Go to China’s far west, where our country needs us the most.” This inspiring slogan motivated Ye Yaoning, a graduate of Shenzhen University, to embark on a journey to the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, located in Northwest China, roughly 4,000 kilometers away from his home. In the summer of 2020, Ye joined China’s Far West Program, which began in 2003 and sent more than 410,000 college graduates and postgraduates to serve as volunteers in the underdeveloped western region for a period of one to three years.
Ye’s hometown, Guangdong province, was chosen in 2010 to provide pairing assistance to Kashgar, a city located in southwestern Xinjiang, which is one of the 14 contiguous impoverished areas that have been the main focus of poverty alleviation efforts in China. Guangdong’s aid headquarters in Xinjiang have been stationed in the suburbs of Kashgar for the past 12 years, during which time the local GDP tripled. Ye served at the headquarters for two years, contributing to the poverty alleviation efforts in the region.
The Far West Program was initiated by the Chinese government to address the development gap between western and eastern regions. Volunteers like Ye are trained to work in fields such as education, healthcare, agriculture, and environmental protection. They are sent to remote and underdeveloped areas in the west, where their skills and knowledge can make a significant impact. The program has been successful in boosting economic and social development in the western region and improving the living standards of local people.
Ye’s experience in Xinjiang allowed him to witness firsthand the impact of the Far West Program. He worked with local officials and residents to promote tourism and cultural exchange, and he also helped to establish a training program for local farmers, teaching them modern agricultural techniques. These efforts contributed to the overall economic development of the region, which has seen a significant increase in the standard of living in recent years.
Through the Far West Program, China is not only addressing the development gap between its western and eastern regions but also promoting social cohesion and national unity. Volunteers from different regions of China come together to work towards a common goal, creating a sense of shared purpose and community. By serving in underdeveloped areas of the west, they are contributing to the overall prosperity and stability of the country.
The Far West Program is a successful initiative by the Chinese government to promote development in the underdeveloped western region of the country. Volunteers like Ye Yaoning have played a crucial role in this effort, contributing their skills and knowledge to promote economic and social development in the region. Through this program, China is not only narrowing the development gap between its western and eastern regions but also promoting national unity and social cohesion.
As part of his work with the Far West Program, Ye Yaoning was tasked with leading a project to cultivate local entrepreneurs in Xinjiang. The project was supported by the Guangdong government, which provided nearly 24 million yuan ($3.44 million) in funds and advanced technologies. The goal of the project was to create wealth creators who could serve as role models in the local community and provide job opportunities to alleviate poverty.
Through his leadership, Ye oversaw the implementation of the project and worked closely with local entrepreneurs to provide them with the support they needed to succeed. By investing in local businesses, the project aimed to stimulate economic growth and create a sustainable path out of poverty for the people of Xinjiang. It was a challenging but rewarding experience for Ye, who learned firsthand the power of entrepreneurship in promoting development and prosperity.
The project to cultivate wealth creators in Xinjiang was a vital part of the Far West Program’s efforts to alleviate poverty and promote economic development in the region. By investing in local entrepreneurs and providing them with the support they need to succeed, the program is helping to create a brighter future for the people of Xinjiang and narrow the development gap between China’s western and eastern regions.
Ye Yaoning’s decision to participate in the Far West Program was motivated by his desire to help those living in poverty in China’s western regions. Despite not having seen anyone living in absolute poverty in his home province of Guangdong, Ye knew that poverty must exist in the more remote and less visible parts of the country. This realization led him to embark on his journey to Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.
Initially, Ye’s family did not support his decision due to the arduous work involved and the unfriendly climate in the west. However, they eventually came around after sharing with him the history of poverty alleviation in China. With their encouragement, Ye felt prepared for the challenges that lay ahead.
Upon arrival, Ye discovered that the job was even more difficult than he had imagined. Along with other cadres and volunteers from Guangdong, he lived right above his office and was on standby 24 hours a day. Despite his background in microelectronics science and engineering, the job had nothing to do with his major, making it even more challenging for him to adapt to the new environment.
According to Ye, neither cadres nor volunteers had weekends, and they often worked overtime until 6 am. This lack of work-life balance made it challenging for him to adjust to his new life in Xinjiang. Nonetheless, Ye persevered, recognizing the importance of the work he was doing and the impact it could have on the lives of those in need.
Despite the difficulties he faced, Ye found his experience with the Far West Program to be rewarding. Through his work with the project to cultivate local entrepreneurs, he witnessed firsthand the power of entrepreneurship in promoting development and alleviating poverty. His time in Xinjiang allowed him to gain a greater appreciation for the challenges faced by those living in China’s western regions, and he remains committed to helping address these challenges in the future.
Ye’s story highlights the sacrifices and challenges that come with working to alleviate poverty and promote development in China’s underdeveloped regions. Nonetheless, it also demonstrates the importance of this work and the positive impact it can have on the lives of those in need.
In addition to the challenges of adapting to a new work environment, Ye Yaoning and his fellow cadres and volunteers faced significant challenges posed by the dry and unforgiving climate of Xinjiang. One of the biggest challenges was the dry climate, which caused unsealed cookies to become even crispier rather than softer after several days. This dryness also caused bleeding noses, which became a familiar reminder of their location in Xinjiang.
The lack of humidity and foliage in the region also made sandstorms a common occurrence, even in the summer. Ye describes how during a light sandstorm, the sun would appear as dim as a 5-watt lightbulb, but as the storm intensified, the sun would disappear altogether. These sandstorms made life even more challenging for those living and working in the region.
Furthermore, the bad climate in Kashgar made agriculture development difficult, particularly in areas with saline land. Ye recalls seeing the saline land for the first time in May and being struck by how it appeared as though covered in snow. Unfortunately, this land was unable to support agriculture and was only suitable for cattle or sheep farming.
Despite these challenges, Ye and his fellow cadres and volunteers persevered in their work. They recognized the importance of promoting development and alleviating poverty in Xinjiang and remained committed to their mission. Over time, they learned to adapt to the difficult climate and find creative solutions to the challenges they faced.
Their efforts paid off, as evidenced by the significant progress made in Kashgar over the years. Thanks in part to the work of the Far West Program, the local GDP in Kashgar tripled over 12 years, providing new opportunities for the local population and helping to lift people out of poverty. While the challenges of working in Xinjiang were significant, the impact of their work made it all worthwhile.
Ye Yaoning faced many challenges while working in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region as part of China’s Far West Program. One of the biggest challenges was the language barrier. Ye’s mother tongue is Mandarin, while the local people mostly speak Uygur. This made it difficult for him to gain their trust and communicate effectively.
One of the people Ye worked with was a strong-minded wealth creator named Wupuer, who had a disability. He impressed Ye the most. Although the funds and technologies were available to help Wupuer raise chickens, a five-month pandemic lockdown in 2020 dashed his hopes. Without adequate forage and medicines, all his chicks died one after another.
The language barrier made it difficult to communicate, but Ye and his team managed to recover the losses with more funds and a strategy adjustment. With this support, Wupuer became one of the biggest chicken breeders in the county, with revenue of about 400,000 yuan in the second year. The project not only brought Wupuer access to wealth but also a greater motivation to learn. He started learning Mandarin and can now communicate in the language without barriers.
The project takes into consideration the social status of women when selecting candidates. In the past, domestic inequality affected some local women, some of whom even suffered from domestic abuse. According to Ye, there was no legal marriage and divorce in the region at the beginning of this century. Women’s marriages were witnessed by a Muslim leader, and if they got a divorce, they could only take what they carried with them.
Thanks to legal popularization and ideological emancipation, the situation has improved. The project also provides more economic support for women. For example, a local female wealth creator opened a dried fruit processing plant, enabling more women to work with their own hands. This has helped improve the social status of women in the region.
Ye and his team lived above their office and were on standby 24 hours a day, with no weekends or work-life balance. They faced another challenge with the dry climate, low humidity, and lack of foliage. Sandstorms often occur, even in the summer. “When it came to a light sandstorm, the sun would look like a 5-watt lightbulb. As it got stronger, the sun would disappear,” Ye says.
Agriculture development in Kashgar is also hampered by the bad climate, with pieces of saline land unable to grow anything. “It was May when I first saw the saline land. I was wondering why the snow had not melted,” Ye recalls with resignation. “There was nothing we could do with the land except to convert it into cattle or sheep farms.” However, the project has brought hope to the region, and Ye is optimistic about the future.