A Nanjing village steps out of poverty

Guantang community in Jiangbei New Area in Nanjing, Jiangsu province. [Photo/VCG]

Many residents of Nanjing, Jiangsu province, go to the Danian community at the foot of Laoshan Mountain on weekends to enjoy the fresh air and natural scenery.

Half the people living in the community now work in the tourism sector, which welcomes 2 million tourists every year.

“The community’s environment and local people’s lives have been improving greatly through the development of tourism,” said Liu Minghai, the village head. “Nobody expected that a poor village with 584 families would be living such a good life now.”

“The community was known for its deep forests and bachelors, because no women wanted to marry poor men here,” Liu said. “But as neighboring villages have found ways to fight poverty in recent years, we realized we must take action to improve our own lives.”

By repairing roads, renovating facilities and improving the environment, the community-which covers an area of 539 hectares-managed to attract tourists interested in rural culture. It also built Nanjing’s first village history museum, which exhibits various tools used in the 1960s and ’70s.

Danian is one of many villages in Nanjing that have changed in 40 years of reform and opening-up. The city’s Jiangbei area, which includes Laoshan Mountain, lies north of the Yangtze River and occupies one-third of the city’s area, but it was often neglected because of its poor economy.

“It was considered less developed in Nanjing, but now it has demonstrated the most potential,” said Luo Qun, deputy secretary of the Party working committee of Nanjing’s Jiangbei New Area.

The area was established as China’s 13th national-level new area in 2015 to accelerate local development.

The area’s GDP was 146.5 billion yuan ($21.1 billion) in 2015, but it reached 221.8 billion yuan last year, an increase of 51 percent.

More than 140 large companies from around the world have established bases in the area in three years, and about 700 healthcare companies have clustered there to form Asia’s largest gene-sequencing base.

The first bridge across the Yangtze connecting northern and southern Nanjing was not built until 1968, but the area now has 11 river crossings, including bridges and tunnels. Another 13 are planned.

Luo said that besides GDP growth, Jiangbei New Area pays great attention to the environment, including some unique characteristics.

It now has 94 kilometers of riverside scenery, many lakes and Laoshan National Forest Park, which covers 120 square kilometers.

“Water and green mountains mean fortune,” Luo said. “We’ll continue to improve the environment and people’s lives as well.”