For this last blog post, I want to trace back to the beginning of my project and think about the future for China’s reconstruction plan for impoverished areas.
One of the initial reasons why I conducted this research project is that I felt a loss of identity after continuing my education in America for several years. I remember feeling a loss of connection to the city I grew up in, and I realized that I was forgetting the culture I was born into. Trying to remember and reconnect with my culture, I decided to conduct an independent research project on Shimenkan. Growing up in Kunming in an upper-middle-class family, my life was confined to a small circle. My research project would allow me to learn more about contemporary Chinese politics and the socioeconomic diversity of my province.
Originally, I was merely intrigued by the presence of Christianity in a rural Chinese village; however, my curiosity grew into a project that examined the impact of recent government-led development projects. The real shock came when I first visited the village in the summer of 2016. I expected to see poverty but did not understand its extent until I stood on the village’s muddy streets and saw its houses lacking electricity and water. I returned a year later and was astonished by how much had changed after the government reconstruction efforts. During the two years, I’ve also traveled to other impoverished small villages near my hometown, but I never saw the change in these places. The presence of Christianity in these other villages is much quieter. Though there are a few small charities donating small amounts to the local church and people, the names of these villages never went famous like Shimenkan did. Between the two years I visited these smaller villages, people didn’t get fancy but impractical apartments nor have new roads built. The dirt houses which people lived in seem like they can crumble apart at any moment. If the government’s original and genuine thought was to help the impoverished areas, the 10 billion Yuan would have covered the reconstruction of multiple villages like Shimenkan. The heavy Christian influence was viewed as a threat by the government, and the reconstruction was the way of showing how “powerful” the government is. At the same time, the government overpowered all the small charities because no independent charity is able to accomplish what the government did.
At this point in my project, I’ve been able to study the history of Shimenkan and look at the present from my perspective. The contrast between Shimenkan and all the other small villages confuses me in a way because I don’t know how I feel about the government reconstruction. The government-installed apartment-style housing forced the villagers to adopt a new and disruptive lifestyle. The outcomes of the reconstruction are impractical development and a loss of culture. I can’t deny that the reconstruction didn’t improve people’s living condition, but how long will such condition last? The wooden apartments are not suited for the hail storms in the winter and the humid climate. But without the reconstruction, people lack a safe environment to live in. There are definitely pros and cons to such modernization, but I don’t think I can judge it from my point of view. I’m still just an outsider in this situation. I was never the one who experienced the physical change in infrastructure or the cultural change.
Thinking about the future, I hope that the government will shed some of their attention on the other smaller villages like Shimenkan. They don’t need fancy apartments, 1 billion Yuan is enough to make a dramatic impact in the village. The villagers will be provided with the money and resource to improve their homes. In this way, they will raise their living condition while holding on to their culture. Finally, I can’t emphasize this point enough, the way for these villagers to step out of poverty is through education.
I wouldn’t be able to say or write many of the things I did in this class if I were in China. The politics behind the reconstruction plan is much more complicated than I expressed and explored in my research project. I hope that the government can see an easier and more efficient way to continue their work of helping the impoverished areas rather than wasting the country’s money and resource for a political purpose.