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Leading scientist seeks rural development / by Zhang Rui, March 11, 2015 Adjust font size:

A political advisor told on Monday in Beijing that intangible cultural heritage in rural areas of China may help build new tourism in the countryside.

Chen Zhangliang, a member of the 12th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, talks to reporters in Beijing on March 9, 2015. []

Chen Zhangliang, a member of the 12th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, talks to reporters in Beijing on March 9, 2015. [] 

Chen Zhangliang, a member of the 12th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and vice chairman of the China Association for Science and Technology, is attending the committee's third annual session in Beijing.

"Many Chinese people love to go to Phuket Island and Jeju Island to travel, and love the performances of local music and dancing there," he said. "I have gone to those places too, but I don't think those are really good enough. In China, we have ethnic minorities including Dong, Zhuang, Yao, Bouyei, and Miao peoples who love singing and dancing in their bones. Without these performances, rural tourism would be empty. And when we plan, transform and build new countryside programs, we must first consider what is great about local cultures."

Chen said that local intangible cultural heritage must be maintained no matter what. "Old men feel that folk singing is good, but young men may find it boring. The local government must help nurture interest [in these art forms] among young people and deploy enough funds to maintain and preserve them. In every nation, the government gives funds to make sure that intangible cultural heritage will be passed on to future generations. Intangible cultural heritage must be integrated into rural tourism programs and economic development. Sometimes, the local people may feel nothing for such intangible cultural heritage, but tourists have big interests in them, which will help generate interest and profits that then keep the arts going."

But Chen also warned of the damage to the local ecology and the local built environment that expanded tourism could bring. "We must respect the original ecology and original culture when developing rural areas. We can’t dismantle everything. Many places in the countryside don't have many unique features, but maintaining local characteristics, buildings and culture will boost interest in them. Brand new houses and commercial developments can't really attract interest. The modern master Chinese mathematician Chen Jingrun's old residence was dismantled last year to make way for the construction of a train station. I felt so much pain in my heart. This was one of the great cultural resources in the local rural area for future attraction, but now it is gone," Chen explained.

Chen also said rural development was originally intended to help farmers become wealthier, but some investment companies or even local governments have driven rural people away and removed their homes for other projects. "You can't just drive them out with no jobs to offer them, that is not right. Train the farmers for rural tourism, and don't waste farmland on meaningless tourism projects like planting huge amounts of roses, lotuses, carnations or the like," Chen said.

"Most farmers are still poor," he said. Chen’s concern arises from the fact that he was once the vice chairman of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, overseeing rural sectors. He remembered that when Premier Li Keqiang joined in a panel discussion of CPPCC economy elites on March 4, "the president of China Construction Bank Zhang Jianguo said to the premier that the banks are vulnerable groups in China's rapid development, and the premier responded, 'The real vulnerable groups are farmers.' Premier Li was so right."