Villager relishes decision to leave rural home for city

By Yuan Shenggao (China Daily)

Updated: 2021-02-19


Zhang Xiuqing works as a gardener at a factory near his new home. [Photo by Wang Liqiang for China Daily]

"I realized I made the right decision to live in a city," said Zhang Xiuqing, a resident in the Guanghuiyuan community in Kelan county, Shanxi.

Zhang made his remark while clearing snow at the factory where he works, shortly after this year's first snow fell on Jan 5.

"With central heating, my new home in Guanghuiyuan in the county seat is a pleasant upgrade from the cave-house in my former village of Zhaojiawa," Zhang said.

Zhang was among the last 13 residents of six households to move out of Zhaojiawa, one of the least-developed villages in Kelan.

But his decision to move came only after officials pleaded with him to move.

"I was reluctant to move when officials came to persuade me in 2017," Zhang said.

Zhang's major sources of revenue then came from the 100-or-so sheep and goats he herded on nearby hills, plus a meager yield of corn from his farmland.

He said the officials did not force him to move. Instead, they gave him two options: he could move to a new home in the county seat and find a new job with the government's help, or he could stay in the village with his sheep and goats.

Zhang knew that staying meant his family might be the last one left in the village. That meant loneliness and inconvenience in the years to come.

"Loneliness is unbearable. I talked to the animals and birds when I was herding alone but they didn't respond," Zhang said.

His main concern with moving was whether he and his wife could find new jobs to support his family and pay for the schooling for his two children.

Zhang decided to visit the new settlement. Residents there told him a number of enterprises had been established in the neighborhood to help with poverty alleviation. Jobs were easily available with recommendations from the government.

Convinced, Zhang and his wife made the decision to move. They now live in an apartment with access to running water, gas and central heating.

Zhang found a job in a nearby coking factory, with a monthly salary of more than 3,000 yuan ($465). His wife works as a ranger at a nearby forest.

The land of Zhaojiawa has been leased to a company for growing medical herbs and former villagers receive rent and dividends, Zhang said.

Wang Liqiang contributed to this story.