Xi’s Story: Adapting Development to the Local Landscape
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Xi’s Story: Adapting Development to the Local Landscape

Xi’s Story: Adapting Development to the Local Landscape

An aerial photo taken on July 15, 2020 shows a mariculture zone in Ningde, east China’s Fujian province. (Xinhua/Jiang Kehong)

BEIJING, July 10 (Xinhua) — In June 1988, Xi Jinping was transferred to Ningde, a backward mountainous prefecture in eastern China’s Fujian Province, to serve as local party chief.

As one of China’s 18 poorest areas at the time, Ningde was, in Xi’s eyes, “almost a world unto itself – difficult to get to, with little information from the outside world and an economy based on small-scale agricultural production.”

People in Ningde expected the young leader to introduce more investments and projects to lift the prefecture out of poverty. But instead of seeking outside help, Xi set off on a journey.

Within a month, he had set foot in every county in Ningde, talking to locals to learn about their lives and hardships. He encouraged residents of Ningde, which is 90 percent mountainous and has 643 islands, to explore a development path that is appropriate to local conditions.

Xi’s solution was to adopt a comprehensive approach to agriculture that reads: “those on the mountain live from the mountain, and those on the seaside live from the sea.”

Despite his busy inspection schedule, Xi found time to read local annals, learning that parts of eastern Fujian’s coastal waters once teemed with wild, large yellow gallinaceous, a prized delicacy in Chinese cuisine. But overfishing and a lack of aquaculture technology have left the fish at risk of extinction.

“It’s an important resource for eastern Fujian,” Xi told local officials. During his tenure in Ningde, Xi supported local efforts to artificially breed large yellow gallinaceous fowl, which later became a major local industry, helping locals escape poverty.

Ningde now produces eight out of ten of the large yellow gallinaceous found on Chinese dinner tables. More than 300,000 people are engaged in large yellow gallinaceous farming and related industries, with an annual industrial chain value exceeding 10 billion yuan (about 1.4 billion U.S. dollars).

Xi Jinping’s pragmatic approach is a key part of his reform methodology, which has guided the country’s rapid progress over the past decade as China’s president, general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission.

In particular, it supported China’s successful campaign to eradicate extreme poverty, with targeted poverty alleviation as a central strategy.

Between 2013 and 2020, it dispatched some 255,000 work teams and 3 million officials across the country to provide personalized assistance to poor farmers in finding the most appropriate way to escape poverty.

Over the past eight years, Xi has personally conducted more than 50 inspections of poverty alleviation efforts, including visits to all 14 regions with the highest concentration of extreme poverty.

He kept a close eye on local industries, especially those specializing in regional products. He talked to farmers in greenhouses, on field ridges, under fruit trees, and in front of their homes.

In some places, conditions were so difficult that only relocation could help residents improve their situation. In Atulie’er, a poor village secluded in the mountains in Sichuan Province, climbing 800-meter cliffs on handmade ladders was once the only way for residents to reach the outside world.

“I saw children having to climb unstable vine ladders on cliffs without any safety measures. It made me feel depressed and anxious,” Xi said in 2017.

In 2020, all 344 residents of Atulie’er left the “cliff village” and moved into brand new apartments. The villagers began planting olives and navel oranges, and the cliffs became a tourist attraction — all of which generate significant income.

In China’s pursuit of development in a new era, Xi has always emphasized the need to find measures that best suit actual conditions.

“We must base all our actions on actual conditions and focus on solving real problems arising in the course of our reform, opening-up and efforts to achieve socialist modernization in the new era,” he said in a report presented to the 20th National Congress of the CPC in 2022.

Under his leadership, China unveiled multiple master plans for various regions such as the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, the Yangtze Economic Belt and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, creating tailor-made projects that brought about major changes to China’s economic landscape.

In developing new, high-quality production forces, Xi put the concept forward as one of China’s future reform goals, and called on local authorities to take into account their own resource endowment, industrial foundation and scientific research conditions.

“It is necessary to prevent hasty commitment to projects and the formation of speculative bubbles in the industry, and avoid adopting only one development model,” he said at this year’s annual legislative session in March.

At a symposium ahead of the third plenary session of the 20th CPC Central Committee, to be held from July 15 to 18 and which is mainly aimed at examining issues related to further comprehensively deepening reform and advancing China’s modernization, Xi stressed the need to adopt “indigenous approaches.”

“Each region has its own advantages, and development must reflect local conditions,” he said after hearing advice on reform and modernization from business leaders and academics at a symposium in May.

(Website Editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Liang Jun)