Small city can thrive on local resources

By Wan Lixin
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Shanghai Daily, April 13, 2016
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On Friday and Saturday, I was invited on a tour of Dafeng District of Yancheng, in Jiangsu Province, for the launch of its month-long tourism promotion campaign. Yes, there were plenty of tulips, pear flowers and David's deer — but I was also in for a host of surprises.

The capacity of local authorities to constantly innovate shows how this former backwater is carving out a bright future for itself by turning disadvantages into strengths.

Yancheng ("salt city") got its name from the salt produced along its lengthy coastline. It's not a place traditionally associated with holiday-making or idyllic environs. In fact, the soil was once so salty and boggy that in the early 20th century Dutch engineer Hendrik de Reijke was called in by entrepreneur Zhang Jian to help reduce soil salinity and alkalinity using technology that had proven effective in the Netherlands.

Amid a sea of flowers in Dafeng on April 9, an unveiling ceremony was held for a statue honoring this Dutchman. The event was attended by Dutch Ambassador to China Ron Keller and district Party secretary Yuan Guoping.

Thanks to tidal action and continued reclamation efforts, the amount of farmland in Dafeng is growing rather than diminishing, as is the case in so many other parts of China. Indeed, each year an impressive 50,000 mu (3,300 ha) of new farmland is added on average.

This generous provision of land made it a favored destination among migrants. Many of the early settlers were from the south. For this reason, although Yancheng technically lies in the north, in an area generically known for its harsh conditions and privations, its people manifest a kind of openness and resourcefulness that is often more evident in the character of southerners.

It is also known as a former "enclave" of Shanghai residents, since about 80,000 Shanghai zhishi qingnian (educated youths) lived and worked here from 1968 to the 1980s.

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