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Rebuilding life of ethnic minority people displaced by poverty

Xinhua, October 17, 2014 Adjust font size:

After years traveling the mountains of Guizhou Province in southwest China performing odd jobs, Xie Jincheng recently returned home to showcase his culture in the village's fledgling tourism industry.

"I'll settle down for a couple of years to see how things go," said the 20-something man, a member of the ethnic minority of Yao from Yaoshan Township.

He now works as a guide at a Yao-style tourist spot in Yaoshan, which was developed into a new community accommodating migrants relocated from high-poverty villages of the township.

Xie left because he did not want to waste energy farming a small plot of arid land, which is widely distributed in the mountainous province with the largest poor population in the country. Now, he is thrilled to find a rewarding job in his hometown.

In 2011, over 300 rural Yao households struggled to feed themselves in Yaoshan. Xie's family was among hundreds resettled into the urban community, which boasts better housing and transportation than their previous location.

The new settlers are excited to receive not only brand new subsidized houses and social security benefits, but also jobs they are competent for. The local government set aside funds allowing them to participate in Yao song and dance performances, ethnic handicrafts, and serving ethnic food to boost tourism.

The practice of Yaoshan is deemed as a practical solution for Guizhou as it pushes forward a massive project to move 1 million ethnic minority people, along with 1 million Han people, from harsh environments to urban settlements by 2020.

However, employment remains a hard nut to crack since the people who traditionally live through farming and hunting lack job skills.

Peng Qian, a professor of ethnology with Minzu University of China, said the language barrier constitutes a major challenge for ethnic minority migrants searching for urban jobs.

Friday is China's first "Poverty-Relief Day". A statement released after a central conference on ethnic affairs in late September called for efforts to ensure "leapfrog development" in ethnic regions, where many still live in poverty, via utilization of their "distinctive advantages". It also pledged to speed up urbanization in the regions.

Wang Yingzheng, who heads Guizhou's migration project, said planners will copy the success of Yaoshan and build more settlements whose pillar industry is ethnic culture tourism

While young people are longing for the city life, many of the older generation resist the change. Living in the new settlement in Yaoshan, 24-year-old Xie Changmei who works in the local troupe and her chef husband made about 6,000 yuan a month (about 980 U.S. dollars). However, her husband's parents, after a lifetime of farming, clung to their shabby wooden house in the mountain, feeling out of place in the town.

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