Entrepreneurial spirits thrive in China's rural landscape

Xinhua, July 10, 2023
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This undated photo shows the tenting estate nestled amidst Yangmeishan Village in Yuanjiang City, central China's Hunan Province. (Xinhua)

by Xinhua writers Zhang Ge, Ruan Zhouwei

In a scenic tenting estate nestled amidst Yangmeishan Village in Yuanjiang City, central China's Hunan Province, a serene flow of holidaymakers immerse themselves in a tranquil atmosphere.

They delight in setting up camps within cozy tents, engaging in parent-child games, and relishing mouthwatering barbecues. As they bask in the refreshing cool breeze, their gaze turns upward, captivated by the beauty of the starry summer night sky.

The camping estate came to life thanks to its owner, Hu Shan, a visionary 32-year-old woman who boldly chose to depart from her high-paying urban job in 2017 and return to her cherished hometown, where she had spent her formative years pursuing her entrepreneurial dreams.

Yuanjiang, in the hinterland of China's second-largest freshwater lake, Dongting, boasts bountiful resources and breathtaking landscapes. With China's successful poverty alleviation efforts and the implementation of rural vitalization, rural tourism has flourished in Yuanjiang, inspiring Hu to forge ahead with her ambitions.

"Many people perceive starting a business in rural areas as a daunting task. However, I believe that villages hold a special significance for the Chinese, as they are imbued with a sense of nostalgia and memories," Hu said, adding that agriculture can also be fashionable. "With clean air and expansive land, villages offer a unique opportunity for city dwellers to transform their idyllic rural life aspiration into a tangible reality."

After graduating from university in 2012, Hu chose to stay in the city and pursue a career. However, her entrepreneurial spirit eventually led her back to her roots.

Seeking guidance and wisdom, she embarked on a series of visits to local villagers. Recognizing that the majority of villagers were still involved in traditional agriculture, she astutely identified promising business opportunities related to the dining table.

"Urban restaurants now offer a wide array of dishes sourced from rural areas. Among these culinary delights, one traditional delicacy holds a special place in my heart -- pickles," said Hu, adding that the flavors of her mother and grandmother's cooking were ingrained in the pickles, evoking memories of her student days. This nostalgic connection inspired Hu to harness local resources and develop handmade agricultural products.

This undated photo shows Hu Shan packing up handmade agricultural products in Yuanjiang City, central China's Hunan Province. (Xinhua)

"Returning to my hometown and starting this entrepreneurial journey holds a profound purpose for me -- to contribute to the prosperity in the village and the well-being of everyone," Hu said. Her cooperative leases land from farmers, providing them with both rent and land dividends. Furthermore, she offers employment opportunities and provides guidance and training to over 300 individuals.

Also, Hu purchases agricultural products from farmers at prices higher than the market rate, thereby helping to boost locals' income.

In response to the growing importance of brand awareness, Hu took the initiative to develop a leisure agricultural tourism complex in 2021. As temperatures continue to soar, the camping estate, spanning approximately 57 mu (about 3.9 hectares), has witnessed a steady influx of visitors seeking a summer gateway.

Within the estate, parent-child outings and educational tours have taken center stage, with various rural experience projects such as farming and picking gaining significant popularity.

"Rural areas possess an incredible vitality," Hu said. "Significant changes have occurred in the villages over time." In her pursuit of a career in the agricultural sector, Hu has acquired a certificate as a leisure agriculture manager and is currently pursuing a Master of Business Administration.

With China's modernization of agriculture and rural areas, the countryside, brimming with possibilities, is attracting a growing number of "returning geese" such as Hu.

According to data from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, from 2012 to the end of 2022, over 12.2 million individuals have returned to their hometowns with the aspiration of starting their own businesses.

"The development of rural areas requires the active participation of young people. I hope that my decision to return to my hometown will inspire others to do the same and contribute to the vitalization of rural areas," said Hu.

(Wu Haowen also contributed to the story.)