City in Inner Mongolia explores new ways to fight poverty

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Ulanqab of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region was once an impoverished area due to its cold climate, strong wind, and barren land. Now, these natural disadvantages have been turned into advantages, attracting several well-known enterprises to gather there. All of the previously poverty-stricken county-level regions have lifted off from the list of impoverished counties.

Cold climate and strong wind turn into a high-tech power source

“At present, 10 data centers have launched in Ulanqab, such as those under Huawei, Apple, Alibaba, with a total investment of 35.7 billion yuan (US$5 billion) and 1.5 million servers,” said Ma Shaoming, deputy director of Big Data Development Bureau in Ulanqab.

A few years ago, the natural environment restricted the development of agriculture here. Among the 11 county-level regions of Ulanqab, 10 are poverty-stricken. The impoverished population once accounted for 46.2% of all people in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. In 2016, the autonomous region received the approval to become a comprehensive pilot zone for the development of big data. Ulanqab seized this opportunity to turn the disadvantages of its natural environment into resource superiority.

The annual average temperature in Ulanqab is 4.3 degrees Celsius, which is suitable for setting up data storage centers. The low-temperature can be used for 10 months of the year for cooling, which can save 30% of energy consumption. Although the land is barren, the geological structure of Ulanqab is stable for building data recovery centers. Thanks to the strong winds, Ulanqab has become an important production base of wind energy, so big data companies can enjoy the lowest electricity cost.

Construction for a 6 million-kilowatt wind power base has recently started, and it will be able to deliver 20 billion kilowatt-hours of clean electricity to the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region each year after completion at the end of this year.

Cool-season vegetable planting benefits farmers

Zhang Xiaoling, a 65-year-old farmer who lives in Qahar Right Front Banner of Ulanqab, did not believe that the land could grow profitable crops besides potatoes and wheat. 

Nowadays, growing cool-season vegetables has become the main way for her and other villagers to get out of poverty. The cold climate used to restrict the development of agriculture in Ulanqab, but now it is a high-quality resource for the development of the agricultural industry.

From July to September, Zhang and the villagers harvested cool-season vegetables such as carrots, Chinese cabbage, broccoli, etc., and sold them to other parts of China as well as Russia, Japan, and South Korea.

It is not suitable to grow cool-season vegetables in the summer in southern China. With an average temperature of only 18.8 degrees Celsius in the summer, Ulanqab is an ideal planting place for cool-season vegetables. Now Ulanqab has become one of the three major cool-season vegetable production bases in China. The vegetable planting area is stable at 800,000 mu (53333 hectares), and the income of planting vegetables accounts for 40% of the total income of the impoverished people.

In order to provide technical support for planting cool-season vegetables, a work station was established in 2012. The station has developed new species of cool-season vegetables and special machinery to increase the work efficiency of farmers by 10 to 20 times.

“In the past, the yield of 500 kilograms of wheat per mu only earned 300 to 400 yuan,” Zhang said. “After planting cool-season vegetables, the average income per mu was 5,000 yuan. Some vegetables like peppers and onions can earn 10,000 yuan per mu.”

Cool climate makes a summer resort

“The cool climate has become an important tourism resource of Ulanqab,” said Cai Guifang, director of the Culture, Tourism and Sports Bureau of Ulanqab. “Summer wellness, summer study and summer real estate are becoming new growth drivers for summer tourism.”

According to Cai, Ulanqab’s number of tourists and tourism income in 2019 increased by more than 10% over the previous year.

Ulanqab has been awarded the title of “China’s grassland summer resort” by the Chinese Meteorological Society. It takes only one hour to get there from Beijing by high-speed rail, but the summer temperature is lower than the Chinese capital by 10 degrees Celsius. High altitude and high latitude result in a cool climate there, and midsummer is as cool as autumn.

Striving to build the summer resort, Ulanqab keeps improving the tourism infrastructure while retaining the original ecological beauty. In the past two years, Ulanqab has invested more than 3 billion yuan in the construction of infrastructure and services for its scenic areas.

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