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December 12, 2019

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Let villagers decide what they want

As many cities busy themselves with building “beautiful villages,” a question arises as to what really makes a village beautiful.

I have been to many villages and found they are indeed no longer as muddy as they were, say, ten years ago, given the now prevailing paved paths and painted walls.

At the entrance to some villages, you will probably see an erected stone on which are carved: meili xiangcun (beautiful village).

I love these villages because a paved path for walking or jogging flanked by trees and rivers is quite a luxury in city proper.

But as I go deeper into these villages, I feel something is lacking that makes a village authentic: chicken, ducks, geese, pigs, sheep and cattle.

Only a few cats and dogs can be seen here and there.

“Scattered raising of poultry and livestock is largely forbidden in many villages for the sake of sprucing up the environment,” writes Liu Qi, vice chairman of China Agricultural Economics Association and a researcher at the Counselors’ Office of the State Council, in an article released by Xinhua news agency on Tuesday.

The title of his article is: “Don’t leave farmers high and dry above the land off which they live.”

In plain language, the author reminisces about what he calls a bygone era of rural life abundant in free-range livestock and poultry.

Standardized fencing

“It’s a natural law that men and animals eat plants and nourish the land with their night soil,” he explains. “In centralized raising of poultry and livestock, however, animals’ excrement can hardly come back to feed the soil, leading to an increase in the use of fertilizer and a decrease in land quality.”

In some villages, he notices, farmers are even barred from fencing their homes with wood, bamboo or straw, because these materials “are not beautiful enough.” In their stead, plastic fences are used to “standardize” what a fenced life should look like.

Examples abound in the author’s article that illustrate an urbanite policymaker’s ultimate failure to understand the difference between urban and rural life. “Let farmers decide what they want,” he appeals.

Without beautiful villages, there will be no beautiful China.

But superficial gentrification effort does little in gratifying a farmer’ longing for a better life.


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