The last communist utopia in China

25 Oct 2007|LiAnne Yu

While doing research in rural China, my team heard about a very special place in Henan provice called Nanjie Village. Nanjie Village is one of a handful of truly Communist-run villages left in China. I begged our local Chinese partners to take us there (they gave in but thought I was nuts). What we found was a far cry from the market-driven energy of Shanghai or Beijing.

Huge photos of Marx, Lenin, and Engels dominate the main square. People are given about $30 a month for their own spending but all other needs are taken care of by the state: food, clothing, housing, appliances, and education. Since Nanjie Village enjoys a sort of celebrity status within China, we were able to knock on a random door and get a tour of a home plus a party-approved explanation of why life there was so peaceful and trouble-free. The man we visited said that he appreciated that no one had to worry about making money. “The government gives us enough flour to make more dumplings than we could ever eat!” Our local Chinese partners, stressed out Shanghaiese working 12 plus hour days, said they were shocked at how appealing life there seemed, and wondered if they could manage to sneak themselves in.

When I described the village to other colleagues back in Shanghai, they remarked that life there must be very boring – no incentive to work hard, nothing to strive for. So is this really a Communist upopia, and would China’s increasingly stressed out youth generation ever want to go back to this? Next time you’re in China, swing by for some free dumplings and see for yourself.

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