Yang Bojiu is a Party chief of Dongguan Village in Xingxian County of Shanxi Province. He was born in the county in 1960 and joined the Communist Party of China in 1992.
In the east of Xingxian there is a modern business plaza. Standing five stories tall it has a commercial area of 18,000 square meters. This important local landmark represents the biggest change to take place in the county since China's reform and opening up. It was Yang who made the plaza possible.
In 2003, a number of old enterprises noted for their heavy pollution and high energy consumption were closed down. Among these were the local Dongfeng Iron Factory and a cement factory. Life became difficult for over 400 villagers who lost their jobs.
Yang said, "According to the town plan issued by the county at that time, the village would be enclosed within four thoroughfares. This offered commercial advantages for business development. I thought we should seize the opportunity. We could build a modern business plaza and establish facilities that would benefit those who had been made unemployed. The money would come from leasing, pre-selling and advance payments from the villagers themselves."
Yang discussed the matter with members of the Village Committee and the Village Branch of the CPC. The members agreed with his proposal to build the Dongfeng Business Plaza to replace the old stores and shops then occupying the site.
In the spring of the same year, a meeting of the villagers was held to discuss the issue. Some voiced their concerns. Though this could provide a way out of their difficulties, where would the 3.7 million yuan (about US$0.5 million) it was to cost come from?
Some argued that it would be better to leave the place the way it was. At least the existing premises were generating safe annual revenues of 400,000 to 500,000 yuan (about US$53,000 - 66,000).
"We could understand the concerns of the villagers. At that time, the whole village had fixed assets of just over 10 million yuan (about US$1.3 million) and these were tied up and not available for use in the project. What's more, a project on this scale was rarely undertaken even at the county level. So it was understandable that people did not have confidence in us back then. The very same night of that village meeting the members and I met again. We resolved that we would do all we could to win over the support of the villagers for the project."
Continuous efforts to sell the idea of the project to the villagers continued throughout 2003. At the final village meeting of the year, Yang made this promise, "As a Party member, I assure you the business plaza will be a good choice and a success."
Thanks to the efforts made by Yang and the other members the project did go ahead. It all turned out well both during construction and later when it opened its doors. Remarkably it did not cost the village a single cent. The 3.7 million yuan (about US$0.5 million) investment all came from publicly raised funding.
It opened for business in July 2005 with over 400 booths and stores successfully rented out. It soon became the most popular development of its kind in Xingxian County.
Guo Mingtang, 52, was against the project at first but now he has changed his mind. Apart from the additional revenues it brings in, it also provides jobs for the villagers. Now Guo operates a store in the plaza and thinks Yang made the right decision.
Since Yang became Party Branch-Secretary in 1998, he has turned the village into the rising star of Luliang Mountain. In addition to the business plaza he has brought in new schools, a passenger transportation center, small development areas, and road improvements. The collectively owned assets of the village have grown from 10 million yuan (about US$1.3 million) to 60 million yuan (about US$7.9 million).
Not surprisingly, the villagers speak highly of Yang. When elections fell due in 2005, over 200 villagers jointly signed a letter to the organizing department of the County Party Committee. They requested that Yang and other members of the Village Committee and the CPC Village Branch renew their terms of office.