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China Goes All out to Protect Cultural Heritage

By Ershad Shikdar

Almost without exception, Bangladeshi students heading to China, especially job aspirants, all memorize basic information about the Great Wall, Great Canal of China, Tian’anmen Square and the Forbidden City.

Before my first arrival in Beijing four years ago, my knowledge of the cultural heritage of China was as limited as that of other Bangladeshis who have never visited this land of ancient civilization.

However, during my nearly four-year stay in Beijing, I had a glimpse of a huge treasure of cultural heritages in China. I have also been fortunate enough to visit some of the important heritage sites, which has helped me immensely to learn how rich China is culturally and how the country has long been discovering and preserving its treasures.

When it comes to the preservation of cultural heritage, I need to mention the name of President Xi Jinping. This is because I have found the president attaches great importance to the national research projects that trace the origins of Chinese civilization. During my time living in China, I recall the president visiting several heritage sites, encouraging the local people to preserve their treasures.

To elevate their endeavors to preserve the heritage to global standards, China joined the International Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage in 1985.

Currently, China has 56 world heritage sites, recognized by UNESCO. Among them, 38 are cultural, 14 are natural heritage sites, and four are cultural and natural (mixed) sites.

In my opinion, China thinks the protection of intangible cultural heritage is the task of all of humanity and it also joined the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2004.

China has since made significant progress in the preservation of heritage sites. The country undertook its first large-scale renovations on seven world cultural heritage sites in Beijing, including the Ming Tombs, the Great Wall, and the Forbidden City, all of which were completed before 2008.

In addition, from 2005 to 2009, China carried out its first nationwide census of intangible cultural heritage, counting nearly 870,000 intangible cultural heritage resources, with several of them inscribed on UNESCO’s list of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

The UNESCO World Heritage Sites in China comprise some of the most essential parts of China’s valuable and rich tourism resources. I have also visited some of them, including Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven, the Great Wall and the Grand Canal.

Among the intangible cultural heritages, I see tai chi martial arts practitioners in parks and community squares almost every evening, as a lot of people regularly practice this traditional physical exercise. The Chinese believe that tai chi can bring them health and peace of mind through its signature slow circular movements.

I have also experienced acupuncture, another intangible heritage of China, several times in and outside Beijing. It is an important feature of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).

While receiving acupuncture treatments, TCM doctors apply needles to puncture the skin and stimulate chosen points on the body. Every time I had the treatment I went through a rollercoaster ride since I felt both pain and relaxation during and after the treatments.

Over the last decade, China has made substantial headway in preserving and carrying forward its cultural heritage. The local governments of the country have included the preservation of cultural heritage as an important element in their performance evaluation systems.

In this time, the amount of provincial-level cultural relics protection units has increased by 58 percent, and that of municipal and county-level has grown by 88 percent, while tens of thousands of curated or excavated valuable cultural relics have been restored to a better state. Futhermore, the number of museums nationwide has increased by 60 percent, and massive technological breakthroughs have been made in cultural relics protection.

(Ershad Shikdar is a journalist from Bangladesh. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Huanqiu.com.)

The Belt and Road Initiative in the context of the China-Liberia Relationship: a Liberian perspective on how China is working to change the development narrative in developing countries

By Deanna Seakor

First and foremost, permit me to express my sincere thanks and appreciation to the Embassy of China in Liberia through His Excellency Ren Yisheng for affording my institution The AnalystNewspaper the opportunity to participate in such marvelous media engagement program that isexpanding my worldview about China as a powerhouse in international relations and infrastructure development. As a young journalist from a developing nation such as Liberia, I have recently witnessed the impact of China’s growing development partnership with my own country that suffered 14 years of civil conflict, but is now on the path of national recovery.

Officially launched in 2013 by the Chinese government under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) remains the main avenue China deals with other countries around the world, especially developing countries like Liberia.

The BRI focuses on the development of large infrastructure projects, and with the huge deficit in infrastructural development on the continent, the initiative has come to constitute a major driver for rapid economic development and transformation in so many African countries.

It is important to stress here that though African Countries began subscribing to this scheme between 2018 and 2019, there are ample indications that the pre-BRI era witnessed China committing assistance to Africa through such mechanism like the China’s second Africa Policy and the “three networks and industrialization principle” which was based on construction of roads, railways, aviation networks, industrial development, thus the previous arrangements have already incorporated many of the concepts and ideas of BRI.

Therefore, it is safe to say that BRI should not be seen as an entirely new concept but rather a continuation of the friendly and win-win China-Africa relations established in previous years.Though Liberia established relations with China in 1977 and the relationship has been cordial and beneficial to the both countries over the years, it is important to note that the Belt and Road Initiative which Liberia entered into marked the major watershed of the cooperation that has existed between the two countries.

Liberia expressed its desire in joining the BRI when President George Manneh Weah on

September 12018 while having a bilateral meeting with the Chinese President Xi Jinping

preparatory to the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) the same year told Jinping that Liberia was interested in signing on to the initiative.

In agreeing to the new cooperation, the two governments have reasoned to leverage on enhancing policy coordination, deepen mutual beneficial and practical cooperation and mutual learning between civilizations, with the view to realizing joint development and common prosperity.

Liberia’s Minister of State for Presidential Affairs was to later on at the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)on behalf of the government of Liberia while Mr. Ning Jizhe, Vice-Chairman of National Development and Reform Commission signed on behalf of the People’s Republic of China. This was the final outcome of the series of negotiations and discussions held between officials of the two governments in Beijing as well as those of the two Presidents.

Since the signing of the BRI understanding, the Chinese government has made some interventions in critical areas which are cardinal considerations under the flagship of the national development plan of the government, the Pro Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD). To date, according to sources from both governments, some of the areas of intervention include health care, infrastructure construction, food security, and human resource development, with fruitful results being achieved.

Under this bilateral development framework, China has ensured that the Agricultural Technology Demonstration Center and the Bamboo and Rattan Weaving and Vegetable Planting Technology Project in Liberia have been fully implemented with several hundreds of trainees graduating from these vocational institutions. At present, the two sides are actively implementing such development projects as the capital overpass bridges, clinical diagnosis and treatment laboratory, LBS expansion and upgrade, as well as the Somalia-Sinkor Road and Bridge. The China-Liberia development effort is expected to expand cooperation in the fields of agricultural modernization, industrialization development, digital economy, green economy, smart city andtelecommunication, electricity, and roads, among others.

Furthermore, the Chinese government, in implementing the Nine Programs of FOCAC, has applied a zero-tariff policy on 98% of imported goods from Liberia, and has expressed readiness to work with the Liberian side to build China-Liberia win-win cooperation into a demonstration zone for BRI international Cooperation in West Africa.

The BRI no doubt has been a major leeway towards the rapid development and awesome transformation of so many developing countries such as Pakistan, Laos, Kenya, Nigeria, Liberia, etc. Though these countries have their own peculiar development and project needs, there is a common understanding that China’s support to these countries have been massive in recent times.

The China-Africa relations with respect to the BRI is to forge a closer cooperation between the Chinese and the African countries as well as seeking to further expand on the existing cooperation that is anchored on a win-win, mutual respect for the sovereignty of the countries concerned and non-interference in the internal affairs of each country while promoting mutual and sustainable development.

In a similar vein the China-ASEAN is to underscore the cooperation between and the rest of the Asian countries as they all move towards mutual benefits from cooperation and understanding.

(The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Huanqiu.com.)

Ethio-China Cooperation Gaining Momentum

By Bereket Sisay

It is the hallmark of China-Africa solidarity and cooperation that can serve as a useful reference for international cooperation with Africa. The Chinese approach toward Africa, among many others, involves upholding friendship and equality while maintaining a shared interest under the framework of South-South Cooperation.  And, this surly lay a more solid foundation for building a strong thrust for the rise of developing countries as a whole.

It is in line of this principled approach that the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) put into practice and constantly making a great strike in financing and building infrastructure throughout the developing world and thereby to realize mutual development. Ethiopia, as the traditional partner of China, was amongst the first few countries to join and start implementing the initiative while attaching a various benefit to the initiative. Since then, Ethiopia has managed to build huge infrastructures that support the structural transformation of the country and improving the lives of the people at large.

Among others, the Addis-Ababa light railway and the Addis Ababa–Djibouti Railway which connects Addis Ababa to Djibouti City and Djibouti’s Doraleh Container Terminal and various high-ways connecting many pivotal places, including within the capital city of Addis Ababa and across the country, are funded and constructed by the Belt and Road Initiative.

The Star-Alliance member, Ethiopian Airline’s terminal expansion project that was concluded two years back financed by Export-Import Bank of China. Along with this, there has been large scale development Industrial Parks with the objective of creating Special Economic Zones in different parts of Ethiopia. Chinese companies have also been highly participating in Ethiopia industrial parks especially in the textile and leather industries at large that help the country to swiftly join the global value chain networks. Moreover, around 400 Chinese construction and manufacturing projects are running in Ethiopia. The volume of trade between these two countries has shown a steady progress over the past consecutive years.

Despite the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and other equally compelling sorts of negative international phenomenon, China and Ethiopia has sought to strengthen this mutual bilateral development partnership. China is now massively engaged in numerous infrastructural developments across the country while planning to expand its commitment in the years to come as well. Therefore, it is possible to conclude that Ethiopia, as an active participant in the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, the country’s infrastructure and strengthened its industrial establishments. Ethiopian top officials have repeatedly hailed this development partnership as a critical element in facilitating the relations between the two countries.  During the Ethiopia and China joint investment and trade cooperation that held in Addis Ababa in May, 2022, Demeke Mekonnen, Ethiopia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister noted that China has proven to be Ethiopia’s most trusted partner and that its support continues to sustain Ethiopia’s economic growth trajectory.

Director-General of the Department of African Affairs of the Foreign Ministry of China, Wu Peng, in his latest briefing with journalists from Africa countries, who are currently attending the China Africa Press Center 2022 fellowship under the auspices of the China Public Diplomacy Association CPDA, affirmed China’s unwavering commitment for mutual and a win-win development with Africa. He gave a positive appraisal of what has achieved so far through China’-Africa joint development-partnership while hoping to see a bright prospect in these fields of engagement.

During his briefing, he applauded the development cooperation between Ethiopia and China pledging China’s support to the Ethiopian agriculture sector in the coming years. He said that “Ethiopia could be a breadbasket for Africa” to express its huge potential in the sector as it holds a vast arable lands.  Therefore, China is keen to work with Ethiopia in this area of cooperation under a right policy direction, he said. He further stated that many Chinese investors are currently engaged in agricultural development activities in many parts of Africa and they have huge interests to expand their investment in Ethiopia too.

Ethiopia has been working hard to mechanize the agricultural sector and to realize a food self-sufficient country in the near future. Recently, Ethiopia has been making a great stride in wheat production that would help the nation to export to other countries apart from fulfilling domestic needs. Therefore, Chinese pledge to provide support to Ethiopian agricultural sector comes at a critical time to accelerate the gains and to further develop the sector.

This shows that the partnership between Ethiopia and China has been strengthening and evolving over a time. By now, it is clearer that this relationship will get momentum as the new areas of cooperation begin to unfold. In November 2021, during the 8th ministerial conferences of the forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) that was held in Dakar, Senegal, President Xi Jinping announced that China will work closely with African countries to implement nine programs in the next three years to come, which are related to medical services and health, poverty reduction and agricultural development, trade and investment promotion, digital innovation, green development, capacity building, cultural and people to people exchange and peace and security. Therefore, Ethiopia, one of these African exerting efforts to salvage this opportunity to further boost its ties along these lines of cooperation based on mutual benefits. These areas of partnership are just becoming another impetus into China-Ethiopia long-lasting cooperation.

(Bereket Sisay is a journalist from Ethiopian News Agency. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Huanqiu.com.)

BRI prove a boon to many countries

By Md. Enamul Hassan

Many pieces are often seen to surface in the global press over the China-led Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Though most of them spread negativity about the trillion-dollar initiative, the BRI has walked a long way to making positive contributions to many countries since its inception in 2013.

The BRI has so far gained ground across Southeast Asia, South Asia, Central Asia, West Asia, North Africa, and Central and Eastern Europe. The combined land territories of those regions account for more than one-third of the world total, a population of around 60 percent, and a GDP of 32 percent, which speaks volumes of its feats.

The initiative also boosts international cooperation on education. China had signed agreements with many other BRI countries on mutual recognition of academic certificates and degrees in higher education, and over 60 Chinese universities had launched academic programs in partnership with local institutions in BRI countries.

If we break down the outcomes of the initiative, we can find that large projects under the BRI have been greatly boosting the economy and improving local people’s livelihoods in many countries all over the world.

Pakistan’s Ambassador to China Moinul Haque said the BRI has transformed Pakistan’s economic landscape. He mentioned that BRI projects in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor have created around 70,000 jobs in Pakistan. BRI projects have benefited Pakistanis through job creation, improved livelihoods, eradicating poverty, and upgrading of remote areas.

Large BRI projects in Cambodia, including the Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone, hydropower plants, Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway, new Siem Reap International Airport, Morodok Techo National Stadium, roads and bridges, hospitals, and rural water supply, have similarly generated more than 3,000 jobs for Cambodians during their constructions.

According to a report by the Ministry of Commerce of Cambodia, the BRI projects will help Cambodia to achieve its ambitious goal of becoming an upper-middle-income country by 2030 and a high-income country in 2050. They will be the major contributors to Cambodia’s economic growth in the post-pandemic era too.

Some infrastructure projects are also being implemented in Bangladesh in collaboration with China. Several have already been implemented and the people of Bangladesh are reaping the dividends of those projects. The Bangladesh Power System Upgrade and Expansion Project, a $165 million power project, is a vivid example of how the BRI is playing a role in improving the livelihood of the people of the country. This project has benefited more than seven million Bangladeshis by helping provide electricity connections to over 2.5 million rural people.

Besides, China is now implementing $10 billion worth of infrastructure projects in Bangladesh including the Chinese Economic and Industrial Zone, and Payra Power Plant. Every project has created a huge number of jobs, bringing about enormous socio-economic development in Bangladesh.

The BRI has also brought good news to Bangladeshi students who aspire to receive a quality education in China. Under the initiative, China has increased its scholarship number to 8,000 for Bangladesh. This great opportunity has been contributing to increasing remittance inflows to Bangladesh, which is the country’s second-largest source of foreign currency earnings, by producing skilled human resources.

The China-backed Karnaphuli Multi-Channel Tunnel Project is now underway and scheduled to be finished at the end of the ongoing year. Once completed, the tunnel will connect the port city of Chittagong to the far side of the Karnaphuli River, the site of a new Chinese economic zone. It will shorten travel time from four hours to just twenty minutes.

The Special Chinese Economic Zone, another BRI project in the south of Bangladesh, will have the capacity to house 150-200 industrial units and will focus on a range of different industrial sectors, including shipbuilding, pharmaceuticals, electronics, agro-business, IT, chemicals, power, and textiles. The 750-acre economic zone is set to create more than 75,000 jobs, a boon to the huge number of unemployed youths in Bangladesh.

The Padma Bridge rail link, upon fruition, will cut the travel time from Dhaka to Kolkata, the capital of the Indian state of West Bengal, from nine hours to about four. The bridge will ease pressure on the country’s premier seaport in Chittagong as it will bolster the second largest Mongla seaport in Bagerhat.

Apart from them, a great number of BRI projects are immensely contributing to the socio-economic development of many countries. They are directly uplifting the livelihoods of millions of people all over the world, paving the way for the establishment of their basic human rights.

(Md. Enamul Hassan is a journalist fromBangladesh Post. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Huanqiu.com.)

Harmonious Xinjiang rejects US Act

By Muhammad Zamir Assadi

The recent so-called “Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act” approved by Unites States have just exposed the double standards of American administration regarding the human rights situation across the globe.

The so-called “Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act” came into effect at a time when Shootings are happening frequently in the United States. The Gun Violence Archive database lists 320 mass shootings across the America since the beginning of this year, with roughly 22,500 deaths caused by gun violence.

The large number of deaths in United States in the result of Gun Violence show that the American administration should focus on domestic human rights situation rather than to malign others just to gain the failed political benefits.

Dong Yunhu, vice-president and secretary general of the China Society for the Study of Human Rights, noted that the United States always criticized other countries and regions, but turned a blind eye to its own human rights conditions.

“Such practice has even provoked questions from its own people, ” Dong said, quoting Robert A. Seiple, the first American ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, by saying that the United States should include itself in the annual human rights report. If the United States could not write its own report it could invite other countries to do so.

It has become the routine of every American presidents to malign China in various sectors just to get positive approval rating and to divert the attention of masses from the local failures either it is about gun violence, inflation, jobs market, human rights issues of black Americans and other ethnicities living in US.

Such kind of so called ‘evil acts’ by American administration seems just an extension of its vicious plot against China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson have said that the issues related to Xinjiang are not about human rights, ethnicity or religion, but about fighting terrorism and separatism, and the Chinese government’s counterterrorism and deradicalization measures have substantially turned the security situation around in Xinjiang.

Wang said the U.S. report distorts and smears the human rights conditions in Xinjiang and wantonly attacks China’s Xinjiang policy, tramples on international law and basic norms in international relations and lacks factual basis.

It is to be noted that US is pursuing its agenda of containing the countries that are emerging in economic sectors and maliciously propagating the peaceful situation of human rights.

Following the agenda of economic containment, US pursues the lies that forced labor exists in Xinjiang. Such kind of American acts are just meant to strangle the economy of Xinjiang, depriving people in Xinjiang of their livelihoods and creating “forced unemployment” by preventing Xinjiang products from entering the international supply chain.

The unilateral hegemonic move by the United States in disturbing various countries are condemned and discouraged by various countries even at United Nations platform.

Many of the countries on various international platforms have rejected the so called “US act” and termed it as a political string just to engage China in an unwanted war of words.

Since the end of 2018, more than 150 delegations and over 2,100 people from more than 100 countries and regions have visited Xinjiang. They have held a positive view of the achievements of Xinjiang’s stable development and measures for human rights protection and counter-terrorism.

International community also believes that the peaceful situation of human rights in Xinjiang exposes the lies about China told by the United States.

They only expose the U.S. sinister intention to contain China’s development, and such attempts are doomed to fail.

Chinese President Xi Jinping in the recent visit to region stressed for the efforts to resolutely implement the CPC Central Committee’s decisions, and fully and faithfully carry out the plans and the policies of the CPC for the governance of Xinjiang in the new era.

Focusing on the overarching goal of ensuring lasting social stability, security and enduring prosperity, we should seek steady progress in our work, further extend reform and opening up in all respects, promote high-quality development, coordinate COVID-19 response with economic and social development, and balance development and security imperatives. On our journey in the new era, we will endeavor to build Xinjiang into a beautiful place that is united, harmonious, and prosperous, with an advanced culture, a happy life for all and sound ecological environment.

China’s governing policy in Xinjiang has been supported by more than 25 million people of all ethnic groups in the region.

According to statistics, between 1525 and 1866, over 12.5 million Africans were shipped to the New World for forced labor. The website of the University of Denver disclosed that there are currently at least 500,000 people living under modern slavery and forced labor in the United States. Up to 100,000 people are trafficked into the United States for forced labor annually. There are approximately 500,000 child farmworkers in the world’s most developed country.

Xinjiang by respecting the human rights of its citizens is forwarding ahead by gaining peaceful development and prosperity that will be lasting forever.

(Muhammad Zamir Assadi is a journalist from China South Asia and South East Asia Press Centre. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Huanqiu.com.)

Village in China’s Guizhou brings wealth to residents by developing industries suited to local conditions

(Source: People’s Daily Online)

Gaowen village, a village of the Miao ethnic group located deep inside the mountains of Rongjiang county, southwest China’s Guizhou Province has developed industries that cater to local conditions, generating wealth for villagers living in the locality.

Farmers pack passion fruits in Gaowen village, Rongjiang county, southwest China’s Guizhou Province. (Photo/Guiozhou Daily)

In the past, people in the village with insufficient arable land resources failed to grow crops that could be sold at a good price.

In 2016, villager Li Yingsong embraced a bumper harvest of chives and sold them at a good price, which brought hope to his fellow villagers. Influenced by him, 58 farmer households in the village planted chives.

Li went on to set up a cooperative and boost the scale and strength of the village’s chive industry.

One year later, the village planted chives on 260 mu (about 17.3 hectares) of farmland, and the per capita income of chive growers reached 3,600 yuan (about $517.5).

In early 2020, the cooperative had 400 mu of chives, but encountered poor sales due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Chives have a short shelf life and the cost of cold-chain logistics is high. Let’s plant something else,” said Li Changlin, Li Yingsong’s son.

Li Changlin then suggested planting passion fruit trees as the village boasts a sound climate and soil conditions for the growth of the fruit trees.

With the support of Rongjiang county’s agricultural authority, Li Changlin and several members of the cooperative went to Guilin city in south China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region to learn the skills of planting passion fruit trees and marketing models in April 2020.

After they returned, the village began to promote the planting of passion fruit trees. In 2020, the cooperative’s passion fruit output hit 250,000 kilograms and yielded nearly 4 million yuan. A total of 1,853 villagers from 383 households in the village received dividends from the cooperative.

Village in S China’s Guangxi thrives on waterfall-related tourism

(Source:People’s Daily Online)

A village in south China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region has blazed a new trail in waterfall-related tourism, bringing more and more wealth to local villagers.

Detian waterfall (Photo/Tanja Herko)

Detian village, Shuolong township, Daxin county of Guangxi, which is close to China’s border with Vietnam, plays host to Detian waterfall, the world’s second largest cross-border waterfall. In 2014, Ma Chengwu, Party secretary of the village and head of the villagers’ committee, decided to tap the potential of the waterfall and develop tourism featuring bamboo rafting there to lift the village out of poverty.

Later, the village established a tourism company, offering job opportunities to local residents. The company went on to develop more and more services over the years, such as open-air sightseeing tours in electric vehicles, handiworks, and homestay hotels, creating another 200 or more job opportunities. Today, the average monthly income of villagers living in the locality has come to exceed 5,000 yuan (about $718.5).

“The collective income of the village has exceeded 6 million yuan during peak season,” said Gu Chaowei, Party secretary of Shuolong township.

Since the village received fewer tourists due to the COVID-19 pandemic this year, however, the income of the villagers has decreased. The village quickly turned instead to online platforms to sell local handicrafts as an alternative to help the villagers.

Gan Ronghui, a local villager, used to sell local specialties in the scenic area, earning a monthly income of 2,000 yuan. “Due to the outbreak of the epidemic, I became unemployed in May. Then the Party secretary helped me find another job in the scenic area, which enables me to earn about 2,500 yuan to 3,000 yuan per month,” she said gratefully.

Craftsman’s lifetime of effort lets more people fall in love with traditional oil-paper umbrellas

(Source: People’s Daily Online)

Wen Shishan, a 59-year-old inheritor of Fuyang oil-paper umbrella making techniques in the Fuyang district of Hangzhou, east China’s Zhejiang Province, has been devoted to carrying forward the handicraft for over 30 years.

Wen Shishan makes an oil-paper umbrella (Photo courtesy of the interviewee)

The oil-paper umbrellas made by Wen are not only popular among young people, but also have been sold to overseas markets in countries and regions such as Japan, South Korea, the US, Europe and the Middle East.

The craft for making oil-paper umbrellas enjoys a history of over 1,000 years. Wen took over the responsibility of inheriting the craft from his father when he was in his 20s. At that time, the traditional craft was experiencing a crisis regarding its inheritance and future, and it was regarded as “something to be excluded from the market.” In Wen’s village, there were few craftsmen who were still making oil-paper umbrellas at that time and few villagers would like to buy one such umbrella. However, these difficulties didn’t hold Wen back, but propelled him to work harder to become one of the best players in the craft.

Wen made many efforts to improve the umbrellas in two aspects – boosting their quality and introducing the handicraft to more people so that they might know more about it and fall in love with it.

Normally, there are more than 70 procedures involved in making one oil-paper umbrella, but an oil-paper umbrella made by Wen requires as many as 106 steps.

In 2003, Wen bought a phone, a computer and a digital camera, having started to learn computer skills on his own in preparation for selling his umbrellas online. After he opened an online shop, Wen photographed the umbrellas he had made and then uploaded the photos to the platform to promote his products. The first online order Wen received was placed by a client from Japan. Gradually, the oil-paper umbrellas made by Wen gained the recognition of more and more overseas clients.

In January 2018, Wen participated in a cultural exchange activity held in Athens, Greece. During the activity, visitors were invited to experience the craft of making oil-paper umbrellas. After the conclusion of the activity, a local school contacted the Chinese Embassy in Greece in the hope of inviting Wen to the school to introduce the craft. But as Wen’s visa would soon become invalid, he didn’t go to the school in the end.

At the end of 2018, Wen opened an account on Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, and began to promote the handicraft on the short-video platform.

In recent years, oil-paper umbrellas have gained popularity among lovers of Hanfu, a type of traditional garment of the Han ethnic group, because Hanfu lovers believe oil-paper umbrellas can help them better express a sense of classical elegance and beauty. Taking this as an opportunity, Wen acted swiftly to develop oil-paper umbrellas featuring traditional Chinese elements.

In Wen’s eyes, oil-paper umbrellas are not only goods for sale, they are also carriers of traditional Chinese culture.

Chinese artisan living with a disability wows netizens with adorable clay figurines

(Source:People’s Daily Online)

An artisan living with a disability who makes clay figurines on the street in southwest China’s Sichuan Province has recently awed netizens across the country, as reported on the WeChat account of China Media Group.

(Photo courtesy of the interviewee)

After shaping clay into a ball with his elbows, the artisan, who is surnamed Mi, flattens part of the ball with the help of a plastic sheet, holds the ball between his arms to put it on a stick, and then makes and adds smaller parts and decorations to the ball.

Mi has been making these clay figurines for 15 years. It now takes him only several minutes to make an adorable cartoon figurine.

In 2003, Mi lost his hands in an accident. Unwilling to bow to fate, he gradually learned to eat and get dressed on his own in the year that followed the unexpected accident.

Since he was already married then, he figured that he must find a way to make a living by himself and be independent of the help of others, as he “has a family to take care of.”

After seeing an artisan making dough figurines on the street, Mi was immediately attracted to the craft and decided to learn it himself.

“The artisan said he couldn’t teach me when he saw that I had no fingers. I insisted and finally wore him down,” Mi said.

(Photo courtesy of the interviewee)

The learning process was challenging and daunting. In the beginning he could only make two roses in an afternoon. And his arms were often sore after all of the practice. However, because of his enthusiasm for the craft and his eagerness to earn a living, he never thought about giving up.

Over the past 15 years, Mi has developed a set of methods suitable for him and significantly improved his skills and efficiency. He has also started to use clay as the raw material for his figurines.

“A simple clay figurine takes about seven minutes now, and I can make about 30 figurines a day,” Mi said.

Today, Mi is not only able to make a living by making clay figurines as he had hoped, but taking great pleasure in what he does.

(Photo courtesy of the interviewee)

Whenever he sits on the ground to make clay figurines, he is quickly surrounded by curious people.

He doesn’t set prices for his figurines. Instead of asking people to pay a certain amount of money for the products, he allows them to pay as they like. In this way, each figurine is sold at about 20 yuan (about $2.9) on average, which is much cheaper compared to similar products sold elsewhere.

Mi has three children, all of whom are at school. “My children are all very sensible. They often rub my back to help relieve my muscle soreness when I’m busy with work,” Mi said with gratification.

It’s not easy for him to raise three children, but he is full of hope for a better future, as he knows his hard work will pay off.

(Photo courtesy of the interviewee)

‘Balloon mom’ Peng Xia: Tiny woman with big heart of benevolence

(Source: People’s Daily Online)

“Are you the ‘balloon mom’ who donates money to poor college students? You are such a wonderful person. I want to buy some balloons from you.”

On the morning of Aug. 30, a Chinese woman who sells balloons in Hefei, east China’s Anhui Province, kept hearing these words over and over again, and ended up selling all of her 50 balloons within an hour.

(Photo/Gao Bo)

“I brought only 30 balloons per day in recent days, since it has been hot out. And I couldn’t sell them all until around 11 a.m. Today, those people who read the news reports about me bought all my 50 balloons in an hour,” said Peng Xia, the balloon seller. She didn’t expect that so many people had read stories about her peddling the balloons.

Over the past several years, Peng, who is only 1.1 meters tall due to a congenital disability, has made donations to more than 30 students. She is affectionately referred to as the “balloon mom” by netizens in China.

“I’m not the one who needs help”

Though she is tiny, and her husband also suffers from a disability due to cerebral palsy, Peng declines extra payments from people who buy balloons from her.

“I’m not the one who needs help,” she said.

(Photo/Gao Bo)

“A young lady wanted to pay me more money at first. After I declined the request, she bought six balloons, saying that she hopes to help me and those poor students in this way,” Peng said, adding that she declined similar requests from many similarly warm-hearted customers within that one hour.

“I’m very grateful for their support toward me, but I hope that they can offer the help to the students who really need it,” she said.

She rides her tricycle to buy balloons every night, and then gets up early in the next morning to sell them. She and her husband earn 2,000 yuan ($289.86) a month, and they receive a disability pension of more than 1,000 yuan from the government, which brings their total monthly income to about 3,000 yuan. The family’s monthly living expenses are around 2,000 yuan, and the rest of their income is basically all donated to poor students.

“Our life is simple and happy. My parents-in-law left this house to us. And we are not picky about food or clothing,” she said.

(Photo/Gao Bo)

A receiver and giver of love

“We have received enough help,” Peng said, “community workers often visit us to ask if we need any help. Since I buy balloons at night, the staff members of the property management company serving our community specially keep the gate unlocked for my convenience. When I sell balloons, I often meet kindhearted people who think it is not easy for me to make a living and ask if I need help.”

Feeling grateful for the help and loving care they have received, Peng and her husband decided to give back to society within their individual powers.

(Photo/Gao Bo)

“In 2017, me and my husband saw on TV for the first time that a poor student was seeking help for tuition, and we decided to help him,” Peng said. They later donated 500 yuan to the student.

Since making that initial 500-yuan donation, Peng has embarked on a journey of constant charity, making donations to a great many and becoming the “balloon mom” that everyone admires. Over the past few years, she has accumulated more than 30 donation certificates, while the amount of her donations has gradually increased from 500 yuan to 1,000 yuan, and even as much as 3,000 yuan.

Besides the donation certificates, Peng has also received a letter of thanks from a student she has helped. It reads, “Dear balloon sister, how are you? This might be a hasty letter, but I want to say, good things will definitely happen to selfless people like you.”

Peng has never wanted to interfere in the lives of the students she has helped. “What I have done is very simple. And I’ve done it because I want those children to go to school, and I hope more people can help poor students,” she said.

(Photo/Gao Bo)

“We are happy enough”

Although it’s physically challenging for her to do household chores, Peng always keeps her home clean and bright.

There is an electronic piano on the balcony of her home, which is the only “luxury” of the family, according to Peng.

Since the time she learned how to play electric piano and sing at a training session for people with disabilities, music has become Peng’s biggest hobby. In an effort to support Peng in the pursuit of her hobby, her husband led the whole family to save money for several months, and finally bought the “big luxury” for her.

“We should live every day to the fullest. Staying optimistic is my biggest characteristic. Apart from tribulations, we have many other things in life, like playing the piano, singing as well as helping students. Because of these good things, we are happy enough,” Peng said.

(Photo/Gao Bo)

Peng’s goodness and optimistic view on life have had a strong influence on her family and people who know her. Her son, who is in college, does part-time work while working hard with his studies.

“When he got a scholarship, he immediately called me and said to me, ‘Mom, you take my scholarship money and use it to help those students in need’,” Peng recalled.

“I try to donate money to several children every year, basically 3,000 yuan a year to each college student and 500 yuan to each elementary student,” she said, adding that she will continue in this philanthropic endeavor.

“We have old-age insurance and disability pension from the government, which will probably guarantee our basic living needs in the future,” she said.

(Photo/Gao Bo)

(Photo/Gao Bo)