An incentive to rebuild

Marketplace Staff Jul 14, 2008

An incentive to rebuild

Marketplace Staff Jul 14, 2008


Bob Moon:

The big earthquake that hit China shook more than just the ground. It left millions of people looking for shelter and food. Now, though, Lisa Chow profiles one village that sees some opportunity in the destruction.

Lisa Chow: To get to Baoshan, you have to drive halfway up a mountain range called Dragon’s Gate. The village is remote, but unlike many rural areas in China, it isn’t poor.

The village leader Jia Qing shows me a 36-hole golf course. From where we stand, the view is serene. But turn in the other direction and you see piles of rubble. More than 90 percent of the homes collapsed in the May earthquake.

One of the few structures still standing is a large modernist glass, steel and concrete building and that building is the reason Jia is confident the village will thrive again. It serves as headquarters for Baoshan Corporation, which employs most of the village.

Jia Qing: Our mission is very clear. We insist on getting rich collectively. Everybody in the village is a stakeholder in the company. That’s our character.

Baoshan is what you call a village enterprise. The economic concept took off in the late 1970s under former president Deng Xiao Ping as a way to help develop China’s countryside and for the past 30 years, Baoshan’s leaders have been unusually entrepreneurial.

The mountain village first got rich from copper mining, then it invested in hydropower. Now its main business is tourism because it’s perfectly situated near two national parks.

Jia Qing says he had started working on plans to transform Baoshan into a spa destination. Now, because most of the village is destroyed, the way is clear to push ahead with these plans.

Jia: The geological environment brought us hot springs, but if you look at it another way, it’s also the reason the earthquake took place here, so we get both bad and good.

Like many Baoshan residents, Chen Guo Zhang prefers to focus on the good. Chen is 65 and used to run a tea house along the village’s main road.

As we walk to where her tea house stood, she tells me her husband died in the quake. He was one of 54 that died — a big number for a village of 2,000. But Chen’s remains optimistic about the future.

Chen Guo Zhang: Please come back when we’ve finished the reconstruction. In five years, we’ll have built an even better Baoshan village.

And it’s not too hard to believe since residents, as company stakeholders, have every incentive to rebuild.

In Baoshan, I’m Lisa Chow for Marketplace.

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