Urban Legends

Maoist Village Embraces GMOs

|

The Chinese village of Nanjie is a half-socialist holdout where "villagers still lead a collective life as they did decades ago, sing revolutionary songs and chant Mao slogans every day." It appears to be much more prosperous than its market-oriented neighbors; this 1999 New York Times article notes the "spacious, well-equipped schools" and free vacations for model workers. Alas:

While the rest of the country abandoned the commune, pursued personal fortunes and dismantled state industries, the village of Nanjie in central China renationalised its land, set up factories and paid all residents £20 a month. Advertising was banned and instead, propaganda banners hung in streets which led to a 30ft statue of Mao built in 1993.

Unfortunately, few of the visitors were accountants. In the past two months, newspapers in Hong Kong and Guangzhou have unravelled a tale of Enron-style woe.

The village's triumphs were built on £120 million of secret loans from the Agricultural Bank of China, which is now calling in its loans as it prepares to list its shares on the Hong Kong stock exchange. According to one report, the bank had been instructed to support Nanjie at all costs by a conservative in the Communist Party leadership after the crackdown on the Tiananmen Square pr?tests in 1989.

According to the Asia Times, the bureaucrat forcing the bank to make the loans has retired, and the new boss is less excited about funding a Maoist amusement park. The bank wants the loans repaid, and Nanjie seems, at least, to be trying:

To reduce its debts, companies run by the village have in recent years turned to marketing a soybean seed in the name of Spaceflight II. They claimed that after the seeds were sent out into space their genes underwent a mutation that would increase their harvest by 30%.