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Cameras and chickens lay foundations for wealth

This undated photo shows a woman checks mesh bags in a greenhouse at Minning town in the Ningxia Hui autonomous region. (SU YONG / FOR CHINA DAILY)

Last month, Ningxia Xiaoming Agriculture & Animal Husbandry, a poultry farming business in the Ningxia Hui autonomous region, listed on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange.

It was the first time a Chinese poultry breeder had issued and traded shares in itself.

Located in Minning town, the company breeds laying hens, hatches eggs and sells the chicks, and it also develops related technology.

As China's largest company in the field, it provides 10.94 percent of all the chicks sold in the domestic market, said Du Jianfeng, the company's deputy manager. He added that one in every 10 eggs placed on the nation's dining tables is provided by Xiaoming.

"We have 54 incubators, and each holds 129,024 eggs. We have built plants to conduct research on 'chick revolution' and the whole industry chain," Du said.

The 4.5 million laying hens provided by the company's four breeding bases and 12 farms every year are sold in more than 20 provinces and cities nationwide. Listed enterprises such as Xiaoming and 15 other companies across a range of sectors are becoming the backbone of Ningxia's high-quality industrial development on its road to rural vitalization.

In 1996, a program was initiated to pair cities on the prosperous East Coast with places in the less-developed western regions. Since then, businesses in Minning, an early prototype, have played a leading role in creating jobs and lifting people out of poverty through the development of industry.

In 1997, Xi Jinping, then deputy Party chief of Fujian province, visited Ningxia and took part in a meeting of a poverty-alleviation cooperation project. During his six days in the region, Xi conducted an in-depth investigation into poverty-stricken areas and proposed a series of action plans.

One of them was to develop what was then Minning village in northern Ningxia into a city for people relocated from Xiji, a county in the south of the region.

Minning was named by combining "Min" and "Ning", the short forms of the names of Fujian and Ningxia, and more than 60,000 people were resettled there.

With the support of the Fujian government and experts, the impoverished locals developed businesses, including grape and mushroom cultivation, eventually making more than 80 percent of their income from them, the local authority said.

In the past 25 years, Fujian has sent 183 officials and 2,000 professionals to Ningxia to teach new techniques and marketing methods, while 5,700 companies from the province have established businesses and built factories in Ningxia's impoverished areas.

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A new chapter

Now, a new chapter is opening in the cooperation between Fujian and Ningxia because everyone in the autonomous region had shaken off poverty by the end of last year and begun rural vitalization work.

In April, Yin Li, Party chief of Fujian, and Wang Ning, the provincial governor, visited Minning and discussed deepening cooperation in the new phase with Chen Run'er, Party chief of Ningxia, and Xian Hui, the region's chairman.

Industrial cooperation has contributed to Ningxia's flourishing wine business. During a visit to Dandelion Vineyard in Minning, Yin said Fujian would help the town take advantage of natural resources to expand its presence in the sector and become a vital driver of the local economy.

Dandelion Vineyard is a Fujian-based business that combines grape growing, wine making, marketing and related tourism.

Yin also encouraged an agricultural company from Fujian to continue developing healthy food for the villagers and help them become wealthier through rural vitalization.

A potato cultivation and sales operation managed by the company played a major role in alleviating poverty in Ningxia.

The two areas (Ningxia and Fujian) are expected to explore innovative ways to promote collaboration in the new phase and take

advantage of the growing market and sectors.

Chen Run’er, Party chief of Ningxia Hui autonomous region

"Fujian and Ningxia are expected to deepen cooperation in business and in the culture and tourism sectors," Yin said, adding that the two areas should continue to create special brands.

Chen, Ningxia's Party chief, said, "The two areas are expected to explore innovative ways to promote collaboration in the new phase and take advantage of the growing market and sectors."

Introducing the lessons learned from the pairing program, Chen said education is the fundamental cure for intergenerational poverty. "By taking advantage of elementary, vocational and higher education, Fujian has built 200 primary schools in Ningxia and conducted professional skills training via the internet," he said.

Made for TV

This year, Minning Town, a TV series that portrays the life-changing achievements of rural residents and local officials during the relocation program, brought stories and characters based on the cooperation program to audiences nationwide.

Last month, the series was nominated for awards in 10 categories in this year's Magnolia Awards, one of China's top three TV awards, including "Best TV Series". It won in four categories, including the coveted "Best TV Series" award.

Since the program was first broadcast in January, 1,000 people have visited Minning town every day, generating daily tourism revenue of 40,000 yuan (US$6,260), the local authority said.

It is estimated that the town will receive more than 500,000 tourists this year, generating revenue of 20 million yuan. Sales of popular local products, including goji berries and red wine, have risen 40 percent from the same period last year.

Yang Ruihua, 67, took his wife to Minning after they had watched the entire series several times. He said they had both grown up in China's rural areas, so they were familiar with the scenes depicted in the drama. They both felt country life had changed greatly because the contemporary scenes looked so modern.

Meanwhile, last month, the government of Yongning county, which administers Minning, launched a tourism program based on the drama.

It aims to rebuild the set and "relive" the relocation program and the great changes that have taken place in the now-famous town.

Construction started in May, and the first section is planned to start operations next month. The program will provide services for research, tourism, training and a base for film and TV shooting.

Yang Wei, a customized travel planner, examined every scene in the drama and began designing a cultural route for the expected influx of tourists. "Some of the scenes shown in the TV series before the villagers moved to Minning were set in Zhongwei city. We will also include scenic spots there and plan to provide a video log of the route to attract tourists from outside Ningxia," she said.

The 38-year-old former journalist used to do interviews in Minning, and she often saw photos of the place before the people relocated. "The real situation seemed much poorer than the drama showed. The difference is between Heaven and Hell," she said.

In the next three years, the local government plans to build Minning's Yuanlong village into a national 4A-level scenic spot.

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