very seriously indeed. You’ll be fined 10,000 yuan. That’s 1500 American dollars. You can pick one up, but don’t pick one.
Despite the drawbacks, the ideological and material benefits of living in Huaxi ensure a bright future for the next generation of its residents. Here at the local school, children are provided with a standard of education that’s the envy of neighboring provinces.
“Compared to the schools in other areas, Huaxi’s educational level is number one. Our facilities are much better than those in other villages and can be as good as those in the big cities,” said Deng Lijiao, a teacher at the Huaxi Experimental School.
You can see it’s very very lively here at the school in Huaxi. Very very busy, very very happy kids as well. We’ll see if we can get a ni hao, a hello, out of them.