Foreigners get a taste of Chinese officialdom in villages

Source:Global Times Published: 2016/8/15 19:43:39

Romauld chats with locals in Hexi, East China's Zhejiang Province. Photo: Courtesy of Romuald Soka Jada

When Romuald Soka Jada, a 26-year-old student from South Sudan, recalls his four days of work experience as an official in a small village in East China's Zhejiang Province, he said he was deeply impressed and that he wishes he could do the job full-time one day.

"I love the people and scenery [in the village]. I have the knowledge and I have seen young people in China and South Sudan work hard to contribute to their society, and I hope I can be one of them," he told the Global Times on Sunday.

As a sophomore majoring in clinical medicine in Wenzhou Medical University in Zhejiang, Romuald came to the Hexi village as part of the university's 10-day summer program, which also included 36 Chinese medical students and two coaches.

Romuald worked in the morning at the village's service hall and in the afternoon, he paid visits to villagers and talked to them about their lives. In the evening, Romuald planted rice seedlings in the fields with locals.

"People here are very hospitable, and the scenery is beautiful," said Romuald, who also worked as a teacher in the village.

"We taught the children in the village about history," said he.

"We also told them stories about Chairman Mao Zedong and President Xi Jinping," he added.

In addition, Romuald and his team also led the children in drawing pictures on a wall of the school with the theme of the Chinese dream.

"I love China so much, I love the culture and life here, and this is my Chinese dream," said Romuald, adding that he plans to stay in China after graduating.

Only for trial

Romuald spent only a few days as a "village official," while French businessman Emanuel Denis has officially been given the position of Hehong village official in Ninghai county, also in Zhejiang since February, Ningbo Television reported.

"Now I am one of the decision-makers of major events in the village. I can vote and provide idea and solutions for the village's management in a better way," said Denis.

Denis was hired by the village committee as an assistant to the village's chief on February 28.

The 53-year-old Frenchman has been in Ninghai for 15 years and is married to a woman from the county.

After receiving an MBA diploma in the US, Denis worked in finance in London and Wall Street. Denis set up two companies in Ninghai with yearly output value of around 100 million yuan before he was offered a position with the village committee, according to the local television station.

"We wanted a talent who knows how to operate and help promote the village," said Chen Weirong, chief of the Party Working Committee of Meiling area in Ninghai, which administers Hehong village. 

"I first came to the village by accident. I was traveling and was impressed by the kindness of villagers who voluntarily gave dessert and tea to workers who were building in the village," said Denis.

"I wanted to do something for the village when Chen approached me, and the village seems to lag behind when other places are experiencing huge development," said Denis.

 Denis' first move was to draft a development plan for the village, beginning with protecting its old houses. He also suggested building guest farms specializing in tourism, Ningbo Television reported.

"Though foreigners can bring new vision and approaches to village management, and they are very passionate. However, compared with local people who have years of experience and sources in villages, their functions are limited in reality," Dang Guoying, an expert on rural development with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.

In most cases, the complexity of rural management lies in the redistribution of interests, rather than merely solving problems arising on the surface, Dang elaborated.

The role of consultant might be a better choice for foreigners, as being a village official also has legal and administrative requirements such as a local household registration, said Dang. 

Global Times
Newspaper headline: Outside help

Posted in: Society

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