Leaving behind the rich cities: China’s rural countryside

Farming on the countryside
Farming on the countryside.

So far I have more or less only traveled to some larger or small (tourist) cities. But last week I actually could see and realize why people are saying that there is a huge difference in the development of large cities and the countryside.
My language exchange partner who himself comes from a village in Hunan province told me “the big cities have reached the level of Europe whereas the villages are left behind on the level of Africa.” On some article I have read that the villages are stuck at the European development of the 18th century.

This is hard to believe, so I actually needed to see the farmers using cattle to plow the fields, seed by hand and wash clothes in the river. Around the Wutaishan mountains where we went to from Datong we could get a glimpse on the tough living conditions in the small villages of Shanxi province.

Washing clothes
Washing clothes in a small river.

The average income of a farmer if about 600 yuan (ca. 60 Euros) per month, often without good insurance and under dependence of the weather, the health of their animals and – when they grow older – the support of their children.
But since the 1980s when the one-child-policy came into effect, there are less children to support the family. Although there are exceptions in the policy for peasants, propaganda signs are sill omnipresent along the road that we took, encouraging to obey the policy and to equally value female and male children.
But by now the signs are joined by advertising: The houses earlier used to put propaganda wording on their walls are now used as “billboards”, so sometimes there can be found a fading government banner right next to one of China Mobile.

Propaganda and advertisement banner in Chinese village
The banner in red is asking the peasant population to join the government’s cooperative health care (办好合作医疗造福农民群众) while the blue one is advertisement for televisions.

These hard conditions cause a movement to the cities where they are laboring as migrant workers under conditions that are not much better. Some are going to the coal mines where the risk of experiencing an accident or physical damage from the hard work is resulting in higher wages. A good article highlighting the problems of the “floating population” (流动人口 their official term used by the Chinese government) can be read here (sorry, it’s in German only).


One Response to “Leaving behind the rich cities: China’s rural countryside”

  1. Outdoor Public Laundry in France Says:

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