A car carrying foreign friends cautiously climbed a freshly paved mountain road to reach Zhushan Village in the northwestern corner of Fenghuang Ancient Town in Xiangxi Tujia and Miao Autonomous Prefecture, central China’s Hunan Province. Zhushan Village is surrounded by water on three sides and nestled in the green mountains. After five years of efforts to develop the cultural tourism industry, the ancient Miao village has been successfully lifted out of poverty, transforming from a remote, impoverished village into a popular tourist destination.
“By leveraging its own resources and conditions, Zhushan Village has developed rural tourism and cultural tourism,” said Trieu Vinh Ha, a reporter with Viet Nam News Agency. “The local infrastructure, living conditions, and income levels have all improved substantially. Poverty is a common challenge facing human society. Zhushan Village’s success offers feasible and valuable experience on poverty alleviation for many countries around the world.”
From October 24 to 29, a group of about 30 people including diplomatic envoys from Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, and other ASEAN countries as well as reporters like Trieu Vinh Ha participated in the sixth “China-SEAN Jointly Building 21st Century Maritime Silk Road” reporting trip in Hunan.
Located in the provincial capital Changsha, Sany Heavy Industry Co., Ltd. is nearing complete coverage of 5G, the latest generation of mobile networks. At the company’s plant, nearly 100 intelligent robots operate non-stop every day, picking up goods, carrying cargo, and assembling parts. Through the “5G + industrial internet” model, Hunan is strengthening its traditionally strong construction machinery industry.
Razida Hanim Binti Abdul Razak, trade commissioner from the Embassy of Malaysia, was among the visitors to an intelligent manufacturing workshop of Sany.
“The global digital economy is expanding rapidly, and Hunan is already jumping out to lead,” said Razak. “This was a great opportunity to visit intelligent manufacturing enterprises in Hunan. Precision, intelligence, and digitalization are helping Hunan’s manufacturing industry produce better results. China’s digital economy development is impressive, and we have much to learn from China’s experience and knowledge.”
At Sunward Equipment Group, one of China’s leading enterprises in subterranean engineering equipment, an introduction by founder and chairman He Qinghua gave the delegation a good idea of the innovative capabilities of Hunan’s intelligent manufacturing.
“Improving Vietnam’s infrastructure requires support from an array of mechanical equipment,” said Trieu Vinh Ha. “Hunan’s manufacturing sector is strong, and I suspect it will find plentiful cooperation opportunities in Vietnam.”
In the Testing Zone of National Intelligent Connected Vehicle (Changsha), members of the delegation excitedly took rides in an intelligent electric car. In driverless mode, the car could sense when to brake and stop for unexpected pedestrians and make turns at an intersection. Every member of the delegation was able to witness the power of digital development.
“2020 was designated as the China-ASEAN Year of Digital Economy Cooperation,” noted Chen Dehai, secretary general of the ASEAN-China Centre. “Hunan has made remarkable achievements in the digital world in recent years, and development momentum in related industries remains promising. Advancement of the Belt and Road Initiative will help ASEAN countries and Hunan conduct closer exchange and cooperation.”
Targeted Poverty Alleviation
Due to inconvenient transportation and lagging infrastructure, Zhushan Village was once very poor, where villagers depended on weather for food after planting a wide range of crops with traditional farming methods.
In recent years, concerted efforts from the local government and villagers enabled Zhushan Village to develop strategy for poverty alleviation through cultural tourism featuring Miao customs. Traditional Miao practices such as weaving bamboo baskets and straw sandals, grinding tofu, pounding rice, and sifting corn have been attracting tourists ever since.
In Shibadong Village, where Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed the idea of “targeted poverty alleviation” in 2013, members of the delegation got a broader look at the country’s achievements in poverty alleviation. “Previously, I only vaguely knew about China’s poverty alleviation policies,” said Tran Thanh Hai, a counsellor at the Vietnamese Embassy in China. “But now I have a deeper understanding and stronger feelings about poverty alleviation. I have seen local people seizing happier lives after escaping poverty through hard work and support from the Hunan provincial government. China has done a good job with poverty alleviation, which is a great achievement.”
The per capita income of the villagers in Shibadong Village has multiplied six times in four years, which surprised Phanavanh Boutthavong, attache of the Embassy of Lao PDR. “Hunan has been successful at adapting measures to local conditions considering how well it preserved the characteristics of Miao customs and maximized the local advantages. China’s experience in targeted poverty alleviation should be a great reference for Laos.”
Ang Lay Ling, deputy chief of mission of the Embassy of Brunei, was returning to Hunan many years after her last visit and seemed confident about the prospects for cultural tourism cooperation between Hunan and Brunei. “Hunan has picturesque scenery, unique customs, and profound culture and history, which are very attractive to Brunei tourists,” she said. “Currently, the potential for tourism cooperation between Hunan and Brunei has only grown since direct flights were launched.”
At present, Hunan offers direct flights to 27 cities in 10 ASEAN countries, which facilitates cultural tourism exchange with ASEAN countries.
In 2017, Hunan Television aired the first season of Chinese Restaurant, a Chinese celebrity reality show, after shooting it in Koh Chang, Thailand. In recent years, Chinese documentaries, films, and television programs such as Hunan Businessmen in Laos have also attracted considerable attention in Southeast Asia. Internet protocol television (IPTV) and social media have enabled the Hunan Broadcasting System’s internet video platform, Mango TV, to gradually become popular among young Thai people.
“Hunan is bustling, and this trip was unforgettable!” exclaimed Dino R. Kusnadi, minister and deputy chief of mission at the Embassy of Indonesia. “There is huge potential for cooperation between Hunan and ASEAN, and we are excited to serve as a bridge and bond for friendly cooperation.”
“Hunan and ASEAN countries have maintained a sound development momentum for exchange and cooperation in fields of economics, trade, culture, and tourism,” said Zhang Hongsen, member of the Standing Committee and head of the publicity department of Hunan provincial CPC committee, when receiving the delegation. “I hope the delegation will embrace the mission of serving as a bridge between Hunan and ASEAN to promote friendly cooperation for a brighter future.”
Chen Shi, deputy editor-in-chief of China International Publishing Group (CIPG) and president of China Report Press (CRP), stressed both CIPG and CRP’s commitment to promoting exchange and cooperation between Chinese media and think tanks and their foreign counterparts. China Report ASEAN is a multi-language media platform targeting ASEAN countries.
“We stand ready to strengthen coordination and cooperation with other provinces and cities in China including Hunan Province to advance the development of China-ASEAN friendly relations,” Chen said.
The activity themed “New Opportunities in China-ASEAN Digital Economy Development and Poverty Reduction Cooperation” was jointly hosted by CIPG and the ASEAN-China Centre and organized by CRP. The delegation toured Changsha, Xiangxi Tujia and Miao Autonomous Prefecture, and Huaihua to explore the province’s successes in targeted poverty alleviation and digital economics.
By Qi Kai