Beyond The City 2020 – Rural China visits

China is currently the second largest economy in the world with rapid urbanization creating megacities thriving with opportunities and modern infrastructure. This, however, has led to widening social and wealth gaps between cities and rural areas. The world views China as modern and developing fast, however nearly half of the population live in rural villages and earn a quarter of what city dwellers earn.

According to the information from the China Statistics Bureau, on 17th January 2020, the national urbanization rate has passed 60%. This has led to villages being abandoned or disappearing at an astonishing rate, creating a huge challenge to develop the rural economy as well as preserving traditional culture.

Who are we?

To address this social and economic gap, Beyond the City (BTC), a social enterprise, was founded in September 2017 by graduates of the elite Fudan University. BTC’s goal is to eliminate the economic barriers, highlight social inequalities between urban and rural China, and promote a holistic understanding of China to the international community.

BTC offers educational tours for urban youth to travel to several rural Provinces such as Hunan, Sichuan, Anhui, and Shandong. The tours aim to facilitate a better understanding of rural life by creating opportunities to explore, experience, interact and to bridge the gap between urban and rural China.

As part of BTC’s programming, underprivileged students from rural villages also have the opportunity to participate in professional development tours to the urban centres of Shanghai and Chengdu. Through these tours, rural youth gain a better understanding of urban opportunities and innovative approaches that they can bring back to their communities.

To encourage stronger economic ties between urban and rural China, BTC also supports rural communities to develop e-commerce platforms to sell their agricultural products directly to shops and households in urban areas.

Why BTC?

When you think of China, what are the first images that pop into your mind? Is it the Great Wall in Beijing, the dazzling skyscrapers in Shanghai, the adorable pandas in Sichuan and the avatar mountains in Zhangjiajie?

Most visitors only see a tiny bit of what China has to offer. There are huge stretches of land and mountains, rivers and lakes, and hidden cultural treasures that are found in rural areas and off the beaten track where it can be challenging to access. Connecting and interacting with local communities can also be difficult particularly with the language and cultural barriers.

This area is what BTC focuses on helping people from the cities get access to rural communities, to understand them and learn from them, and to help and give back to the local rural communities.

As part of BTC’s initiative to enhance understanding of rural communities in China, programs are now available for international youth who are interested in Chinese culture, see a different side of China, and to have interactions with local rural villagers.

Where do we take you?

Since 2017, we have taken over 2,000 urban youth from various cities to 11 rural destinations including mountain villages in west Hunan, terraced rice fields in Yunnan, Hui style traditional houses in Anhui, and traditional opera communities in Shandong.

You won’t spend your time in the tourist areas or country villas. Instead, you will live with local families in their traditional houses. You’ll spend your days in the village, not only to experience the rural life, but you’ll have the opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture and learn about the traditions and heritage of the community.

Using the information gathered from pre-trip reading, you’ll observe local sociologic features, interview villagers living there all their lives, interact with them in their farm work, and discuss and propose ideas on how to help them better understood by urban dwellers. Last but not least, we ask ourselves questions, how to help people from cities better connect with the countryside.

If you are:

  • interested in Chinese culture and looking to experience a China that few visitors get to see
  • studying degrees related to sociology or anthropology, with a focus on China
  • are doing research in related areas such as cultural preservation, history, cultural heritage, rural development, rural reconstruction

Then you should join us today!