Young talent injects new vitality into east China village

(Xinhua) 08:41, June 26, 2023

Young people play frisbee in front of a youth library in Yucun Village of Anji County, Huzhou, east China's Zhejiang Province, June 5, 2023. (Xinhua/Cai Yang)

HANGZHOU, June 25 (Xinhua) -- When he learned that Yucun Village in Anji County, east China's Zhejiang Province, was recruiting "global partners" last July, Anji native Chen Zhe decided to return from Shanghai to his hometown.

"It's pretty bold for a small village to call for talent from all over the world," said Chen, who had been working in brand marketing in Shanghai prior to his move home.

Yucun is a village rich in high-quality limestone resources, and more than half of its locals relied on quarrying in the 1980s and 1990s. However, as its environment deteriorated and several people lost their lives when mining for limestone, the locals decided to make a change.

In June 2003, Zhejiang launched the Green Rural Revival Program, which planned to renovate about 10,000 incorporated villages and transform about 1,000 central villages among them into examples of moderate prosperity in all respects.

Yucun Village was the birthplace of the idea that "clear waters and green mountains are invaluable assets." Over the two years following the launch of the Green Rural Revival Program, the village shut down its limestone quarries and cement factories. It then embarked on a path of green development by boosting its eco-tourism industry, and it has become a model of China's beautiful countryside after two decades of relentless efforts.

This aerial photo taken on April 13, 2023 shows Yucun Village of Anji County, Huzhou City, east China's Zhejiang Province. (Xinhua/Weng Xinyang)

In 2021, Yucun was named one of the "Best Tourism Villages" by the United Nations World Tourism Organization.

"Thanks to the program, Yucun has entered a new stage of development, and its rural areas are becoming more and more attractive to young people," said Wang Yucheng, Party chief of Yucun.

When Chen returned home last year, he had only planned to stay there for a day or two, but his visit stretched to three months. During that time, local authorities invited more than 60 young people, including Chen, to work together to develop new business models for the village.

Chen opened a Chinese comic-themed cafe in the newly built youth library in Yucun Village in March, leading a team with an average age of below 30. The modern building, converted from a cement factory, is shaped like a key, and it relies on a renewable photovoltaic power system to offset carbon emissions.

This photo taken on June 5, 2023 shows a Chinese comic-themed cafe in Yucun Village of Anji County, Huzhou, east China's Zhejiang Province. (Xinhua/Cai Yang)

Chen cooperated with the Shanghai Animation Film Studio to install models in the cafe that were based on characters from domestic animations such as "Monkey King Sun Wukong," "Calabash Brothers" and "Black Cat Detective," which are most familiar to millennials. Surrounded by clear waters and green mountains, Chen's cafe also sells cultural and creative products based on nostalgic cartoons, such as notebooks, phone cases and key chains.

"It feels like Yucun is a laboratory with many possibilities, and it can inspire the development of villages across China," Chen said.

"Rural revitalization depends on people, especially young people with ideas and vitality," said He Miao, Party chief of Tianhuangping Town, which administers Yucun Village.

She noted that since the village's global partners program was launched in July last year, 42 projects have been introduced there, covering research and education, cultural creativity, the digital economy, and the agriculture and forestry industries. The program has attracted over 1,100 young people from home and abroad to work and live in Yucun and the surrounding villages.

Chen Zhe shares his entrepreneurial experience in rural areas during a talent exchange event in Huzhou, east China's Zhejiang Province, May 20, 2023. (Xinhua)

"We hope to inject new impetus into rural development," Chen said.

In order to support young people starting businesses in Yucun, the local government proposed the establishment of a large community of young talent. The Qinglaiji Project, which has a scale of more than 30,000 square meters, will open at the end of June as a result of the first phase of construction, bringing convenience to young entrepreneurs by providing a working environment and accommodation facilities.

The community provides high-quality apartments, youth hostels, digital nomad communes and boutique homestay facilities for the young people working in Yucun, with a total of more than 4,000 beds available, according to He.

Xu Song, owner of a digital nomad commune in the young talent community of Yucun, said that digital nomads -- people who work remotely and have professional skills -- are an important group for rural revitalization. His commune aims to gather young people in Yucun, bringing new blood into local development.

"Even before the construction of our commune has been completed, it has already attracted more than 40 digital nomads from across the country," Xu said.

"A single room in the commune costs 2,000 yuan (about 279 U.S. dollars) a month, and a bunk in a room for six people only costs 400 yuan a month," Xu said. "We just set up a community platform for more young people to stay here, providing an inexhaustible supply of talent resources for the countryside."

Zhang Hang, a digital nomad who was born in the 90s, and his team opened their studio in Yucun last year, focusing on making short videos. "We came to Yucun from the city because we yearned for the waters and green mountains here," he said. "Working in such an idyllic environment, we have improved both our moods and working efficiency."

"Returning to Anji to start a business, I can be closer to my family and help create jobs for people in my hometown," Chen said. "Who can refuse a job surrounded by such beautiful nature?"

Chen Zhe is seen at his Chinese comic-themed cafe in Yucun Village of Anji County, Huzhou, east China's Zhejiang Province, May 10, 2023. (Xinhua)

Chen said that 10 percent of his cafe's revenue this year will be returned to Yucun as part of the village's collective income.

Last year, Yucun received 700,000 tourists, with its tourism revenue totaling about 35 million yuan and the per capita income of locals hitting 64,000 yuan.

"We believe that hope for the future lies in the youth, and we hope to work with them to build a more beautiful countryside and expand a new path of green development," said Wang, Party chief of Yucun.

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Liang Jun)


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