Cross-Straits amity aids rural residents
Skilled people from Taiwan helping to alleviate poverty in parts of the mainland. Zhang Yi reports.
On Lunar New Year's Eve, Huang Hsiao-ting, a woman from Taiwan who works in Shanghai, and some friends who had also stayed in the Chinese mainland, shared livestreams of dishes eaten by people on the island during Spring Festival.
It was the first time the 36-year-old had not spent the festivities with her parents in Taiwan. However, she didn't feel lonely because she was busy organizing charity sales for poor areas via livestreams, a skill the charity enthusiast gained last year.
"My parents, on the other side of the Straits, could also view my progress via my livestream," she said.
A new business model of online marketing via livestreams flourished last year as people stayed home during the COVID-19 epidemic. Huang, who moved to Shanghai in 2015 to further her career, was determined not to miss out.
In April, businesses from Taiwan that have a presence in Shanghai organized a joint livestream sale to promote economic recovery in the wake of the epidemic.
Huang represented her employer, Baker's Kingdom, a Taiwan-funded supplier of baking materials in the eastern city.
The experience opened up a new world for her. She later took some e-commerce and livestreaming training courses and participated in charity livestreaming activities organized by the mainland media to sell produce from poor areas.
Those activities led her to Guanghe, a county in the northwestern province of Gansu, a previously impoverished area that eliminated extreme poverty in February last year.
In October, Huang and other livestreamers visited Guanghe to help promote local products, including herbal tea, walnut cookies and woolen jackets.
"The trip was surprising," she said, noting that Guanghe was the most far-flung place she has visited in the mainland.
She flew about 2,000 kilometers from Shanghai to Lanzhou, Gansu's capital, and then took a bus for two hours to reach Guanghe.
"Before setting out, I prepared food, medicines and other necessities because I thought it would be a remote desert with bad air quality and no shops. Instead, it turned out to be a place of treasures－delicious food, greenery and kind people," she said.
"I felt the strength of the country's poverty relief work. More than a decade ago, people started planting trees in the province to tackle desertification and they selected the most suitable crops to boost incomes. I was proud to play my own small part."
During her stay, Huang visited the Hongxing Kindergarten. She discovered that the 150 students did not wear uniforms and there were only simple teaching aids in the classrooms.
"It was different from what I had seen in developed cities like Shanghai, where kids wear handsome uniforms and look lively and tidy," she said. The visit prompted the thought that she might be able to help.
In December, Huang and five friends from Taiwan organized a livestream promotion, with many of the products coming from businesses in Taiwan. They arranged for 30 percent of the proceeds to be donated to the kindergarten to buy uniforms and teaching tools.
"Luckily, after learning about our idea, a businessman from Taiwan offered to sponsor the uniforms before the activity had even taken place," Huang said.
"These charitable works gave me a deeper connection with the mainland. I want to do more to help farmers in poor areas. I was born into a tea-growing family in Taiwan, so I know farmers can live decent lives."
She is not the only Taiwan resident who has helped poverty alleviation work on the mainland.
Businesses from the island have donated 60 million yuan ($10 million) to improve local facilities and industries and have also provided jobs outside the province for 8,000 Gansu people, authorities said.
As the national strategy shifts from poverty relief to rural revitalization, talented people from Taiwan are crossing the Straits to use their expertise at the grassroots level. That's especially true in Fujian, the province that lies directly opposite Taiwan and aims to promote integrated cross-Straits development.
Since 2018, Hsu Chun-hsiung, an architect and designer, has spent six months of every year in Fujian with his team, participating in eight rural improvement projects in villages.
The team has brought brand awareness to villagers to enhance the added value of agricultural produce.
In Changqing, a township in a mountainous part of the province, the farming technique center－formerly a shabby building that sold pesticides, fertilizers and seeds－became a popular venue last year after the team helped transform it.
In addition to the center's original function, residents can sample food and drinks made from Changqing produce, such as dishes cooked with local camellia oil and milk tea made with peanuts grown in the township.
The center also sells specialty goods in eco-friendly packaging designed by the team.
Since 2018, Tseng Chih-ying, from Taipei, has been filming documentaries in Fujian's villages with her video team to record local history, including stories about older craftsmen and ancient buildings.
The team has put QR codes on many buildings so people can scan them and watch the videos.
"We are often moved while filming these stories, and I have developed a deep bond with the villagers. When I was back in Taiwan, a 90-year-old man even sent me a message asking when I would return to the mainland. The province is like my second home," Tseng said.