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From Wasteland to Bread Basket
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The transition of Beidahuang over 60 years

Editor's Note: Over 60 years ago, there was a vast expanse of sparsely inhabited land to the north of China's northeastern Heilongjiang Province, bordering Russia. Called Beidahuang at that time, which literally means "Great Northern Wilderness," the area was covered by trackless swamps and infested with overgrown weeds and extensive underbrush. Then one day in 1947 the rank and file of the People's Liberation Army marched into this great wilderness in enthusiastic response to the calls of the Communist Party of China to cultivate farmland and also out of their own aspirations. Since then, more than half a million young men and women, including demobilized army officers and soldiers and high school graduates, have followed suit.     More...

Field of Dreams 

In northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, there is a region known as the "Great Northern Wilderness." Rich in natural resources, Beidahuang, as it is formally known, once attracted numerous prospectors in a Chinese gold rush. Ancient Chinese emperors yearned to develop the land there, and, in the first half of last century, Japanese occupiers brought 300,000 immigrants to settle the region with similar goals in mind. Yet many years passed and the region remained wilderness. 

Since 1947, the wilderness has gradually changed. Around 100,000 retired service people and hundreds of thousands of civilian youths met the call by the Chinese Government to resettle this land. Since then Beidahuang has become the bread basket of China. It is now the country's largest soybean producing area and one of the major producers of rice and wheat. The agricultural modernization level there not only ranks first in China, it is also among the most advanced in the world. In the summer of 2007, this region in Heilongjiang will celebrate the 60th anniversary of its reclamation.     More...

Feeding the Nation

China's painful memories of famine will hopefully act as deterrent to another such catastrophe

Food security is an important factor in non-traditional security concerns. Does China have food shortage concerns? How should China guarantee its food security? Beijing Review reporter Feng Jianhua discusses these issues with Professor Li Chenggui, head of the Center for Rural Policy under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, and Yang Shaopin, Director of the Bureau of State Farms and Land Reclamation under the Ministry of Agriculture.    More...


No Pain, No Grain

Puyang Farm, 600 km from Harbin, capital city of Heilongjiang Province, is an ordinary plot among holdings in the Beidahuang reclamation area. Developed in 1971, it is now a state-owned mechanized major grain producer. There is nothing to tell of its past except for a sculpture at its entrance.

Nobody would associate the prosperous farm with the deserted wasteland it once was.

                                                      Puyang Farm in the past

                                                              Puyang Farm today


Volunteers in a Wild Land 

In the 1950s and 1960s, answering the call of duty, tens of thousands of urban youth flocked to a wilderness in northeast China called Beidahuang. They were carrying out what they saw as their duty, to make this deserted area into "China's grain barn" in order to solve food shortages at the time.

                                                      Good old days. Volunteers in Beidahuang

Large numbers of these urban youths were forced to drop out of school due to the disastrous Cultural Revolution (1966-76). They mostly came from six regions and numbered around 450,000. These young volunteers spent their adolescence opening up a wasteland and earned them the name Zhiqing, literally meaning young intellectuals. They made an unforgettable contribution to China's history and toward helping their fellow citizens.      More...

(Beijing Review June 2007)

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