In Fenghuang Township, nestled in south China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, vast expanses of sugarcane fields stretch to the horizon, infusing the air with the sweet fragrance and rhythmic hum of harvesters at work.
This sugarcane base in the National Modern Agricultural Industrial Park in Guangxi received a special visitor in mid-December: President Xi Jinping, who was on an inspection tour to Guangxi following his state visit to Vietnam.
Xi walked into the sugarcane field and inquired in detail about the key techniques for breeding high-quality sugarcane varieties.
Huo Jiali, a local farmer, told him that her family planted 10 mu (0.67 hectares) of sugarcane this year, which is expected to generate nearly 40,000 yuan (5,596 U.S. dollars) in revenue.
« Besides sugarcane, do you have other sources of income? » Xi asked.
« My husband and I work in a nearby factory for 10 months each year during the slack season, and can earn over 7,000 yuan per month, » Huo replied.
« That adds up to over 100,000 yuan a year, » said Xi, wishing the farmers a happy life « as sweet as sugarcane. »
Xi developed a strong bond with rural areas at an early age. In 1969, Xi went to the rugged village of Liangjiahe in northwest China’s Shaanxi Province, and spent seven years there, working and living with peasants on the Loess Plateau. He referred to himself as a farmer when reminiscing about his time in Liangjiahe.
« The most challenging and arduous tasks we face in building a modern socialist China in all respects remain in rural areas, » he once said.
On Feb. 25, 2021, Xi announced that absolute poverty had been eliminated in China. Now, the country’s strategy for rural work has been shifted to the next target: rural revitalization, which Xi deems « a major task in realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. »
The annual central rural work conference was held in Beijing from Tuesday to Wednesday, mapping out the priorities of rural work in 2024. To advance Chinese modernization, the country must make unremitting efforts to strengthen the foundation of the agricultural sector and advance rural revitalization across the board, Xi noted.
The rural revitalization strategy was first put forward during the 19th CPC National Congress in 2017. Under Xi’s helm, China is moving faster to steadily promote the revitalization of businesses, talent, culture, ecosystems, and organizations in the countryside.
LYCHEES AND SACHETS
In April, Xi visited Baiqiao Village in south China’s Guangdong Province. He stopped by a lychee orchard and talked with people on the spot.
« What challenges need to be addressed in the next phase of development? » asked the president.
« The main issue is keeping them fresh, » one replied. « We started with traditional methods, then brought in cold chain tech, but it can only preserve the lychees for 10 days. If we can stretch that to 15 to 20 days, people around the world could enjoy our lychees. »
« If we want the lychee business to boom, we must figure out how to keep them fresh, » Xi told local officials. « Developing local characteristic industries is an important way to achieve rural revitalization. We should do a good job to boost the local specialty industry and promote rural revitalization across the board by invigorating industries. »
Xi has attached importance to developing rural industries with distinctive local features. When working in Zhengding County in north China’s Hebei Province in the 1980s, he worked as a « salesman, » helping sell Zhengding’s farm and sideline products to Beijing, Shijiazhuang and other big cities.
Even after becoming the country’s top leader, Xi has always expressed high expectations for the production and promotion of local signature products during inspection tours, such as peonies, tea oil, strawberries and apples.
On many occasions, while visiting the countryside, he would carefully assess the output of local specialties and farmers’ incomes, talking with local people in greenhouses, on field ridges and in front of farmhouses.
Regarding rural revitalization, Xi places particular attention on the invigoration of culture. During an inspection tour in east China’s Jiangsu Province in 2017, Xi visited a sachet-making workshop in Mazhuang Village. The local intangible cultural heritage skill has generated job opportunities and boosted the incomes of rural residents.
Xi praised the craftsmanship demonstrated by a skillful inheritor and bought one sachet. « I also want to give you my support, » he said.
Impressed by the villagers’ clapper talk performance, Xi said promoting material well-being and raising cultural-ethical standards are both essential to implementing the rural revitalization strategy.
« GREEN CONSENSUS » IN VILLAGES
The Yangtze River Delta serves as an important engine driving the growth of the world’s second-largest economy. However, local villages once faced common « growing pains, » with environmental concerns being one of them.
In 2003, Xi, then the Party chief of Zhejiang Province, initiated the Green Rural Revival Program to improve the eco-environment of villages and rural residents’ quality of life. The initiative has given a facelift to Zhejiang villages, including Lizu, which was once a dirty and disorderly backwater area.
In September this year, Xi made Lizu Village his first stop during an inspection of Zhejiang. Surrounded by greenery, the houses with gray tiles and white walls painted a vibrant picture.
At the village market, he met Fang Tianning, a college graduate who chose to work in the countryside. Fang had put on display a variety of handmade bamboo baskets in her booth.
« I used to work in Beijing. After the Green Rural Revival Program was implemented in my village, the environment improved a lot, » she told Xi. « It encouraged many university graduates to start businesses here, so I chose to return. »
Over the past 20 years, the Green Rural Revival Program has been expanded nationwide and won the Champions of the Earth award in 2018, the highest environmental honor of the United Nations.
With the experience of the Green Rural Revival Program, efforts must be made to implement specific policies based on actual conditions, take steady and incremental steps to sustain progress, and achieve tangible results in the interest of the people, according to Xi’s latest instructions on rural work.
China has seen historic transformations in ecological conservation, upholding the belief that « lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets, » a core concept of Xi’s thought on ecological civilization.
Some five decades ago, when he worked in Liangjiahe Village, Xi saw how the villagers struggled to feed themselves. He has aspired to secure China’s food supply.
In promoting rural revitalization, the supply of major agricultural products, the supply of grain in particular, must be secured as the top priority, he noted, stressing more than once that the red line of 1.8 billion mu of farmland should never be breached.
China feeds over 1.4 billion people with only 9 percent of the world’s arable land. Despite comparatively severe natural disasters and other adverse conditions, 2023 is the ninth consecutive year for the country to register a grain harvest of over 650 million tonnes.
Giving up her job in China’s top academy of sciences, Wei Qiao is now a tech-savvy « new farmer » in her hometown in Jiangsu, contributing to rural revitalization with advanced ideas and modern entrepreneurial skills.
At a deliberation in which Xi participated during the first session of the 14th National People’s Congress in March, Wei, also a national lawmaker, got a chance to share with the president her latest achievements as a farmer in the digital age.
« We have cultivated more than 20,000 mu of rice, with each mu yielding 550 kg of grain, » Wei said, noting that by managing the fields with digital methods, work efficiency was greatly improved.
Xi commended Wei’s efforts, saying « 20,000-plus mu is no small number in south China. » He went on to say that such an area is sufficient to unleash the potential of farm machinery and develop modern protected agriculture.
Xi considers talent as the foundation of rural revitalization, calling for promoting a two-way free flow of talent, land and funding between urban and rural areas.
Over the past decade, China has continued to introduce policies to support talent from various backgrounds, including university graduates and technical personnel, to take root in the countryside.
With working experiences in the village, Xi clearly understands that the key to revitalizing the countryside is to have strong primary-level Party organizations.
These organizations should play a leading role in bringing prosperity to the people and ensuring the effective implementation of policies formulated by the Party for the benefit of the people, he said during his inspection tour to east China’s Jiangxi Province in October.
This is part of the reason why the practice of dispatching « the first Party secretaries » and working teams to villages for the anti-poverty fight continues in China. This time, it aims to propel rural revitalization. « The first Party secretaries » and working teams consist of cadres selected from Party and state organs, state-owned enterprises and public institutions.
Led by Xi, China is ramping up efforts to consolidate the achievements in poverty alleviation and propel rural revitalization, including a five-year transition period during which major supportive policies and assistance for the poor will remain stable and the adoption of a law on the promotion of rural revitalization.
Xi urges officials at all levels to constantly hold in their hearts the interests and concerns of the people, and regard the benefit of the people as their highest career accomplishment.
« You are so busy with your work but still make time to see us. We are so grateful, » Wang Deli, a resident of a mountainous village in Guangxi, said when he received Xi in his home in the spring of 2021.
« That is exactly what I am busy with, » Xi replied. « People’s happy life is the matter of the most fundamental importance to the country. »