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This post was edited by andr0078 at 2011-11-24 15:16|
When one thinks of Chinese villages, the image of poor, barren & neglected farmland & drought comes to mind. Not so, according to the report from Global Times. Happy reading.
A village of excess
Huaxi’s nine pagoda-style towers built in 2006 to commemorate the village’s 45th anniversary of its founding
Here's a shortlist of what the village of Huaxi has that others don't: many millionaires, replicas of the Arc de Triomphe, Washington's Capitol building, Sydney's opera house and above all Beijing's Tiananmen.
Along with the kitsch, the village is also into making steel and textiles and is branching out to provide investment and financial services.
The renowned village in Jiangsu Province, about an hour and half drive from Shanghai, has for decades been a star of the "get rich" ethos that was unleashed by Deng Xiaoping, the architect of sweeping economic reforms in the 1980s.
Huaxi first made headlines in mid-1990s when the village's collective businesses made so much money that each of the village's 300-plus households was provided a free villa and a car.
Today every original household in Huaxi is reported to be worth millions of yuan. Each member receives annual dividends worth at least 100,000 yuan ($15,460) and many earn top salaries as well-paid executives.
Huaxi's rags-to-ultra-riches story is the envy of the nation and attracts more than 2 million visitors a year. The village's fabled wealth has spurned a tourism industry that's creating even more wealth.
In its latest ode to excess, the village, which is now home to 35,000 people, last month opened a 74-storey glass tower that is part hotel and part showcase for the village's riches. The tower is an unabashed display of conspicuous wealth featuring a solid gold statue of a bull costing more than 300 million yuan.
Fitting of its "bullish" expansion and investment principles the skyscraper is also home to bulls made of silver, copper, iron and tin - each weighing a ton.
Built at a cost of more than 3 billion yuan the skyscraper has come under criticism as a high profile flaunting of the village's wealth. Last week an official with the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development wondered out loud how many impoverished children might have been helped with the money spent on the gold bull alone.
The least expensive of the 826 guest rooms goes for 800 yuan a night and visitors are charged 300 yuan to just walk around the building. So far the occupancy has been low and the eight presidential suites, the most expensive costing100000 yuan a night, have yet to receive a guest.
Huaxi's previous most stunning landmark was the 98-meter-tall Gold Tower, built pagoda-style in 1996, and topped with a 3-kilo gold spire.
The ostentatious buildings and theme park atmosphere attract more than 5,000 visitors a day who swarm the place in star-struck awe of how a formerly remote village could get so rich.
Ever at the ready to capitalize on a potential money making opportunity, Huaxi's leaders are happy to oblige any visitor with deep pockets. Tourism now generates 20 percent of the village's annual income.
Huaxi’s newly-opened 74-storey skyscraper is 2 meters shorter than Beijing’s tallest
A statue of a bull made of pure gold worth 300 million yuan
Wu a spokesperson
The undisputed star of Huaxi is Wu Renbao, the octogenarian who was the village's elected Party secretary for more than 40 years until his son was elected to replace him in 2003.
Wu led the spiraling expansion of village enterprises and established the framework by which the wealth is shared.
Wu told his audience that Huaxi's new skyscraper is the eighth tallest in China, and its height, 328 meters, was set to match the tallest building in Beijing, the World Trade Center. "This means Huaxi is in harmony with the Party central committee," said Wu without explaining the analogy. In fact Beijing's tallest building is two meters taller than Huaxi's tallest.
Villas belonging to Huaxi’s original 2,000 villagers
Collective welfare, not for all
Huaxi's 60 enterprises, which include steelmaking, textiles and shipping, earn after-tax profit of 3 billion yuan a year.
The 2,000 members of the original households each receive annual dividends from the stock they were allocated. The so-called poorest of the rich might receive 100,000 yuan, while the wealthiest will get a 2-million-yuan pay out each year.
While each of the original families has shares they remain communal property and comes with several large caveats. The families aren't allowed to sell or trade their shares and if they leave the village they forfeit all their property including their homes and cars. The lucky 2,000 can only use their stock to purchase approved items which village leaders decide are good for the collective.
This mix of capitalism and communalism has helped Huaxi build a stable capital base and expand its businesses without fear of a speculative sell off or a hostile takeover.
At a time when many villages in China are devoid of young people who are working in cities, Hauxi's youth are staying put even after they earn degrees at universities in China and aboard. Many say Huaxi's booming economy is providing better opportunities than most big cities.
It doesn't hurt that newlyweds are automatically entitled to their own villa and after landing a local job start accumulating their own shares - as long as they stick around.
Hauxi is no longer a true village. More than 35,000 people now live in the greater Huaxi area which, starting in 2001, incorporated 20 other villages and restructured them into 13 small municipalities with the original Hauxi village at its utopian heart.
Yu Qun, a hotel maid from Anhui Province who makes 1,500 yuan a month, said all the hotel staff except managers are non-locals. Yu's husband is a driver in the village.
She plans to return to her hometown as there is no hope she'll ever become a stock-holding villager. "There's no difference between working here or a big city, maybe there's less pressure and it's quieter here," she said.
The quickest way to become one of the lucky few stockholders is to marry one.
Expecting better future
Wu Xie'en, who took over as Party secretary from his father in 2003, has led a strategic restructuring of Hauxi's enterprises, some of which are now traded on the Shanghai Stock Exchange. He also pushed Huaxi to enter the financial sector by opening a pawn shop, an investment company and investing in banks and other companies. His current goal is to increase the number of non-manufacturing industries in Huaxi's portfolio to more than 50 percent of its assets.
The "greater Huaxi," as locals call it, covers 35 square kilometers and leaders are asking thousands of residents to move into collective residential compounds in order to make more land available for development. In return for moving the villagers have been promised 600 yuan and 300 kilos of rice per year.
Under Huaxi's ambitious blueprint for the future, "greater Huaxi" will develop its agriculture sector to the north, which will provide food for those working in a planned new industrial park in the south. All the local factories are to be moved out of the central, original Huaxi village, which has been designated "paradise on earth."
Source: Global Times | November 23, 2011 20:04
By Li Qian