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How one Chinese ethnic group stepped on the path to prosperity

By Chen Yanan and Wang Yunna from People’s Daily

BEIJING: The story of how the Jing ethnic group of Wutou village on a remote island in South China empowered themselves to shrug of the shackles of poverty to step into prosperity has become a highlight of the ongoing “two sessions”, China’s annual legislative meetings that kicked off over the weekend.

The Jing are one of the smallest ethnic minority groups in southern China. They live in compact communities primarily on the three islands of Wanwei, Wutou and Shanxin in the county of Fangchenggang, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, near the Sino-Vietnamese border.

Wutou village, located on Wutou island, has 2,225 residents, 98 percent of whom are ethnically Jing.

As it’s beside the sea, each mu (0.67 hectare) of the village’s salty land can only produce 100 kilograms of rice, said Ruan Aixin, Party secretary of the village and a deputy to the National People’s Congress, as he explained why life was such a struggle back in the day.

But poverty gives rise to the desire for change, Ruan and his colleagues came up with the idea to turn the salty land into shrimp farms.

The villagers were at first reluctant, afraid that the change could be for the worse if their efforts failed. So Ruan and other village officials led by example as they worked to convince the villagers of the scheme’s merits.

Each village leader earned 50,000 yuan ($7,242) in the first year after they contracted 30 mu of the land for prawn farms, which encouraged more villagers to follow them, Ruan said.

The village also sought a diversified development by launching a program named “3331 prosperity project.” It means that 30 percent of the villagers work on marine fishing, 30 percent on aquaculture, 30 percent on marine products processing and 10 percent on border trade, forming an industrial chain covering producing, processing and sales.

Ruan said that his proposals to the NPC conference each year are related to the development of ethnic minorities and infrastructure construction in border areas. “I have given 12 pieces of advice during my four years as an NPC deputy, and every one got a response,” he added.

China has adopted favorable policies to support ethnic groups with a small population, and the Jing people on the three islands can gain a yearly support fund of more than 1 million yuan ($145,000) from the State Ethnic Affairs Commission, the village official said.

So far, most residents in Wutou village have built their own houses of two or more floors, and their annual per capita income has surpassed 13,000 yuan ($1,884). There are more than 300 privately owned cars in the village, one for every three families.

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