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Fuxin learns to move on from mines

China Daily | Updated: 2024-01-31 09:46
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Cross-country vehicles compete in a race at the 100SDC racetrack, formerly a giant mining pit, in Fuxin, Liaoning province, in September. CHINA DAILY

Fuxin, a typical resource-dependent city in Liaoning province, once thrived with coal mining. However, with the exhaustion of such resources, it is now undergoing a transformation.

Today, people in this city are exploring new opportunities for their future.

Standing at the edge of a giant pit called "Xinqiu", Jiang Changli, chairman of the Fuxin Automobile and Motorcycle Sports Association, envisioned the area's future with great enthusiasm.

The vast pit has been transformed into a racetrack known as 100SDC. High-speed vehicles now zoom past the rock walls, which date back over a hundred years.

Fuxin's massive open-pit mines provide a window into its past.

"Xinqiu" is not the only pit in this city. The "Haizhou" mine, once the largest open-pit mine in Asia, was not only a source of coal, but also one of pride for the city. It made significant contributions to the country's economic development and was key to the growth of China's coal industry.

From 1953 to 2003, the Haizhou mine produced 210 million metric tons of coal for the nation. This is enough to fill over 5,400 kilometers of train cars. From end to end, the cars would almost equal the length of the Yellow River.

During that time, the urban economy flourished, attracting many to the city.

The Haizhou mine even appeared on the back of the 1960 version of the 5-yuan RMB note.

However, due to resource depletion, coal mining enterprises in Fuxin began shutting down in the 1980s, prompting young people to leave the city in search of employment and better lives.

Only the memories, massive mine pits and mountains of coal waste remained. The abandoned waste, known as gangue, not only occupies the land but also contains sulfides that pollute the air and water.

The gangue also poses a risk of spontaneous combustion and generates large amounts of dust. They are like scars on the city's landscape.

A few years ago, Jiang, a car and motorcycle enthusiast, drove a lap around the pit.

Afterward, he declared that the venue was "bad" in a way that was "so good". This statement sparked an innovative idea.

In 2018, Fuxin embarked on a journey to transform the abandoned mines. What was once a quiet and desolate landscape has now become a racetrack radiating speed and excitement.

The track has attracted many drivers from across the country, and even a music festival has been established here. The long-silent mining pit now draws a large number of tourists, fueling local tourism and economic development.

Basketball dreams

Fuxin residents are also striving to rejuvenate their hometown in other ways.

In the 1950s and 1960s, basketball became a popular sport in the city. Almost every coal mine enterprise had its own basketball court, and workers often played after work.

These days, young Fuxin residents are continuing the city's basketball tradition.

Born in Fuxin, Yao Yipeng has been immersed in the sport since childhood and now manages a local basketball club.

Yao was a talented player. After graduating from junior high school in 2007, he went to Canada and enrolled at St George's School and York University, both renowned for their basketball programs. During his time at St George's in British Columbia, he became a key player on the school team and helped it achieve a first place ranking.

Because of his outstanding performance, Yao earned a nickname from his teammates: "Big Yao", after China's legendary basketball player Yao Ming.

Eight years later, after graduating from university, Yao Yipeng faced a tough decision: stay in Canada or return to China.

"But I had a basketball dream in China," he said.

Basketball took him to Canada, enabling him to see the world and enrich his experiences. Now, it was time for him to give back to the place where he first developed his passion for the sport.

"Help Chinese children see the world through basketball, and help the world get to know Chinese teenagers through basketball" — this was his original goal and a reflection of his own life.

Yao founded Magic Eagle, a basketball club that provides fundamental training for children.

"Perhaps one day, the children who come out of our city can step onto a CBA or even an NBA court," he said.

His club has more than 1,000 registered members, most of whom are children.

Wrestling with uncertainty

Yao's decision to return to his hometown was a calculated choice.

But for Wang Haibo and his wife, it was a matter of necessity rather than choice.

Once professional wrestlers, they retired from their respective teams and left Fuxin for Shenyang, capital of Liaoning, and Beijing.

Wang traveled around the country, participating in mixed martial arts events to earn a living.

However, the couple knew that with the big income came big risks. When the couple decided to start a family, they returned to Fuxin to settle down.

Wang initially found himself at a loss, both in terms of his life and his livelihood in his hometown.

Facing a moribund city with limited opportunities, he was uncertain about how to provide for his family. But he didn't give up and kept his eyes peeled for opportunities.

Fortunately, one presented itself.

In recent years, the city government has been promoting Bokh, a Mongolian style of wrestling, in primary and secondary schools in a county in Fuxin.

With their extensive wrestling experience, Wang and his wife were able to secure jobs as part-time coaches at several schools.

Their work gradually enabled them to establish a steady income. They eventually saved enough money to open their own wrestling club.

The couple also took online courses to further their knowledge and obtained the necessary qualifications to better instruct their students.

Last year, they welcomed their second child and acquired a car, a significant uptick in their quality of life.

Wang reflected on their initial challenges upon returning to Fuxin, saying, "There is no life without setbacks, but the key is to rise again after falling."

This is a sentiment he and his wife now instill in their wrestling students.

"My experience, just like our city, is a testament to resilience," Wang said.

"Fuxin is a tenacious and unyielding place, always pushing forward. As long as we have unabated hearts, I firmly believe that our hometown has a bright future ahead."


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