Entrepreneur Serves Motherland, Promotes Hometown's Development

 December 28, 2023

At the age of 23, she moved to Germany and, several years later, to Ecuador, where she founded a well-known clothing and footwear brand. She returned to her hometown, Qingtian, a county in Lishui, in East China's Zhejiang Province, several years ago, to operate Fangshan Valley Agricultural Heritage Cultural Park. In recent years, she has led local villagers as they have strived toward common prosperity. Who is she? Yang Xiaoai, honorary president of Ecuador Qingtian Natives' Association and president of Zhejiang Yinghe Ecological Agriculture Development Company.

Original Aspiration

Yang, a native of Fangshan, a township in Qingtian, moved to Germany in 1991, and then she established a Chinese restaurant in Cologne. Before she moved to Germany, her grandfather, a revolutionist, gave her a book, to help her learn the German language, and he told her, "Never forget your motherland, and always remember to serve your motherland." To this day, Yang bears her grandfather's words in mind. 

In 2002, Yang moved from Germany to Ecuador, where she established a clothing and footwear brand. The items produced by her company have been sold in many countries. In 2014, her company began producing high-end socks, a line from China, and the socks became very popular in Ecuador. Her company also produces hundreds of varieties of slippers. 

When she speaks of the rapid development of her enterprise, Yang says, "Our production lines come from the motherland, so do the production technology and the raw materials. We have benefited a lot from China's reform and opening up." 

In 2009, Yang established Ecuador Qingtian Natives' Association and she has led the members in integrating into the local community, and in improving the competitiveness of Chinese products in the local market. 

Yang is referred to as "Ecuador Rose" by overseas Chinese in Ecuador. She says she is like the grass — ordinary, but containing the most powerful vitality. 


Spreading Love, Warmth 

Yang, who has a benevolent heart, is always willing to do her best to help people in need. During the 2011 West Lake International Expo, in Hangzhou, in Zhejiang Province, Yang served as an interpreter during the National Day of Ecuador activity. 

In April 2016, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck the coastal areas of northwestern Ecuador. Three rescue teams from China provided quake relief, but they needed interpreters. When Yang heard about the situation, she gave up her vacation in Qingtian, returned to Ecuador, and served as an interpreter and a guide for the relief-aid teams. 

Yang also mobilized members of Ecuador Qingtian Natives' Association and employees of her company to donate quake-relief materials to aid the victims. The trucks transporting the quake-relief materials displayed Chinese and Ecuadorian flags. Yang also donated slippers, salt, rice, cooking oil and other supplies to villagers living on remote islands in Ecuador. 

During the past 15 years, Yang has donated funds and materials to nursing homes in Qingtian, to help the elderly people. Yang has helped protect the rivers in Fangshan, and she has also led villagers in building dams and green areas along the rivers. 

She also donated money and materials to help quake-affected people in Wenchuan, in 2008, and in Yushu, in 2010. Throughout the years, she has helped raise more than 5 million yuan (US $714, 286) to help Chinese people in need.

"China is my home, forever. We have benefited from China's reform and opening-up, and we should do our best to contribute to the development of the motherland," Yang says. 

Starting New Business 

As a native of Fangshan, Yang has always dreamed of returning to her hometown to help boost its development. 

In her view, overseas Chinese businessmen have integrated cultural backgrounds, so they are better able to introduce advanced foreign technology to their hometowns, and so they are also better able to help people in other countries better understand China, and the development of China's agriculture and rural areas. 

Fangshan is known for its rice-fish agricultural system, which dates back more than 1,300 years. Ecological symbiosis exists in the traditional rice-fish agricultural system; rice provides shade and food for fish, while the fish provide fertilizer to the rice, help regulate micro-climatic conditions, soften the soil, disturb the water, and eat the larvae and weeds in paddy fields. 

In 2005, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations selected the rice-fish agricultural system as one of the Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS). The GIAHS represent not only stunning natural landscapes, but also agricultural practices that create livelihoods in rural areas while combining biodiversity, resilient ecosystems and tradition and innovation in a unique way. 

In 2019, Yang left her overseas business to her family, and she returned to her hometown to establish Fangshan Valley Agricultural Heritage Cultural Park. The park organizes various farming activities for tourists, so they can experience the charm of agricultural heritage. The park also holds exhibitions, to display traditional farming culture and agricultural heritage. 

The agricultural heritage cultural park has not only created many job opportunities for locals, it has also provided a platform for local students, overseas Chinese and international friends to communicate and exchange ideas with each other. The park has also helped spur the vigorous development of the local tourism economy. 

"Traditional farming culture is full of vitality. I will continue to work hard to promote the integration of agriculture and tourism, inherit and develop agricultural heritage culture, and make greater contributions to rural revitalization and common prosperity," Yang says. In 2020, she was named a March 8th Red-Banner Holder of Lishui. 


Photos Provided by Interviewee

(Source: Qingtian Women's Federation / Women of China English Monthly September 2023 issue)


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