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China Eastern helps the Va ethnic people to fight against poverty

Updated:2019-11-08 09:35:45   China Daily

Every week, Yang Sandao spends a day at the old Wengding village wearing Va people's traditional costume to welcome tourists.

The village, located on the Awa Mountains near the China-Myanmar border, preserves the lifestyle of the small ethnic group. The age-old and mysterious minority have created a unique and glorious culture.

With more than 400 years of history, Wengding has developed into a tourist spot.

Yang, 80, had lived there for decades but moved into a new community years ago. The new Wengding village, 1 kilometer away, was built by China Eastern Airlines at a cost of nearly 5 million yuan ($710,100). It is also called the China Eastern Airlines demonstration village.

Rows of buildings there were built in Va architectural style with new materials and techniques. The new village comes with modern facilities and infrastructure, such as concrete roads, public squares, cultural spaces, a clinic and water and electricity supply.

The clinic, which cost about 180,000 yuan, features modern medical equipment never seen before in that area, said Xiao Jin, a doctor at the village.

The Wengding clinic is one of the five village clinics that China Eastern Airlines has built in recent years. With a total investment of 4.5 million yuan, they have helped improve people's lives in Cangyuan county, Lincang city in Southwest China's Yunnan province.

The company also spent 700,000 yuan hiring medical workers from Shanghai to provide free services in 10 townships and 48 villages in Cangyuan. Nearly 5,000 people have benefited from the initiative.

"China Eastern Airlines has not only built new houses for us, but also brought tourists to our Wengding scenic spot," said Yang Xinhua, a senior official at the village.

Tourism has transformed the village's fortunes. The number of tourists to old Wengding village increases every year and the annual tourism revenue can now reach more than 1 million yuan. In addition to a fixed dividend from the revenue, some villagers make a decent income by running restaurants and hotels.

"We had 528 registered poor people a few years ago, but now the number has decreased to 15," Yang said.

The transformation of Wengding is an example of how China Eastern Airlines has been helping Cangyuan and Shuangjiang counties fight poverty over the past 16 years.

In April, a group led by Liu Shaoyong, chairman of the company, went to the two counties in Lincang to investigate the work of poverty alleviation. It was the second time Liu had gone there in three years.

Despite the group being told that both Cangyuan and Shuangjiang were ready to be taken off the list of national poverty-stricken counties, Liu, on behalf of China Eastern Airlines, pledged that the company will continue to support the counties in the long term.

"A major cause of Lincang's poverty is seclusion," said Yang Haodong, Party secretary of the city. Due to poor road conditions, it used to take 15 hours to drive the 700 km from Kunming, capital of Yunnan, to Cangyuan.

The travel situation changed in December 2016 when Washan airport in Cangyuan opened.

China Eastern Airlines took part in the airport's planning, construction and test flights. They then launched the Kunming-Cangyuan route, which takes only 50 minutes.

Lincang is the third city in Yunnan to have two airports. Both at Lincang and Washan airports, China Eastern Airlines has the most flights, serving the biggest number of passengers.

The company identifies the routes linking Kunming with Lincang and Cangyuan as "poverty alleviation routes", and provides related flight allowances worth more than 300 million yuan annually.

Last year, the company made 4,318 Lincang-and Cangyuan-related flights, handling nearly 460,000 passengers.

In addition to improved transport, the company has purchased and promoted specialties of the two counties. It provides locally produced pu-erh fermented tea and black tea at its VIP departure lounges and on-board aircraft. It also signed a purchase contract with a chicken farm in Shuangjiang county.

The company also set up a "poverty alleviation supermarket" at its staff canteen last year, together with a Shuangjiang-based e-business company and several agricultural cooperatives from the two counties. It sells products such as pork, brown rice, pitaya, passion fruit and pineapple. The sales volume of the supermarket reached more than 600,000 yuan within six months.

With the help of the company, the two counties have established logistical systems at the county, town and village levels.


China Eastern Airlines has also made efforts to improve education in the two counties. These include introducing educational concepts of Beijing Hongzhi Middle School, a famous public welfare school recruiting students in financial need; donating laptops to three primary schools and providing free maintenance; and organizing seven teachers to receive training in Shanghai.


Reporting by Hao Nan (China Daily); editing by Wang Jingzhong 

Keywords:   Va people China Eastern poverty