CHINA / Regional

Farmers urged to pick leaders to bring wealth
Updated: 2006-03-30 08:41

To get rich is glorious, said revered late leader Deng Xiaoping, and roadside billboards in Jiangsu Province tell impoverished voters to elect those who will make them wealthy.

In impoverished rural Binghai County in East China's Jiangsu Province, a blue roadside billboard says it all about politics and prosperity: "Those unable to get rich won't be elected village cadres; those who can't lead everyone to wealth are not good cadres."

In rural Jiangsu, this message is replacing those for the one-child families and compulsory education.

Selecting officials to lead villagers towards a prosperous life is being popularized in 680,000 villages nationwide.

Democratic supervision to stop power abuse by powerful village heads is becoming more widespread, and the people's will is becoming stronger.

In booming coastal regions, more than 60 percent of villages have elected capable village heads. In underdeveloped regions, peasants harken to slogans, such as "Choosing the right person will enable a village to get rich."

"Making a person's capability of getting rich the criteria to judge a village head is the choice of the new stage in the history of rural development," said Liu Shejian, researcher at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

New village

"It is imperative for rural areas, home to 900 million residents, to develop. Most farmers are poorly educated and they need educated, able people to pool scattered resources and lead them to wealth," said Liu.

While prosperous villages have been created by able leaders, however, problems have cropped up due to new village management patterns.

An example: Wanfeng Village in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province. Under the leadership of Pan Qiang'en, in 1984 the village became the first to employ a joint-stock system and transform the villagers into share holders.

In 2000, the village boasted 1.4 billion yuan (US$173 million) in gross assets and 350 million yuan in annual sales revenue earned by over a dozen subordinate companies.

Though becoming a pace-setter for villages across the nation, the village, or Wanfeng Group, lost more than 1 billion yuan because of rash decision-making and dysfunctional operation, with a debt burden of 550,000 yuan for each villager.

Usually, a powerful village head is authorized to allocate resources and act as an entrepreneur, increasing chances of corruption. Effective supervision is required.