Xiaolu Chu


  The Change of Wenchang Fishermen Villages  [back]
Jian Chen sits at the door of his house, enjoying sea breeze. Trucks and forklifts unload stones and sands on the beach nearby. Chen, a swarthy and stout fisherman in his 50s, does not work today due to the recent northwest wind.

The fleet of fishing boats docking along the shore indicates that most fishermen are not working today. Longchao is a small fishing village of Wenchang City on the east coast of Hainan Island. Illegal emigration was common before the 1990s.

Two of Chen’s uncles stowed away due to poverty. While one of them is now a retired police officer in Malaysia, the other is a rich businessman in Singapore. The reconstruction of old house of Chen’s family was financed by these two uncles. One of Chen’s younger brothers is running a Chinese grocery store in Surinam.

Fish harvest was rewarding before 1990, when fishing was on manual work. However, the incomes of fishermen were low due to the limited local consuming capability at that time.

In 1998, Chinese government launched the project of Wenchang Aerospace Base. . The local government to attract tourists afterwards initiated massive infrastructure construction. The aerospace base on the coast will be used for China’s manned space flights in the future due to the low latitude and safety concerns.

The empty space between Chen’s house and the beach is busy for the construction of a new road. A large holiday resort is built on the nearby beach, which was once occupied by coconut trees. Chen’s wife, who used to work with him on the sea, is now working in the holiday resort.

It becomes more and more difficult for Chen’s small fishing boat to catch fishes since large mechanized fishing vessels appeared in 1990s. However, due to the development of tourism in Wenchang, many people have found jobs in local holiday resorts.

Due to the development of real estate and tourism, more and more fishermen are now working on the construction sites. The decreased competition among fishermen and the increased consumption level promoted by tourists have showed positive effect on Chen’s income from fishing.

The traditional life was also impacted by tourism. A five-star hotel will be built1 kilometer away from Chen’s house. The reclamation forces the fishing boats to find a new harbor, and it is happening to many beach areas along the shore.

Many fishermen are corrupted after getting compensation fees for their land. The public security is getting worse due to the prevalence of drugs and gambling. Chen’s nephew, an officer of Wenchang Police Department, says that he frequently arrests former schoolmates in anti-narcotic activities.

Chen’s family built a new house about 500 meters away from beach with incomes from fishing and working in the holiday resort,. However, the beautiful sea scene will be totally blocked by a new holiday apartment. Their fishing life might also be replaced by tourism business.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics of China, the urbanization rate in China reaches 54.77% in 2014. Resident population of city is 749,160,000, with an increase of 18,050,000 from 2013. In contrast, resident population of country is 618,660,000, 10,950,000 less than 2013.

The urbanization in China is now on full speed. While the fishing villages with groves of coconut trees is now being surrounded and replaced by steel and concrete, and many ancient houses have been torn down. The fishermen in Longchao village have to learn how to survive in the economic tide.

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