Dubbed the “No. 1 Village Under The Sky,” Huaxi (华西村) has it’s own helicopter taxi service.
Take a two-hour drive from Shanghai into southeastern Jiangsu Province, and search for a small town called Huaxi Village.
High-flying businessmen are shuttled from Huaxi to surrounding cities in less than 10 minutes, say operators, the Tongyong Airline Company.
This is China’s first village-owned aviation business, backed by an initial investment of RMB 100 million.
Huaxi General Aviation (HGA) spokesman said “Our passengers need to get to their destinations quickly. If they’re not using our service, they won’t be on the train. It’s because they’re using their own helicopters.”
HGA is set to expand its fleet to five helicopters and one business jet by 2015.
Huaxi – at the center of a massive new technology and tourism hub – is said to have more millionaire residents than any other village in the whole country.
With its 2,000 official registered inhabitants has been recognized as the richest village in China – each resident having at least $250,000 in the bank.
The village’s previous tourism efforts include spending RMB 3 billion to build an 800-room luxury hotel Longxi International Hotel, which opened last October.
The 1,076 feet, 74 floor property, houses a one-ton gold ox and is as lofty as China World Center, the tallest building in Beijing.
There are 800 suites in the structure and that can hold around 2,000 people. There is a a gold-leaf-embellished concert hall, an upscale shopping mall, Asia’s largest revolving restaurant and rooftop swimming pools and gardens.
The village has also duplicated various domestic and overseas tourist landmarks to reel in visitors.
The replicas include the Great Wall of China, Tian’anmen Square, Arc de Triomphe, and United States Capitol Building.
Huaxi welcomes approximately 2 million tourists every year.
Regarded “China’s wealthiest village” by many, Huaxi is often touted as a model socialist village.
According to China Daily, every local household resides in a plush villa, own two cars and has at least US$250,000 worth of Renminbi in the bank. By comparison, last year the annual income for an average Chinese farmer was RMB 6,977.
There were originally 2,000 inhabitants in Huaxi but then it grew and started to swallow up some of the neighboring areas and now there is a lot of migration to the area.
The village has moved on significantly over the last 30 years going from a poor farming community to a flourishing place of enterprise and a symbol of the country’s economic growth.
They also own the town’s steel mill, textile factory, greenhouse complex, ocean shipping company and other ventures.
The village now attracts businesses interested in shipping, steel, tobacco and textiles.
Huaxi‘s economic boom is largely attributed to a highly centralized authority.
Huaxi’s affairs are run by a company, the Jiangsu Huaxi Group Corporation, reported to shelter 57 subsidiaries, including seven more holding companies. The town has interests in everything from extruded aluminum to traditional medicine to spun polyester cloth to real estate.
Locals work seven days a week. In return, the villagers get lavish annual stipends, live in spacious single-family homes instead of China’s usual cramped apartments, drive imported cars, and get basic medical care, education and even an annual vacation free from the government. Lately they also get free helicopter rides, courtesy of a 100 million renminbi, or $15.5 million, fleet of helicopters and small jets the village is buying to attract still more sightseers.
While each villager is required to work at a Huaxi business seven days a week, virtually all the manual labor is performed by what Marx might have called the proletariat: thousands of outside workers, many of them migrants, who receive better salaries and benefits than many workers elsewhere, but do not share in Huaxi’s profits. For that, one needs a hukou, or residence permit.
But if they move out of the community, they cannot take their assets with them.
The village even went public and is a listed company on Shenzhen Stock Exchange.