From pears to mobiles: the transformation of a Chinese village

How the successful phone business of one village family highlights the changes in rural China

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 May, 2017, 12:42pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 May, 2017, 12:42pm

Mobile phones are ubiquitous these days on the streets of the village of Yuanjiazhuang in Hebei province, northern China, with its mobile phone shop taking in some 100,000 yuan (US$14,600) annually, the Modern Express newspaper reported.

But that wasn’t always the case. In a story that highlights the rapid changes in China, Yuanjiazhuang’s road to wealth began with a local government development initiative to plant pear trees to cash in on the country’s pear industry.

With the rising wealth that brought, the mobile phone became the must-have item for villagers.

The phone shop was started by Yuan Wudong and his brother, whose yearly income has risen from 20,000 to 30,000 yuan five years ago.

“Almost everyone in our village has a phone now, and after the development of smartphones, our store will sell on average five to six phones per day,” Yuan was quoted as saying. “Less people want their phones fixed, most people are buying new phones.”

Decades back, Yuan’s father said he had only been able to earn around 200 yuan a year in the village selling vegetables on the street, with an average income of 1.8 yuan a day.

But he had insisted that his three children go to school, sending Yuan and his brother to a technical school to learn how to repair phones. Even back in 1998, Yuan had recognised the potential for phones, and decided to start a phone store with his brother.

The duo focused on repairs and sales, even helping their father get his first phone, a Nokia.

While business was not great in the first few years when phones were still seen as a luxury item, the pair persevered.

Their father, Yuan Zhenbao, now says he cannot operate without a phone, much like many of the other older villagers.

“I need to rely on WeChat to conduct my business,” he was quoted as saying.