Some years ago now, there was a slogan in China, ‘Up the mountains and down to the countryside [shangshan xiaxiang]‘, which came to be known as the ‘down to the countryside movement’. Back then, socialism meant that everyone was equal because everyone was poor, and the trauma of that period’s disruption still runs deep in China’s cultural memory.
Now, China is a distinct beneficiary of the massive project of ‘socialist modernisation [shehuizhuyi xiandaihua]’. First launched by Deng Xiaoping, who knew very well that people would not see any benefit in socialism is they remained desperately poor, the project of socialist modernisation includes the thoroughly Marxist reform and opening up, the development of a socialist market economy, seeking truth from facts, liberating thought, and liberating the forces of production.
These days they speak of three ‘great leaps’: standing up, prosperity and strength. China is currently in the process of moving from the great leap of prosperity for all to the great leap of strength.
In this context, we find a whole new movement of ‘down to the countryside’ as this report from the Global Times makes clear:
10m Chinese young people to volunteer in the countryside within three years
These young volunteers will be sent to rural areas, especially old revolutionary base areas, regions of extreme poverty and areas where ethnic minority groups live to promote local development and improve personal skills, read a recent document released by the Communist Youth League of China (CYL).
The move was hailed by many local officials, who said that it would help revitalize rural areas in the country that have been suffering from talent and labor outflows.
“We need young people to use science and technology to help the countryside innovate its traditional development models,” Zhang Linbin, deputy head of a township in Central China’s Hunan Province, told the Global Times on Wednesday.
Zhang noted that young people are passionate and active, which is what rural areas need.
Taking his daily work as an example, Zhang noted that they were in urgent need of people who know computers because they were pushing forward a more standardized and digitized job in the town.
The rising level of urbanization in China has made more young people migrate from rural areas or less-developed regions to developed areas that have better resources and better income. This drains rural areas of their labor force.
To try to reverse the drain, the country has implemented a raft of policies in recent years to help rural areas attract skilled labor.
The document vowed to mobilize 10,000 student members of the Communist Party of China and the CYL to serve in rural areas as part-time local level officials, in order to train them in rural governance.
It vowed to build a number of training bases for young people in rural areas to start their own businesses or find jobs and to train more than 200,000 young people by 2020.