The Province of Guangxi, asides being a region known for its ethnic diversity and culture is also an origin of the Ancient Silk Road. The developing province holds a lot of attractions, innovations and culture from its capital Nanning, to its industrialised city of Liuzhou and the idyllic county of Guilin, a land of two rivers and four lakes. BUKOLA OGUNSINA writes.
Guangxi Province in the South of China also known as ‘Gui’ has an allure and uniqueness that attracts people from all over the world and within China. According to reports, the autonomous region has a history spanning back 2000 years. It first became a province in the Song Dynasty, and got its name ‘Guangxi’ in the Qing Dynasty. And by 1958, Guangxi Zhuang as it is also called was set up. During the cold winds and freezing winter in Beijing, Guangxi offered warm weather.
So when China International Publishing Group (CIPG) mentioned that it would be on the itinerary for the Heads of International Departments of Major Media from African Countries, it was gladly accepted with much gusto! On this programme sponsored by China’s Ministry Of Commerce and organised to the letter by CIPG, everyone was full of curiosity to what was ahead.
Guangxi shares borders with Vietnam and the group arrived its capital called Nanning. It is considered the 9th largest province in China. A mountainous area, the weather is tropical and friendly, so are its ethnically diverse people. From the cab drivers with foreigners as passengers who warmly ask questions in halting English, to people from other regions of China who had moved to Guangxi in search of work and then decided to stay on.
There are presently 12 ethnic groups in Guangxi, and an institution called, Xiangsihu College of Guangxi University For Nationalities to drive home this point! From further information provided by the Information Office of Guangxi Provincial CPC Committee, the region has 14 prefecture level cities, 56 Counties, 34 districts, 12 ethnic autonomous counties and seven county-level cities.
Ecology is very much valued in Guangxi, a region also considered an international link to ASEAN countries. Not only this, but also Nanning permanently holds the ASEAN Expo in China. The region is regarded as the vital gateway connecting the Belt and Road through railways which inspire and encourage connectivity.
At a formal lunch in Nanning, (ranked as one of China’s top ten happiest cities in 2015) to welcome the Heads of International Departments of Major Media from African Countries to Guangxi, the Minister of the Province, Gan Yi, made some strong explanations in his keynote address, “Guangxi is the origin of the ancient maritime Silk Road.
“China and Africa have a community of shared future especially Guangxi,” he said. He further added that there have been exchanges between the Province of Guangxi and Africa. “We have sent a medical team and lots of locals have invested in Africa,” Gan elaborated as he wished the visiting team from Africa a pleasant stay and a successful visit in the province.
From Ethiopia, Asfaw Worku Belahew, gave the vote of thanks on behalf of the African delegation, thanking the Minister for the hospitality accorded. “It’s a great honour for me to represent this team here. In Beijing we have visited many places such as the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, a place where the ancient and modern shake hands.
“We are journalists from all parts of Africa. On behalf of them I say thank you. We also will emulate what we see here to share with our people in Africa,” he said. And thus the adventure began…
A Tour Of Guangxi Broadcasting System
The Guangxi Broadcasting System has ten television channels and eight radio frequencies, the deputy director of the news room pointed out, “We are just in the process of making two programmes. We have just finished one called world vision and the other is on the economy.”
He explained that the studio can be the busiest and has been in use for six years. The newsroom is a combination of production and editing section.
A local production with a section for international and breaking news, world vision targets the entire Chinese population. On how it receives feedback of performance, the director stated, “We measure our impact by the ratings we receive from CCTV.”
At the production hall, the executive director of production explained that the studio was built in the year 2000. “We produce a variety of our programmes. A variety of 100 shows are produced annually.” The hall has a capacity of 324 audiences.
China ASEAN Cloud
China ASEAN Cloud is where traditional technology is integrated to modern application. It is more focused on production of television and radio content. It is made of two parts, and on the app one can see as well as listen and interact with presenters on radio platform. According to the man in charge, ratings increased with visual radio production. Guangxi Radio and TV presently has five offices in the ASEAN region.
Guangxi Daily Media Group
The Guangxi Daily Media Group is ranked among the top 50 news media in China. It produces newspapers and television programmes. With a followership of over 0.86 billion, it circulates about 40,000 newspaper copies per day a staff mentioned.
The Guangxi Cloud media platform works for 25,000 websites, including that of the government in Guangxi. The cloud integrates four different aspects. The app is mostly found on mobile phones.
Vice Chief Editor of Guangxi Daily remarked during the visit, “The Company was founded in 1949. It will in a few days celebrate its 70th anniversary….We have achieved new media convergence.
“Besides news releases we are also occupied with publishing and production of TV series. We have about 1,100 employees all together.”
A Visit To Xiangsihu College Of Guangxi University For Nationalities
The Xiangsihu College Of Guangxi University For Nationalities presents the diverse ethnic groups in the region. A colourful welcome, as the African media team was received by staff and students of the university.
Located in Nanning, the institution was established in 2002. From information provided by the institution, the college has eight departments, providing 35 undergraduate majors.
Students at the university are expected to master one traditional skill. There are equally foreign students from ASEAN countries in attendance at the university. About four hundred students from the university go abroad to study. The college has relations with 26 universities and institutions of higher learning in ASEAN countries. It also has relations with France, United Kingdom, and United States. Annually, students are sent to international and domestic partner universities to study and for internships.
According to one of the staff, when foreign students (ASEAN) come to the college, they learn Chinese culture. At the time of visit, there were no African students yet at the institution. However the college is willing to establish that bridge for foreign students from Africa to come and study at the university. There are also short course programmes available.
The president of the Institution, Professor Nong Kezhong, said “The relationship and friendship between China and African countries have a long history …agreement signing which has made great cooperation in terms of quality and quantity. Our cooperation and outcomes show that we are very close friends.
“There are two types of schools, application oriented and theory oriented. The university is the former. Training students to fit into the needs for enterprises so when they graduate they can easily get employed,” he said.
Attaching importance to the region’s diversity, it’s a place to learn of ethnic minority culture, for example the Zhuang who are the majority among the ethnic minority groups, are about 12 million people. It is presently the largest ethnic minority group in China, the professor explained, adding that culture needs to be placed in innovation for it to continue to have meaning to the young and be marketable.
“The future of the Chinese culture depends on the young generation of China. How to preserve it depends on innovation. The first step is to let the young experience what the culture is. Finally they will innovate and embrace the culture,” he expressed.
Foreign students who wish to study at the university would however need to undertake the HSK, Chinese pinyin (Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi), a Chinese language proficiency test to learn basic Chinese which would enable them study at the college.
National Museum Of Guangxi
Situated by the bank of the Yong River, the Anthropology Museum Of Guangxi is a haven for the preservation of ethnic livelihood, production tools, handicrafts and culture in general that span centuries. The museum itself according to records provided was established in 2008 and opened to the public in 2009.
The museum has six permanent exhibitions namely: Bronze Drum Culture Exhibition, Colourful Guangxi, Guangxi Ethnic Culture Exhibition, Zhuang Culture Exhibition, Chinese Culture Exhibition for Nationalities, Colourful World, Exhibition Of International Ethnic Culture Collection and Yesterday Once More, Century Old Items Exhibition.
On display in a section of the museum is a selection of various ancient brass drums, a heritage of the region which earned it the nickname, ‘the Galaxy Of The Brass Drums’.
A Visit To The Ecological Garden Park
The Ecological Garden Park in Guangxi according to reports has about 2,600 species of plants. The park is said to generate 50 million in less than one year. It hosts weddings and other social functions, retreats and activities. Investment at the Park is worth 2.7 billion RMB, employing about 700 people.
The Park is visited by 1000 people daily and at weekends 4000, with more visitors trooping in during the holidays. In a week the Park makes about 18,000 RMB and tickets are sold for 45 RMB each.
The visit to Nanning ended with a Luncheon organised by Guangxi government officials, revealing that Nanning already has very close ties with The Gambia, Malawi and Madagascar. Victor Torres from Mozambique gave the vote of thanks.
Taking The Bullet Train To Liuzhou, The Dragon City
The train ride was fascinating and in no time we arrived the Dragon City. Liuzhou is an industrialised city focusing on ecological and environmental protection situated in the central part of Guangxi Province, nicknamed the ‘Dragon City’. It has five counties and five districts with ethnic groups such as Han, Zhuang, Miao, Yao, and Dong among others. According to reports from the Information Office of the Guangxi Provincial CPC Committee, Liuzhou provides one seventh of the Province’s GDP, one fifth industry output and one sixth fiscal income in Guangxi.
Liuzhou’s resident population is 4 million. The industrial economy accounts for 1/5th of that of Guangxi. According to reports the city’s GDP exceeded RMB 275.567 billion, with an increase of 7.1per cent, while the annual per capita GDP reached USD 11,055.
Liuzhou won the award for the most ‘Innovative City In 2010’, and ‘2011 China’s top 10 beautiful cities’ and the award of ‘2017China Excellent Green Development Cities’ among others. The city is recognised as a transportation hub and one of the five important automobile production bases in China with an annual output of 2.53 million vehicles.
A visit to the Liu Jiang River on a boat ride at night and you will not be disappointed at the beautiful sights that envelope you.
A Visit To The Liuzhou Industrial Museum
The Liuzhou industrial museum according to reports is based on one of the old factories in Liuzhou. It merges together culture and history of industrial heritage protection among others. The museum has three standing exhibition halls. Liuzhou initially as we were informed longed to be the capital of Guangxi Province and asked to be made so instead of Nanning. The museum guide explained that the production of charcoal burning engine truck in the area, demonstrates the spirit of Liuzhou which symbolises determination. An interesting aspect to the story of Liuzhou’s development is that both male and female contributed to the city’s industrialisation.
Arriving Liuzhou, a mini type car prevalent on the roads captured our attention. Soon enough we got to know that they were electric cars manufactured by Baojun Car Company. Baojun specialises in electrical cars and has its own research centre.
“We charge our vehicles once a week. The energy costs about 9.6 kilowatt by hundred kilometres. In China from 1 kilometre electricity costs 0.5 to 6 RMB. For gasoline it might cost you over fifty RMB,” our guide on this visit explained to us, adding, “The emission system we are applying is the latest one.”
Taking The Bullet Train To Guilin: A Land Of Two Rivers And Four Lakes
The Osmanthus flower… the flower is inescapable once you arrive Guilin. It remains a symbolic flower synonymous to the County. Teas and cakes among others are made from this beautiful flower. The spirit of the land with its natural green lands, rivers, lakes and mountains is welcoming to visitors. According to reports, Guilin is recommended by UNWTO as one of China’s four tourist destinations for its ‘Karst land formation’. We were told that Guilin has welcomed more than 290 heads of states or governments since China’s reform and opening up policy was adopted.
The land awakes as early as 4am with a flurry of activities in the market area as traders unload their wares, mostly fresh vegetables to sell out and move on. This was revealed on our last day of visit to the county and return journey to Beijing, China’s capital. This scenario showed how hardworking the residents were.
After years of development Guilin is transformed and is still evolving into an area of pastoral beauty. The county alleviated 7.04 people out of poverty. Guilin’s first newspaper was published in 1897.
According to a government official, “Guilin lies in the north eastern part of Guangxi Province with a population of 5.4 million.”
“Guilin is known for its scenic places and tourism. It has the most beautiful topography and natural legacy in the world. The Guilin Mountains and rivers is a typical example of Chinese natural scenery. Guilin is a city of long history and rich culture. It has the history of 2,100 years since Han dynasty,” he noted.
Two Rivers And Four Lakes Elephant Hill Scenic Area
Two Rivers And Four Lakes Elephant Hill Scenic Area is a landmark and tourist attraction of Guilin. It covers 120 000 hectares.
At the trunk of the elephant mountain, the guide mentioned that the space between the trunk and the body is called the ‘Water Moon Hall’. There are 22 carvings and paintings on the walls of the mountain.
While in ancient times the trunk of the elephant mountain was used as a city dock, in times of examination a lot of students came to there to write exams. The mountain really has the look of an elephant.
Other memorable experiences were the lunch on the boat. As it sailed from the wharf to Yang Shuo County, the group during the sail experienced the achievements in sustainable development of ecological landscape of Guilin City.
We were later that night hosted to dinner by officials of the county.
Yang Shuo County
Arriving at the Wharf in Yang Shuo County, a walk through the street of Yang Shuo city was experienced before visiting Xinping to see the Sanqianli Leisure Resort Project.
An officer from the ministry of information Office, Xu Yingning explained during the bus ride, that the street visited was the only Street in Yang Shuo County. “Several companies from America, France and Germany are on the Street. Many foreigners have come here to visit.” A Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) fast food outlet was spotted somewhere on the street!
“Yang Shuo is under the umbrella of Guilin. It’s one of the world’s famous tourist attractions. It was praised as somewhere that combines tourism elements and where culture is rich in 2009. It has 11 ethnic minority groups. It has a long history and was built 1,400 years ago.
“There are many tourist attractions here including ancient inscriptions on stones. Many celebrities have come to Yang Shuo for its natural scenery. Nixon, Clinton and queen of Denmark Margaret the second, have visited Yang Shuo.”
According to Xu, Yang Shuo from 2016 to 2018 was ranked tops for its tourism in the whole of Guangxi Province and is home to various types of ethnic minority groups. Guilin has 13 colleges in the county famous for boat tourism. The county connects the West, East and Central parts of China. By July of 2017 it had become the healthy demonstration area for tourism.
“The whole city is making the blue print come true, according to policy requirements of new city lifting the old cities into levels of regional development and urban areas. It has been focusing on poverty alleviation project construction, industry development and so on. Today Guilin is a city of healthy economy, rich culture and harmonious life of people,” another county official explained.
The trip to Guangxi Province is a journey that is unforgettable. And as the tours ended and we headed for the airport to leave for Beijing, Guangxi was dearly missed even before the plane took flight, gliding off the runway.