China Embarks on Toilet Revolution Project for the Rural Communities

Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation speaks at the opening of the Reinvented Toilet Expo in Beijing, Nov. 6, 2018. [Photo courtesy of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation]
Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation speaks at the opening of the Reinvented Toilet Expo in Beijing, Nov. 6, 2018. [Photo courtesy of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation]

In addition to education and healthcare, the Chinese government is also turning its attention to something equally important to rural areas: toilets.

The world’s second-largest economy is in the midst of a “toilet revolution,” launched in 2015 to improve restrooms across the country. In rural areas, some toilets were little more than makeshift shelters surrounded by corn stalks, and some were open pits next to pigsties. Toilets might not be glamorous to think about, but for villagers, they provide a cleaner and healthier environment, for sightseers a better holiday experience, and for businesses, big opportunities.

China has announced plans to install or renovate toilets for 10 million rural households in 30,000 villages this year. The fund allocation by the central government is expected to be 7 billion yuan (about 1.04 billion U.S. dollars).

Besides toilet upgrades, China is also upgrading garbage and sewage treatment facilities to build a more beautiful countryside. China has more than 550,000 villages and companies are eager to seize the massive business opportunities.

“Reinvented Toilet Expo,” a forum hosted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation held in Beijing last year, showcased various cutting edge toilet technologies in lieu of sewers, making them easier and cheaper to install. Toilet revolution is just part of a much grander rural revitalization strategy, first put forward during the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in 2017 and repeatedly stressed by the Chinese leadership since then.

The strategy aims at achieving the basic modernization of agriculture and rural areas by 2035, and the grand goal of a strong agriculture, a beautiful countryside and well-off farmers by 2050. To guarantee its national food security and improve its agricultural competitiveness, China will have more high-standard farmland, install more efficient water conservation facilities, and use more advanced agricultural equipment.

China is also promoting the supply-side structural reform to increase supply of farm produce in high demand. Farms in China are becoming larger in land sizes. Their operations are being mechanized and transformed by information technology. Rural infrastructure and basic services are being improved. The government has announced plans to provide safe water to all rural population within two years. A new round of rural power grid upgrading will be completed.

Policy makers are stepping up efforts to direct more funds to agriculture, farmers and rural areas. Private companies are also encouraged to join the endeavor. All these efforts are creating opportunities in related industries such as green farming, e-commerce, tourism, renewable energy, and construction. The rural revitalization strategy also includes the prosperity of culture and effective rural governance to make sure rural society is vigorous and stable.

China’s modernization drive will not be complete without the modernization of its agricultural and rural areas. Its 600 million rural residents will one day enjoy the same quality service in education, health care and environment management as their urban counterparts.

This is a massive project that will inevitably take a long time, but China is working hard and learning from other countries. China is confident that one day, villagers across the country will enjoy thriving businesses, pleasant living environments, social etiquette and civility, effective governance, and prosperity; tourists will spend their holidays in the countryside enjoying traditional Chinese culture and beautiful sceneries; and international investors will take advantage of the rising business opportunities in the vast rural areas and cooperate with millions of diligent and open-minded farmers. Such success will not only belong to China, but also to the world, where a number of countries are also finding solutions to revitalize their rural areas.

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