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What used to be a farming community back in the 1950s, Huaxi, a village situated in the east of the city center of Jiangyin, in Jiangsu Province, has reportedly been transformed into a thriving Communist utopia that provides wealth to its residents.
Founded by the former secretary of the Huaxi Village Communist Party Committee, Wu Renbao, the 240-acre village has been touted as China’s richest village.
What is known about the village, however, has mostly been based largely on the word of the founder himself. This is due to the restrictions bestowed to the original “registered residents” on speaking with the press, China Chronicle reported (via Business Insider).
Wu is credited of having set up 12 corporations of varying industries from textiles to steel in the village. In 1998, he also placed Huaxi on China’s stock exchange. Residents of the village are now shareholders of a multi-sector, stock exchange-listed industry company and are paid one-fifth of its annual profits. When Wu died in 2013 of cancer at age 84, thousands of villagers paid respects and mourned his death.
According to Agence France-Presse, there are over 2,000 registered residents who live in villas and drive luxury cars. As a self-proclaimed model socialist village, Huaxi reportedly provides extraordinary amenities to the descendants of the original residents. Such benefits include free healthcare, education, luxurious homes, cars, and a sum of at least $250,000 in their bank accounts.
However, there are tens of thousands of other people who reside in Huaxi who allegedly do not enjoy the same benefits. There have been claims that the Wu family controls more than 90% of the village’s assets, AFP reported.
The village is also famously known to house the so-called “World Park” where replicas of the world’s most iconic landmarks are exhibited, featuring the Statue of Liberty, the Arc de Triomphe and others. It is also home to China’s 15th tallest building.
Despite its reputation as a modern utopia, life in Huaxi is not as ideal as many would believe. Huaxi’s residents are reportedly required to work seven days a week as the the village was designed primarily so that people could work, according to Business Insider.
Villagers are even deprived of typical social “hang out” spots such as bars, clubs, casinos, karaoke lounges or even internet cafes.
While the original 2,000 “registered residents” of the village and their descendants enjoy certain luxuries like higher wages and the previously mentioned benefits, newcomers to Huaxi are paid standard wages and don’t receive free healthcare, cars, and property.
The village is also seen by outsiders as a mere model of Chinese propaganda aiming to show how a once rural village could get rich by staying with the socialist ideals of sharing the wealth even under modern economic models. Accusations of nepotism and the leaders’ display of lavish lifestyles have also prompted officials to call the Huaxi model into question.
Huaxi is now under the leadership of founder Wu’s fourth son, Wu Xie’en, who became the village party chief after a dynastic succession in 2013.