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Two generations, two opportunities

Beijing Review | Updated: 2018-12-25 14:15

The fourth episode of Beijing Review's Web series: 40 Years of Reform and Opening Up: China's Rural E-Commerce Going Global

By Ma Xiaowen | Web Exclusive

"To me, reform and opening up means opening up people's mind and persevering as an entrepreneur," Hua Yongliang, who opened the first online store in Peixie, a village in southeast China's Fujian Province, told Beijing Review.

China's national strategy implemented in 1978 presented the mountainous village with unprecedented opportunities. For four decades, the village has developed its traditional bamboo mat business with innovations and improved its economy.

In the 1990s, Peixie was under the poverty line. Hua Yongliang's father Hua Jinxian had a company making bamboo mats. In 2010, after Hua Yongliang graduated from college, he decided to help his father with the business and opened an online store, the first in Peixie.

The biggest barrier for e-businesses in a mountainous village is logistics. At first the Huas couldn't find any courier company willing to come and pick up their products. Hua Yongliang had to transport the packages in his own vehicle to the nearest courier in the city.

"But when the packages increased to nearly 100 pieces, the courier company began to take us seriously," he said.

Mats made in Peixie are delivered to areas 1,000 km to the north and around Shanghai. With improved logistics, it takes only two to three days for the ordered goods to reach their buyers. In merely three years, the Huas' business saw sales exceeding 2 million yuan ($290,300), inspiring other villagers to start their own e-business.

In the past, villagers of workable age used to work in big cities for better pay. Only the old and very young stayed at home. But after Hua Yongliang created a new role model, an increasing number of young people started to open their own business in Peixie, giving the village more vitality. Last year, the village's sales volume reached 160 million yuan ($23 million).

E-commerce has helped expand sales channels and deal with excess production capacity. There are over 100 bamboo mat factories in the village. Hua Yongliang said an online store doing brisk business can handle the production capacity of one to two factories, which once struggled to find distributors.

Bamboo mats are seasonal products. Spring and summer are the peak time for sales. In autumn and winter, when sales are low, Hua Yongliang sells other products, such as down jackets. This year, he registered a food brand for local specialties. "The essence of e-commerce is daring to experiment with new things," he said.

The villagers, with their creativity and entrepreneurial spirit, are also exploring new areas. They are tapping the potential of the natural beauty of the village and its high online exposure with rural tourism projects. The village has become an online sensation for travelers.

"All my father and I did was to utilize the opportunities presented by different phases of reform and opening up and share them with other villagers," Hua said. "Now we can see the village thriving on its own."

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