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Grassroots Party organs devote to rural development

In the dust raised by a passing car, farmer Yang Shuwang stands by a dirt road in northwest China, his hair, eyebrows and shirt covered with grime.

“I never imagined that we would ever have a road to allow cars to drive into our village,” Yang says with satisfaction.

Yang lives in Dongping village of Jingbian County in northwest China’s Shaanxi Province. The village has 355 families scattered in more than 30 mountains.

The mountains have acted as a barrier for development in years past, even after the founding of “new China” in 1949. Many farmers here still have a difficult time to get by due to the area’s harsh conditions.

However, the area started seeing significant changes in 1995, when Zhang Liang, the former headmaster of the village’s primary school, was elected as the chief of village’s Party branch, a grassroots organ of Communist Party of China (CPC).

The CPC has about 600,000 similar grassroots organizations throughout China’s rural areas, aiming to boost the CPC’s influence in these countryside and play a positive role in the development of the countryside.

Delivering a keynote speech at a grand gathering to mark the 90th founding anniversary of the CPC, Hu Jintao, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, says that success in China hinges on the Party.

These rural grassroots Party organs are making efforts to fulfill the mission of the CPC.

The 43-year-old Zhang identifies strongly with the village’s least well-off residents, as he came from a poor family himself. “When I was a teenager, I shepherded in the hills. I wore sheepskin all year round , as I had no other clothes,” he says.

He became a primary school teacher after graduating from high school, going on to join the Party at the age of 20.

“I think joining the Party is a symbol of being progressive. It was a necessary choice for me,” Zhang says.

The previous Party branch of Dongping failed to improve the lives of the villagers. When Zhang put his hat in the ring for the election of the village’s Party chief, locals discovered that he was the most highly educated resident in the village. Although they had doubts about his experience, the villagers eventually selected Zhang to fill the position.

After taking office, Zhang took time to visit every family in the village. It took him 10 days to call on all of the families, as many of them live in far-flung mountainous areas.

His investigation led him to believe that the villagers lived too far away from each other. If they lived closer together, it would be much easier to solve infrastructure-related problems such as a lack of access to transportation, running water and electricity.

Lacking any funds to build proper roads, the Party branch led local farmers to build dirt roads when they weren’t busy tending their fields. A total of 66 families who were previously living in remote regions were moved to roadside areas and given access to electricity.

A lack of drinking water was also a significant problem for the village. When it rained, the villagers used to put large jugs and bowls outside to collect the rainwater. To solve this problem, the Party branch led villagers to dig five wells, as well as construct 70 cisterns and two water distribution networks in the village.

“As the chief of the village’s Party branch, I face problems, both big and small, all related to my fellow villagers. If I can solve the problems well, they call me a good fellow. If I can’t, they scold me. My work in the countryside has taught me so many things,” Zhang says.

The villagers previously grew potatoes, corn, buckwheat and beans on the slopes of the nearby mountains. However, they had to rely on livestock to help them till their fields, and rarely had decent harvests.

The village’s Party branch helped the villagers to build large terraces that would allow them to use proper tractors and other farming machinery. After the terraces built, the village’s grain output made leaps and bounds. Within one year, more than 267 hectares of terraces were built in the village.

“The village’s infrastructure has been improved. Our next plan is to further increase grain output and boost farmers’ incomes,” Zhang says.

The per capita net income in Dongping grew at an annual rate of 30 percent between 2006 and 2008. The figure reached 9,173 yuan (about 1,427 U.S. dollars) in 2010; the average per capita net income in the rural areas across China hit 5,919 yuan that year.

“I’m confident that the per capita net income in our village can exceed 10,000 yuan this year,” Zhang says.

He believes that in order to improve their incomes, farmers need to spend more time working outside of their farms. The village’s Party branch encourages farmers and other villagers to expand their financial opportunities by looking outside the village’s borders.

The village has 52 Party members, with an average age of 44 years. The Party branch committee is made up of five members, including Zhang Liang, the Party chief, and 57-year-old Liu Shengli, the head of the villagers’ committee.

“We use the meetings to discuss our work and make decisions about the future of the village. I’m responsible for the actual implementation of our decisions,” Liu says.

“Our Party chief Zhang is very capable of enduring hardship. I remember when we were installing electrical lines in the village; Zhang was suffering from an illness. But he insisted on staying at our work site, because he was worried about the quality of our work,” Liu says.

“Why do all the villagers support him? It’s not because he is good looking. It’s because he performs real deeds,” Liu says.

Hu Jintao says at the gathering marking the 90th founding anniversary of the CPC that the growth of the Party over the past 90 years shows the fact that the Party comes from the people, takes root among the people and serves the people ensures its invincibility.

Villager Cheng Yuanxiang, 55, grows potatoes on one of the village’s terraces. He says that his family made more than 100,000 yuan in 2010.

“When we were building the terraces, our Party chief worked with us. Whenever we are in need, the members of the village Party branch are always ready to help,” Cheng says.

Every year, there are two to six villagers applying to join the CPC. This year, eight villagers are applying for the Party membership.

Zhang Xiaojun, 31, joined the Party in 2010. He and his relatives have been operating a transportation company for more than a decade. His company saw revenues of more than 10 million yuan last year, making Zhang Xiaojun one of the richest villagers in Dongping.

“I also want to help my fellow villagers to get rich,” Zhang says.

“ I want to encourage other villagers to learn driving skills. Becoming a Party member gives me more prestige to encourage others to follow me,” Zhang Xiaojun says.


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