It is an urgent task to have the country's 5 million village cadres trained to be honest, clean and competent if China wants to fulfill its ambitious goal of turning the vast rural regions into a "new socialist countryside," a female lawmaker from a famous village in north China's Shanxi Province has said.
"The key to building a more developed, civilized and democratic countryside lies in the competence as well as personal integrity of the village cadres," Guo Fenglian, village chief of Dazhai Village, Xiyang County of Shanxi, told Xinhua in an exclusive interview.
The 60-year-old Guo is a deputy to the 10th National People's Congress (NPC), China's national legislature now convening its annual full session in Beijing.
According to a central government budget report, in 2006 alone, China will spend a total of 339.7 billion yuan (US$42.46 billion) on rural development, triggering worries among some NPC deputies that the huge funds might be misused or intercepted by cadres at various levels before reaching farmers.
Guo, a model farmer in the 1960s when China's late Chairman Mao Zedong made Dazhai a prototype of rural development for other Chinese villages, has now become a successful businesswoman running 10 village companies.
"Last year the per capita annual income of Dazhai villagers reached 5,500 yuan (US$687), much higher than the national average of 3,255 yuan (US$407)," said a proud Guo.
"Dazhai's success story has proved that only when the village cadres have a good understanding of the market economy and have some good ideas about development, could a village lift itself out of poverty," said Guo.
China's 900 million farmers in 680,000 "administrative villages, " or large villages which may consist of several smaller villages, have gained the right to directly elect or oust their village heads since 1988, thus gaining a bigger say in running village affairs.
However, intervention in village elections by governments at higher levels, corrupt village heads abusing power or embezzling public money, and the lack of transparency in village management often undermine rural democracy and even spark rural unrest.
To further improve the quality of village cadres, the Chinese capital Beijing is now recruiting "assistants to village chiefs" among university and college graduates. The 2,000 college graduates who pass the strict selection will get a monthly pay of 3,000 yuan (US$375) on their village posts, media reports said.
(Xinhua News Agency March 10, 2006)