Preparing for post-quake age
As infrastructure construction in Miansi is approaching its endgame, aid teams from Zhuhai are shifting their focus to economic planning for the town. The 2008 earthquake devastated large swaths of farmlands, and the reconstruction projects consumed yet more land, leaving a plot of less than 0.5 mu (15 mu = one hectare) to every resident in the town. This dims the outlook of earning enough on conventional farming.
In response, the town decided to unleash its potential in tourism and green agriculture -- both practical options for a region of scenic nature that will be good for the economy and the environment as well. "We cannot be narrow-minded about the three year term of the program. I think the ultimate goal of the central government of initiating the one-on-one aid is to achieve common prosperity in the east and the west," said Zhang Tong.
Building the tourism sector alone will need hundreds of millions of yuan. Some of the funds will come from Zhuhai, and the rest from local government and public investment. "Now we are helped back to our feet, and should make the journey ahead under our own steam." Jiang Zhihui communicated his awareness of the challenges that lay ahead.
Like Miansi, other towns in Wenchuan have laid downed the blueprints for their future. Weizhou will grow into the administrative center; Yingxiu will become a tourist resort and demonstration site for quake prevention, Xuankou a new industrial zone, and Wolong a giant panda preserve. In addition, folk culture parks and ecological corridors will be built along the National Highways 213 and 317 and Provincial Highway 303.
Most aid projects are scheduled to be completed in the later half of the year. As the time approaches for the aid teams to withdraw, Guangdong has made it clear that it is seeking to establish long-term cooperation with Wenchuan.
Guo Xiaoming, the astute deputy chair of the Sichuan Academy of Social Sciences, cautioned that in rushing through the aid package the donor province/city might override the receiver, resulting in a disconnection between need and supply. And it is likely that in the first stage, bigger projects are given priority over small ones, a circumstance that will have great bearing on the quality of daily life for ordinary people. These problems can be addressed once a long-term cooperation mechanism is established. In order to advance teamwork between the east and the west, due consideration needs to be given to the opinions of people in recipient regions; including an effort to learn their desires and solicit their advice. Nobody knows the local situation better than the natives.
At present, the aid comes free, but to sustain long-term associations, returns for donors should be considered. The east and the west can supplement each other in many aspects of the economy, so opening the door for business exchanges on equal footing is reasonable. For instance, farm products from Wenchuan can find a ready market in Guangdong, whose well-heeled residents have a fetish for diets based on organically grown or raised food.
The transition from a giver-and-taker relationship to two-way practical partnership is nevertheless impossible to establish without endorsement by the central government.
Teaming up between eastern and western regions in the aid program
Shandong Province - Beichuan County, Sichuan Province
Guangdong Province - Wenchuan County, Sichuan Province
Zhejiang Province - Qingchuan County, Sichuan Province
Jiangsu Province - Mianzhuan City, Sichuan Province
Beijing Municipality-Shifang City, Sichuan Province
Shanghai Municipality-Dujiangyan City, Sichuan Province
Hebei Province-Pingwu County, Sichuan Province
Liaoning Province - Anxian County, Sichuan Province
Henan Province -Jiangyou City, Sichuan Province
Fujian Province - Pengzhou City, Sichuan Province
Shanxi Province - Maoxian County, Sichuan Province
Hunan Province-Lixian County, Sichuan Province
Jilin Province - Heishui County, Sichuan Province
Anhui Province - Songpan County, Sichuan Province
Jiangxi Province-Xiaojin County, Sichuan Province
Hubei Province - Hanyuan County, Sichuan Province
Chongqing Municipality - Chongzhou City, Sichuan Province
Heilongjiang Province - Jiange County, Sichuan Province
Guangdong Province (mainly Shenzhen City) - disaster-hit areas in Gansu Province
Tianjin Municipality - disaster-hit areas in Shaanxi Province