Village an urbanization model

Updated: 2013-03-07 08:07

By An Baijie (China Daily)

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Village an urbanization model

Local head says not all rural areas could replicate the experience

Village official Fan Haitao has met hundreds of government delegations in the two years since his village became a showcase for urbanization reform.

Fan, a deputy to the National People's Congress and also head of Nanlizhuang village in Henan province's Huixian county, said urbanization is likely to be accelerated nationwide in coming years.

"I sometimes met as many as five official groups in a day who came to our village to learn from the experience," Fan said on Sunday when he was in Beijing for the NPC annual session.

Promoting urbanization actively and steadily is written in the reports of the Party's 18th National Congress held in November and the Central Economic Work Conference held in December.

"Many local governments think of the urbanization process as a new engine to boost the economy, since it was highlighted in the reports of the central authorities," Fan said.

As the first step in the urbanization process, in April 2010, after receiving permission from the village's 351 families, Fan demolished all of their houses. Eight months later, the villagers moved into newly built villa units.

The rebuilding and relocation cost 160 million yuan ($25.42 million), and all the money came from Fan's company. He is board chairman of the Mengdian Group, a private corporation that produces cement, electricity and property.

The Mengdian Group used to be a State-owned cement factory before Fan's family bought the factory and turned it into a private company 2002. Fan and his father hold 52 percent of the shares.

"My family was supported by the government when purchasing the company," he said.

Li Baoguo, a villager, said he was happy to move out of his shabby house into a new 240-square-meter apartment.

"It's unbelievable that we can live in such fine houses without paying a penny," he said. Li's new home has five bedrooms. His previous house had two bedrooms.

The relocation has saved land by moving villagers from traditional single-story houses into four-story villa units, with the village obtaining an extra 70 mu (4.67 hectares) of land, Fan said. Fan built a market for construction materials on that land. Villagers share the profits from renting the market to construction material dealers.

"The families can get a 6,000 yuan bonus every year from renting each mu of land," he said. Apart from the rental, villagers who work at Fan's company can earn about 1,900 yuan a month.

The double income - from the rental and salaries - has taken villagers' family incomes close to the level of nearby urban residents, Fan said.

He admitted social services in his village, including residents' endowment insurance, health insurance and education, are less developed compared with the urban area.

Seniors can receive a pension of about 200 yuan a month if they paid endowment insurance of 110 yuan a month when they worked, but the pension for nearby urban residents is more than 1,000 yuan, Fan said.

There are no primary and middle schools in the village, and students have to travel several kilometers to schools in neighboring townships.

The provincial government made the village a model for urbanization reform, and Lu Zhangong, Party chief of Henan, said when he visited the village in 2010 that he would rather become a villager and get a free apartment there.

But Fan said not all of China's rural areas could emulate the experience of his village.

"In remote rural areas that are not densely populated, it's impossible to develop commercial centers," Fan said. "The regions suitable for urbanization should be suburban areas where downtown residents can come to shop."

Apart from geographic location, there must also be companies offering sufficient job opportunities, Fan said.

Zhao Yanshui, chairman of the YTO Group Corp in Henan, which produces agricultural machinery, voiced similar concerns.

If there were no industries, rural people would have to move to seek jobs even though their hometown was labeled as an urbanization area, said Zhao, who is also an NPC deputy.

The urbanization process will take a long time, given that many of China's rural residents are scattered in remote areas, Zhao said.

Fan added: "The urbanization process is absolutely not just building some new houses. Not all of China's rural areas will be urbanized overnight."

(China Daily 03/07/2013 page8)