Return to White Horse Village

Return to White Horse Village

While China's economy has boomed over the past 30 years, many of its 700 million subsistence farmers have been stuck in poverty.

Part one

Their only hope of a wage has been far from home in the factories and building sites of the boomtowns on the coast.

But the coastal cities can no longer absorb them and Beijing's answer is that new cities must rise in the fields instead.

White Horse Village is situated in Wuxi County behind the mountains to the north of the Yangtse River's famous Three Gorges.

The village has been too remote to be affected by most of the great convulsions of Chinese history.

However, this is about to change as the Three Gorges dam project nears completion, bringing ocean-going ships to the region and shifting the country's centre of gravity to the west.

Within three years a motorway will run from Chongqing to Wuxi County, a new high-rise county capital will be built - and White Horse Village marks the spot.

The village must make the necessary sacrifices for the promise of an economic miracle and desperately needed jobs.

Farmers are losing their rice and maize fields to the new city, but a new primary school is being constructed - a smart three-story complex.

Over the past two and a half years, former BBC Beijing correspondent, Carrie Gracie, has witnessed the upheaval as the village is turned into a city.

In this series Carrie returns to find out how the residents feel about the changes.

In programme one, Carrie meets Xiao Zhang, a young mother impatient for a new city life. Xiao Zhang believes it will help her find a way out of poverty for her children. However, her dreams threaten to tear her family apart.

First broadcast 10 December 2008

  • Documentaries

    Download or subscribe to this programme's podcast.