Guo Fenglian: Iron lady of Tachai

By Li Zheng
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, August 4, 2011
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At any mention of the village of Tachai, in Shanxi Province's Jinzhong prefecture, people think of Guo Fenglian, the "Iron Lady" of Tachai.

Located in the bowels of the Taihang Mountains, Tachai was poor and backward in the past. Now Tachai is taking on on a new look: prosperous and picturesque.

Guo Fenglian.[File photo]

Guo Fenglian.[File photo]

Guo Fenglian was born in Tachai in 1947. After the founding of the People's Republic of China, people in Tachai began to reshape the village's terrain. Tiers of terraced fields were built. Great progress was achieved and people's living standards were highly improved. In 1964, Chairman Mao advocated building Tachai-style villages nationwide. After the former party chief Chen Yonggui was promoted to Beijing in 1973, then-26-year-old Guo succeeded the post.

Tachai's favorable status, however, changed overnight after China's reform and opening-up began in 1978. Tachai went from being a highly regarded socialist model village to a dated symbol of ultra-leftism. Guo was dismissed from her post and the former glory of the Tachai village faded.

In 1981, an all-round system of production responsibility swept China. Other places in Shanxi made great progress, however, Tachai, deeply poisoned by its collective economy, lagged behind. Grain output that year dropped by 20 percent. The village struggled to recover after the setback. Forced to subsist on agriculture, quality of life in the village stagnated.

Faced with this calamity, the upper-level government decided to call Guo Fenglian back to Tachai.

On November 15, 1991, Guo returned to Tachai. Everything was difficult at the start. Ambitious and determined, the former "Iron Girl" didn't lose heart. After Guo's return, the village's condition began to change over time.

Having visited other highly developed areas nationwide, Guo decided to use Tachai's past political fame to achieve economic development.

The first joint-venture enterprise in Tachai was set up with Guo as the chairman of the board. On November 28, 1992, a press conference for the opening ceremony of the woolen sweater mill of Tachai was held in Beijing. The "Iron Girl" was back.

"Everything has changed. We will not forget the past." Guo said. "We must strike out for new land."

Tachai soon regained its popularity. Selling itself as a traditional example of society decades ago, Tachai revitalized, naturally attracting investors' attention.

Guo realized there was plenty of clay and limestone in Tachai, the major material for producing cement, and decided to take a chance in the industry. With the help of the local government, a cement plant was erected. Fortunately, the plant made a large profit by becoming a major supplier of cement for a highway project in Shanxi.

From then on, Tachai's economy started to take off. Products labeled "made in Tachai" sprang up, including liquor, vinegar, flour, grains, and walnut dew. Most of the products were produced in joint ventures, with Tachai functioning as a shareholder. Also, Under the special authorization of the Ministry of Railway, Tachai was permitted to build up a station division near Yangquan, Shanxi Province, which enabled Tachai to transport coal to Shandong and Hebei Provinces.

One decade later in 2002, Tachai overall output rocketed up to 100 million yuan, up from only four million in 1992. The "Iron lady" had once again erected the banner of Tachai for generations to come.

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