Social development is key to Shaanxi’s success

Editor’s note: China has seen enormous changes nationwide, from economic growth to environmental protection, from social improvement to cultural progress. In this series, China Daily maps the changes and tells the stories of the people who have experienced them.

An aerial photo shows Xi’an sprawling along the Bahe River in Shaanxi province. [Photo/Xinhua]

Ten years have passed since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China was held in October 2012. During this period, President Xi Jinping has repeatedly visited Shaanxi, his native province, and shared his hopes to achieve high quality growth.

Following his guidance, Shaanxi has actively grasped key development opportunities over the past 10 years and prospered in terms of economy, social governance and other aspects.

Last year, its GDP reached 2.98 trillion yuan ($440.7 billion), up 6.5 percent from 2020. And in the first half of this year, Shaanxi’s GDP exceeded 1 520 billion yuan, an increase of 4.2% year on year.

The growth of the province’s economy is the result of several social development efforts.

Tourists visit a red tourist spot in Yan’an, Shaanxi in October. [Photo/Xinhua]

Revolutionary areas

Liangjiahe Village in Yanchuan County is where Xi spent seven years growing up, working and learning. On February 13, 2015, Xi went to Liangjiahe on an inspection tour to see the villagers. He held a conference there with local Party officials and stressed the importance of helping people in former revolutionary areas to escape poverty.

Under his leadership, local Party officials and residents worked hard in their pursuit of a happy and prosperous life. In May 2019, through their efforts, Yanchuan lost its “poverty county” title, and last year the average annual income of villagers in Liangjiahe reached 18,120 yuan, 16% higher than the average. national.

Hou Zhirong, a resident of Haojiaqiao Village, which has a rich red history, said his renovated room looked brand new.

“The government subsidized the renovations and I am grateful to the Party for my happy life,” he said.

Red tourism is a key path to prosperity for Liangjiahe and similar former revolutionary regions. With the spirit of honoring those who contributed to the success of the Chinese revolution, and with the growth of construction since 2012, more tourists have been attracted to villages where red history is well preserved, including Liangjiahe. From 2017 to 2020, the village welcomed more than one million visitors each year, significantly increasing its income.

Farmers harvest apples at a plantation in Tongchuan, Shaanxi, in November. [Photo/Xinhua]

green hills

Efforts to improve the environment can also help villages in Shaanxi prosper. An inland province with a relatively dry climate, Shaanxi has been badly affected by soil erosion for centuries, so much so that the loess soil that emerged from the erosion is basically the reason why the Yellow River received its name.

After the 18th Party Congress, the provincial government introduced the policy of revitalizing rural areas by better protecting the environment, and a province-wide monitoring mechanism was established.

The provincial government also supports three main agricultural sectors: apple growing; cattle breeding; and agricultural machinery and equipment. In some areas where the soil is suitable, the provincial government also supports the cultivation of tea, Chinese herbal medicine and red dates.

In Yan’an City, the annual apple production has reached 4 million metric tons, thanks to orders from all over the world. In some local gardens, farmers offer apple trees for “rent”. People can spend 500 yuan to rent a tree and harvest it for an entire year.

In 2012, the provincial forestry office set a threefold goal for the province: that forests cover at least 45% of the province; that wetlands cover at least 3,066 square kilometres; and that nature reserves account for no less than 5% of Shaanxi.

In 2018, the province saw its forest cover rate exceed 43%, and it continues to rise.

Last year, the province saw 56 counties and districts lifted out of poverty, and rural residents’ disposable income rose from 7,692 yuan in 2015 to 13,909 yuan, up 10.4 percent year-on-year.

These measures combined have created a win-win situation for Shaanxi’s environment as well as its economy.

A freight train leaves Xi’an in Shaanxi province and heads for Kazakhstan along the China-Europe railway in April last year. [Photo/Xinhua]

China-Europe Railway

Located in the northwestern part of the country, Shaanxi has taken full advantage of its location to expand its foreign trade efforts.

For example, Yulin City is a key chemical industrial center in China, but its products have been sold mainly to domestic customers for many years. Since the opening of the China-Europe railway, the city has not only expanded chemical sales to overseas customers, but also established itself as a main logistics center of the northwest regions.

Even before the first freight trains started running on the railway on December 31, 2020, Yulin already had 14 such trains transporting goods worth 1.4 billion yuan to the outside world.

In addition, a modern comprehensive logistics zone in Yulin can now accumulate goods from several northern provincial administrative regions, package them and send them to Europe, expanding the Belt and Road Initiative.

“Countries and regions involved in the Belt and Road Initiative need our products,” said Wang Qi, a logistics entrepreneur in Yulin.

“The train here expands the market for all local businesses.”

With local goods being transported out of China by train, Shaanxi has also opened its doors more widely to foreigners and the business opportunities they bring.

During the fifth Silk Road International Expo last year, several German and Japanese companies signed contracts to open branches in Yulin.

By the end of last year, the city’s total export and import volume reached 2.22 billion yuan, including 1.4 billion yuan for chemicals.

By June, Yulin had already seen its export and import volume reach 1.6 billion yuan, up 30 percent from the same period last year.

Joel C. Hicks