When CHINA ECONOMIC REVIEW encountered Wang Gongnian, it was on the edge of a dirt road near his home in Jinshi village near Yuexi town in Anhui province. We had been told by a local appliance store clerk that Wang had bought a refrigerator under Beijing’s subsidy program to promote rural consumption. Between 1983 and 2005, Wang traveled the country as a migrant worker. Finding employment as a painter, he had stints in Guangdong province, Beijing and Shanghai. Now, Wang is a full-time farmer in his village.
On the subsidy program:
It is good. The government is encouraging farmers to spend money. But I didn’t actually buy the refrigerator. My children bought it for me when they came back from Shenzhen for Chinese New Year. I will also buy a television. I want to build a new house in my farmland, so I need a washing machine after that.
On making money from farming:
I can still make some money – I sell vegetables and silkworms and find some work [doing painting around the area].
On why migrant workers have returned to the countryside:
A few people have come back to the village, because the bus and train fares cost too much for them to travel and look for jobs. The younger ones will go on studying at school [rather than leave the village]. Some people will get aimless if they don’t have a specific job. Many people can’t get a job right now because they need people to make introductions for them at the factories. There are fewer jobs now and so there are fewer people to make the introductions. Those people that have farmland can make enough to survive, but they can’t make money.
On his life at the moment:
I have a happy life – my family’s standard of living is not bad for our village. Both of my kids have jobs now. My son is a deputy manager in Shenzhen. He earns more than RMB100,000 (US$14,630) per year and my daughter is earning almost as much. They have good jobs so when I need some money, I just give them a call. They are filial children.