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Village blazes path to prosperity

Updated : 2018-05-14
By Cang Wei (chinadaily.com.cn)

Village blazes path to prosperity

Huaxi village in Jiangsu province has long been considered the country's No 1 village.[Photo by Xu Congjun/for China Daily]

Huaxi, where residents once subsisted on grain rations, owns billion-yuan conglomerate

Wu Xie'en, a village chief in Jiangsu province, has personally donated more than 100 million yuan ($15.7 million) in 15 years to help villagers build a well-off community.

Huaxi village, where he works, is known as China's No 1 village. It may not be the country's richest village, but it is considered by many to be the most famous.

"Leading such a village is never easy," Wu said. "I just hope that my work can bring a better future to Huaxi and our villagers."

The 54-year-old has a busy schedule most days. He gets up at 6:30 am and arrives at the office within an hour. After spending an hour catching up with the news and routine paperwork, Wu turns his attention to meetings, making investment decisions and giving lectures. He often does not get to bed until 1:30 am.

The village he leads now owns a conglomerate, Jiangsu Huaxi Group, with total assets of more than 50 billion yuan. Located in the city of Jiangyin, it has grown from just under 1 square kilometer in the 1960s to 35 sq km.

About 60,000 people live in the well-planned village, where each family owns fancy cars and free villas. They work in the group's companies and factories, have free medical insurance and enjoy stock and yearly bonuses.

Huaxi has never been hesitant about showing the outside world how wealthy it is. Its 328-meter-high Long Wish Hotel, which cost 3 billion yuan to build and opened in 2011, houses a golden bull that is estimated to worth 300 million yuan according to media reports.

But 57 years ago, Huaxi was a poor village with only 1,764 yuan in assets and debts of 20,000 yuan. Each of its 667 villagers received a daily ration of 250 grams of grain. Then its chief, Wu Xie'en's father, Wu Renbao, started to kick-start industry and help the villagers shake off poverty.

In his 15 years as village chief since succeeding his father, Wu has put a lot of thought into reforms and finding new growth engines - even being called the "factory-closing chief" for shutting down traditional industries.

In 2003, his first year in office, he closed nine companies engaged in traditional industries, such as chemical production and the manufacture of wire rods, which polluted the environment but could earn more than 100 million yuan a year.

The group now owns companies in many sectors, from wholesale agricultural products and financial services to investment and cutting-edge technologies.

In 2001, Huaxi started to accept villagers from neighboring areas.

"We have many preferential policies to attract talent," Wu said. "They are crucial to our development and we must have an open mind to welcome them."

The group has invested in a laser chip program led by scientists who returned to China from Silicon Valley in the United States. It began production in the neighboring city of Changzhou recently.

People working for the group now share the same salary standards and rights as villagers, who used to enjoy extra bonuses but now make up less than 8 percent of its workforce.

"You are a Huaxi local if you work for the village," Wu said. "The talented young generation is Huaxi's future."

For five years, he has sent batches of young people to poverty-stricken areas in Guizhou and Qinghai provinces to live with local farmers.

"Many of our young people have enjoyed good living conditions since they were born," Wu said.

"They should experience farmers' lives in other areas and know more about the country. We hope that with their help, the village and its companies can thrive for at least 100 years."


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