China's rags-to-richest village aims still higher

Thu Dec 9, 2010 7:22am EST
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By Royston Chan

HUAXI VILLAGE, China (Reuters Life!) - A massive skyscraper under construction screams for attention, breaking the skyline above the rows of villa homes and picturesque tourist pagodas lining the streets of China's richest village.

Huaxi, a booming market town of 36,000, is a capitalist success story despite decades of Communist control.

A sleepy farming village of 576 in the 1950s, it survived the chaotic years of the Cultural Revolution and blossomed during China's subsequent economic transformation.

Today it is a poster child for economic success. Every family in Huaxi has at least one house, one car, $250,000 in the bank and enjoys universal health care and free education.

Huaxi's gains come from its unique approach of communal living and investment. Acting almost like a cooperative, residents, who are automatically shareholders, are made to reinvest part of their salary and bonuses back to the commune and the Huaxi group of companies to fuel their village's growth.

"Residents have always been keeping up with the times and looking at how we can transform ourselves, including our economy," said 37-year-old Lu Jianmin, taking a break after work in her three-storey villa home.

Residents credit the pragmatic polices and astute leadership of Wu Renbao, the former party secretary of the village from its founding, for their success.

In 1957, Huaxi had assets of about 1,800 yuan ($240). Today, local officials say assets add up to $6 billion.   Continued...

<p>A man watches the Huaxi village, at Jiangsu province December 2, 2010. REUTERS/Carlos Barria</p>