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Monday, August 07, 2000, updated at 11:23(GMT+8)

Clinton's Visit Promotes Tourism in Tiny Chinese Village

Tourists are flocking to the pretty village of Yucun, which US President William Clinton visited on his visit to this Chinese tourism mecca in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in July 1998.

The centuries-old village that can only be reached by boat was a stopover on Clinton's cruise down the Li River. The American first family spent 40 minutes visiting the village, during which Zhao Jiashuai remembered clearly the 16 minutes they spent in his 500-year-old house with intricately carved beams and windows.

It was a highlight in the Chinese farmer's life. Zhao said that he has kept in mind every moment. He now devotes most of his time guiding tourists around the village in Clinton's footsteps, explaining what scenes impressed the president and what Clinton said during the visit.

The farmer, wearing a worn white shirt and blue trousers, which was exactly what he was wearing in pictures taken with the President two years ago, said that he noticed the American president did not wear a tie in his visit to Yucun.

"I wore my everyday clothes to welcome the president. His casual dress made me feel at ease," he said.

Framed pictures featuring Clinton's visit to Zhao's house are the major decorations on the stone walls in the spacious sitting room.

An abacus in the village's small grocery, which aroused President Clinton's interest, has been framed on a wall, along with enlarged photos of Clinton and the family of the grocery owner, Zhao Jiachang.

"The abacus has become a symbol of Sino-American friendship," said Zhao Jiachang. He bought a new abacus to do his accounts.

A few international brands such as Coca-Cola and Kodak can be found on the shelf of the grocery. They are new items, according to the owner.

Zhao said that he introduced the goods for tourists. Villagers are still unlikely to buy such luxuries.

Over the past two years many changes have taken place in the isolated village. Television is now a household necessity.

Although this is still a small village, most children, like their counterparts in big Chinese cities, have developed an interest in learning English in primary school.

Zhao Jiashuai's 12-year-old daughter, Zhao Weiyan, scores A grade in each of her English test. She said that she was motivated by the eagerness of going to the United States to see lanes laid with big stone slabs in Clinton's hometown, which the president told her are similar to the ones in Yucun.

He Gelan's house now has a telephone on which she can make long-distance calls.

Meanwhile, tourism is booming in Yucun. On May 1, over 1,000 tourists visited the village.

Visitors are often surprised by the openness and generosity of the villagers, when they find themselves warmly greeted by farmers in any farmhouse they call at.

When Jane Murray, deputy secretary general of the World Energy Council, visited the village in June this year, she asked the villagers: "Don't you feel bothered by tourists?"

She was told that they welcome tourists, because in addition to fruit-growing and fishing, tourism gives them another source of income.

"President Clinton was really a great advertisement for Yucun,"said Murray.

She gave a high appraisal of the popularization of biogas and solar energy in Yucun, which have completely replaced wood as the fuel for the 120 households in the village over the past two years.

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Tourists are flocking to the pretty village of Yucun, which US President William Clinton visited on his visit to this Chinese tourism mecca in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in July 1998.

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