Development stretches from 'mountains to sea'
Children learn to make wooden toys at the Yunhe Experimental Kindergarten in Lishui, Zhejiang province. LIN YONGHONG/CHINA DAILY
The tomato varieties grown in Tuanshi are not originally from the village, or even from Longyou county or Quzhou, the city in which the county is located. They are from Zhenhai district of the city of Ningbo, which is on Zhejiang's east coast.
The production base itself was built with an investment of 3.3 million yuan from the district in 2020.In addition, Zhenhai district has taught the villagers the necessary farming techniques and passed along management experiences and marketing practices.
Wang and his fellow villagers are the latest beneficiaries of Zhejiang's "mountain and sea coordination and collaboration project", an initiative designed and implemented in the early 2000s under the auspices of President Xi Jinping, who was then the secretary of the Communist Party of China Zhejiang Provincial Committee.
"Mountain" refers to the less-developed, mountainous areas mostly in southwestern Zhejiang and the islands of the city of Zhoushan, while "sea" denotes the province's more economically prosperous areas.
By pairing underdeveloped regions with developed ones based on their own competitive advantages and endowment of resources, the project seeks to achieve balanced and coordinated development among different parts of the whole province in such areas as economic development, education and healthcare.
In January 2013, Longyou county partnered with Zhenhai district under the framework of the project, which covers 26 counties and districts in the mountainous areas, including Longyou.
Since then, an industrial park with an area of 11.84 square kilometers has been established. It has attracted 64 projects in the past 10 years with a total agreed-upon investment of more than 39 billion yuan.
In the first half of 2022, the park's industrial output reached 3.487 billion yuan, so the park has quickly become an important pillar of the county's development.
Zhenhai has also been sharing its educational resources with Longyou. For example, starting in 2015, the best teachers from Zhenhai Middle School, one of the nation's top schools, have given lessons and lectures to students and teachers in Longyou Middle School every year, either in person or via the internet.
So far, a total of 54 primary and secondary schools and 22 kindergartens in Zhenhai and Longyou have agreed to carry out cooperation and exchanges in area including the improvement of teaching, the reform of curriculum and introduction of digital technologies.
With the help of the "mountain and sea" project, Wang, the tomato grower, also plants cucumbers, peppers and corn on his base.
"It doesn't have to be just tomatoes," Wang said. "We can grow different crops all year round. I hope to develop the base into a boutique fruit and vegetable garden."
According to the Zhejiang Provincial Bureau of Statistics, the GDP of Longyou county more than doubled between 2012 and 2021, jumping from 14.33 billion yuan to 28.80 billion yuan. The disposable income of urban and rural residents increased from 27,791 and 12,584 yuan to 56,738 and 30,045 yuan, respectively, during the same period.
With mountains and hills covering some 70 percent of the province's total area, Zhejiang's geographical conditions seem to have predetermined differentiated regional development.
For a long time, the 26 counties and districts in the mountainous areas have dragged behind Zhejiang's overall growth. Statistics show that they take up 44.5 percent of Zhejiang's total area, but their GDP accounted for only 9.65 percent of the province's total in 2020, and their per capita GDP was 61,363 yuan, 61.3 percent of the provincial average and 85.2 percent of the national average.
As a result, the development of these places has long been a top priority for governments at all levels in Zhejiang. In 2021, the "mountain and sea coordination and collaboration project" received a further boost when the province was designated as a demonstration zone for common prosperity, as China seeks to further narrow its wealth gap and improve people's quality of life after eradicating absolute poverty.