Villagers in Xiaogang, often referred to as the birthplace of China's rural reform, have received their first dividends from a share-holding reform aimed at improving the vitality of the collective economy in rural areas.
The 4,288 villagers in Xiaogang, in east China's Anhui Province, each received dividends of 350 yuan (about 55.5 U.S. dollars) last Friday from business earnings under the share-holding reforms in 2017.
"Though it's not a big sum of money, it definitely marks a hopeful beginning," said farmer Cheng Xibing. "As the share-holding collective in Xiaogang continues to improve its operation, we will benefit more from the reform."
Xiaogang initiated the share-holding reform in 2016, after villagers turned their rights in collective operating assets and intangible assets -- a total capital amounting to 30.26 million yuan (about 4.8 million U.S. dollars) -- into shares in a collective.
The collective made a profit of 1.5 million yuan from operations in education, tourism and capital management in 2017.
China started pilot schemes of a share-holding reform in May 2015, allowing farmers to own, benefit from, collateralize and inherit shares, in an effort to inject new growth into the rural economy and increase farmer incomes.
Prior to the reform, farmers were only owners of the assets in name, and could not operate or profit from them.
Xiaogang Village became famous in 1978 after 18 of its farmers made a secret pact to resist the country's egalitarian agricultural system. The pact meant that after the farmers handed a certain percentage of their produce to government, they were able to keep the rest of the harvest from their contracted land for themselves.
The new scheme resulted in bumper grain production and the initiative was soon rolled out across the country.