Across China: "Village CEOs" transforming rural dreams into reality

2024-March-28 11:29 By: Xinhua

An aerial drone photo taken on March 22, 2024 shows a view of Yong'an Village in Yuhang District, Hangzhou City, east China's Zhejiang Province.(Photo by Hong Yunfeng/Xinhua)

HANGZHOU, March 27 (Xinhua) -- On a warm spring day, Liu Song strolled past the lush green wheat fields and through the blooming rapeseed flower fields that span 100 mu (about 7 hectares) before arriving at his office.

There, he had a meeting scheduled with his team to discuss investment promotion matters. He is a village CEO, also known as an agricultural manager.

Like a CEO overseeing a company, a village CEO manages various aspects of a village's agricultural and economic activities. This includes supervising agricultural cooperatives, providing technical assistance, and overseeing marketing efforts aimed at promoting agricultural products.

Since September 2020, Liu has been employed by Yong'an Village in Yuhang District, Hangzhou City, east China's Zhejiang Province. His position became available after it was included among the 13 new professions introduced jointly by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, the State Administration for Market Regulation, and the National Bureau of Statistics in 2019.

Yong'an Village spans a total area of 7.09 square kilometers, with 97 percent of the land designated as permanent basic farmland. Upon his arrival, Liu was told that "the village lacked funds, skilled professionals, and suitable space for business investments."

However, Liu decided to tackle these challenges head on. Having grown up in a rural area, he graduated with a bachelor's degree in agriculture from Zhejiang University. With experience in three listed companies and a background in entrepreneurship, Liu was determined to create opportunities out of adversity.

Being located near Hangzhou, the provincial capital, Yong'an has seen a shift away from traditional farming as the primary source of income for local villagers. Many younger residents sought job opportunities elsewhere, while older generations remained, relying on rice cultivation for their livelihoods. Nevertheless, the village's most valuable asset remains its vast farmland.

Liu saw this as his first challenge and promptly devised a solution. He focused on integrating the agricultural, industrial, and service sectors to enhance the local economy, maximize growth, and boost overall competitiveness.

After more than three years of efforts, the comprehensive income per mu of land in Yong'an has increased from around 2,755 yuan (388.3 U.S. dollars) to about 8,000 yuan. In 2022, the operating income of the village surpassed 5 million yuan.

Liu is among numerous village CEOs in Zhejiang, Guangdong, and Yunnan who have spearheaded efforts to attract professionals to contribute to developing rural areas across China.

Fueled by a love for rural life, urbanites are increasingly drawn to such positions, which also offer competitive salaries. Liu now leads a team of over 30 members. He has also encouraged his team members to cooperate with eight neighboring villages.

Shen Yan, who works in Xiadoumen Village, is one of them. She is a native of Yong'an Village with experience studying abroad. "Returning to my hometown is a natural choice, and there are many things I can do here," she said.

"When I was young, the roads in the village were very bumpy. I can't even count how many times I fell off my bike and landed in a ditch. Now the village roads are smooth, the trees by the houses have grown tall, and the river water has become clearer.

In September 2023, Liu joined a provincial vocational training program for village CEOs and worked as a mentor. He said, "Every village has unique resources, and we are willing to share our experience and exchange ideas with peers."

Operational capabilities and management experience honed in the market, combined with an open mind, enthusiasm, and commitment, are important prerequisites for becoming a Village CEO, Liu said.

In the long run, it is crucial to nurture local individuals with knowledge and skills to propel rural development, he added. ■

Editor: JYZ
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