Thu, Jan 31, 2013 - Page 9 News List

Xi Jinping visit lifts a Chinese village, but lays bare nation’s woes

By Andrew Jacobs  /  NY Times News Service, LUOTUOWAN, China

Xi’s arrival in Luotuowan late last month appears to have been relatively impromptu. Tang said he got only a half-hour warning that China’s most powerful official was arriving, although the village party chief, Gu Rongjin (顧榮金), said he had a week’s notice.

A jovial, gravel-voiced man, Gu, 60, says he lost count of the Chinese journalists, agricultural advisers and antipoverty specialists who have descended on the village in recent weeks.

“In the beginning, I was getting calls at 2 in the morning,” he said over dinner at the large guesthouse he and his wife operate during the summer.

Some of the experts have proposed turning Luotuowan’s stony fields into walnut groves or ginseng farms; one ominously suggested that residents clear out so the area, which is surrounded by breathtakingly craggy mountains, can be developed as an eco-tourist destination.

“Once the weather warms up, the development will begin,” Gu said with gusto.

Down the road, Tang and his wife, Gu Baoqing (顧寶青), proudly re-enacted how Xi sat on their communal bed, legs crossed, and asked about their daily struggles, including details of Tang’s untreated ailments, including circulation problems and heart disease.

“He had none of those officialdom airs,” his wife said.

To their surprise, a doctor from Beijing arrived a few days later and drove Tang to a hospital in the capital. He returned home with a bottle of medication, which he boasted costs about as much as he makes in a year.

However, one detail tempered Tang’s elation: The complimentary pills would last only a month. Asked what he would do when they ran out, he seemed perplexed.

“I guess I’ll just go without,” he said.

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