E-commerce lifts villages in Shandong out of poverty

By ZHAO RUIXUE in Heze, Shandong | (CHINA DAILY)| Updated : 2020-08-19

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Ren Qingyong, a 70-year-old Taobao online store owner in Dinglou village, Daji township, Caoxian county, Shandong province, checks his online store on a computer. [Photo provided to China Daily]

When he was a child, Hu Chunqing thought being admitted into a college was the only way he could leave his village in Shandong province and live a better life in a city. So he studied hard until he obtained a doctorate.

The 34-year-old from Daiji town, Caoxian county, Heze city, now lives a well-off life, but he hasn't had to leave Hulou village, where he was born.

"Our village is not poor any more," said Hu, who runs a Taobao store online that sells stage costumes as well as a costume factory in Daiji. "Many families get rich by doing business on e-commerce platforms."

Last year, Hu reaped 9 million yuan ($1.3 million) in sales, and his costumes have been sold to overseas markets.

E-commerce platforms have become a main way to help farmers achieve a prosperous life in Caoxian, where they once made a difficult living mainly planting corn and wheat.

The county saw sales generated on such platforms reach 19.8 billion yuan last year, a year-on-year increase of 25 percent.

Over the past few years, the county government has carried out a series of measures including allocating special funds for building roads, developing logistics and offering preferential tax policies to encourage farmers to do business online.

The number of Caoxian county's "Taobao villages"-communities with annual transactions of more than 10 million yuan-had risen to 124 last year, making the county the second-largest Taobao village cluster in China.

In Daiji alone, more than 26,000 farmers-over 55 percent of the town's population-are involved in the e-commerce industry, running 16,000 Taobao stores.

"E-commerce has proved to be an efficient way to enrich both villagers' material and spiritual lives," said Sun Xueping, the Party secretary of Sunzhuang village in Daiji.

Sunzhuang's main road is lined with shops providing materials for making clothes and shoes. Zhao Ying's stage costume-making workshop is a five-minute drive from the road, making it convenient for her to buy materials.

"Business was impacted by the epidemic, but it is recovering," Zhao said. "We usually need to make hundreds of stage costumes every day."

Zhao had a hard life when she married her husband from Sunzhuang and moved there 10 years ago.

Her husband went to the city to work temporary jobs, and she had to stay at home to take care of her son and parents-in-law.

While at home, she learned how to make costumes and tried to run a Taobao shop online in 2011.

With orders increasing, her husband returned to help in the business two years later.

Now her workshop employs several women who need to take care of their children at home.

"We have bought a car and a new house," she said. "The most important thing is family members can stay together, and I have a good relationship with my parents-in-law."

The e-commerce boom has driven many young people working in cities to return to rural areas and launch startups, which also provide jobs for older villagers.

Like Hu, Sun Zhiguo returned to the town in 2015 after working in Brazil for seven years. With his overseas experience, the 33-yearold is planning to open an online shop to explore overseas markets.

"Not far away from us, there is a cross-border e-commerce base that provides convenient services on cross-border trade," Sun said.

To strengthen the e-commerce sector by integrating resources, the local governments are building an industrial park that has convenient logistics, e-commerce platforms, markets and apartments in Daiji. The park is expected to provide jobs for 15,000 people when complete.