Is The Price Of Change In Whitehorse Village, A Price That Is Worth Paying? By Ruby Spencer

The transformation of Whitehorse village

The transformation of Whitehorse village was part of the biggest urbanisation in human history. It is the story of modern china turning farmers into city people. A government driven plan for progress and development, changing hundreds of millions of lives

Whitehorse village was located 1000 miles from the coast in a remote area. It was made up of a rural, farming community, with people living in conditions far behind the modern world. Over the space of 10 years, the village joined great cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong and was turned into yet another large urban city, now commonly know as Wuxi.

Cultural Challenges

In the remote rural village, people survived from generation to generation by living off the land, farming with animals and crops. Being remote, people learned their way of life from their parents and grandparents. This would have given them a good sense of community so even the people living in harsh conditions felt attached to their ways of life when the opportunity came to change it.

The sense of community would have been very important to the people living in Whitehorse village. Having connections with their neighbors would have made lives much easier and more enjoyable. Your friends would live next door, the person you traded food and farm animals would live next door and the person you would grow up and marry would probably have been one of your neighbors. Having these connections with the people around them was a big issue and with the new city it was feared that this community would be lost with people living in such a large and urban place.

Over 10 years an entire way of life was destroyed making way for the new city. Bit by bit they built over centuries of history, whether that was a house that a farmer had built for himself, or a gravestone for a long lost relative, it did not matter, it was to be removed and built over. The farmers of Whitehorse village had lived through such hard times with so much history of their, own and generations of ancestors who had lived their before them that some people felt the need to protect when the government wanted to build over their houses.

Changing culture is not always a bad thing. Even though people are scared to leave behind all they know, what they are used to is not necessarily better than the new life they could get with the urban city. Coming alongside the new city, new and more modern cultures would evolve, particularly technological cultures including television and the internet.

However culture is a very personal thing and would be impossible to replace when the city is built over it. Though there might be other compensations that would come alongside the city that some people would prefer, the old life that they were living can never be brought back.

Economic Challenges

One of the most desirable things that came along with the new city was that more opportunities would open up, specifically jobs. Before, families might have to be separated just so there would be enough food to eat. It was normal for at least one parent to leave their young children to work in a factory in one of the other large cities. Children would grow up not really knowing their parents very well and only seeing them once or twice a year while spending their life with their grandparents instead. A new city meant new jobs, closer to their families, which was a very exiting opportunity for solving this common problem.

Some of the farmers living in Whitehorse village were only earning around £25 per year whereas if there was a new large city there would be many more opportunities to earn a much higher wage. This would mean a better life style for the farmers with even more opportunities opened up when they have more money.

An economic boom is a period of rapid economic expansion, resulting in higher GDP (gross domestic product), lower unemployment and rising asset prices. Having the new city would cause an economic boom as retail would replace farming as the business of the new city. The problem though with having this boom is they usually suggest the economy is overheating creating pressures on the economy growing.

The economic benefits tie in very well with the social benefits as when someone has more money they are more likely to afford a better standard of life. This is what will happen in the new city as more and more people will be able to afford more comfortable apartments meaning more will be built meaning more cities will be created. A problem though with having the social and economical benefits overlapping is that if you are not earning very much or living in very nice conditions, you end up with housing that could be badly built or not very pleasant to live in. Being put in this situation causes society to look on you very differently as there are such large gaps between social groups in places like China.

Having the new city built transforms the economy that the villagers of Whitehorse village where used to. Having money opens up so many opportunities in the new city but if you end up in a position where you don't have any, then people could end up with harder lives in the new city than they had when they were farmers in Whitehorse village.

Social Challenges

Many of the villagers did not want the new city but were persuaded by the government when they where promised a new school for their children. Many farmers were very poor and did not have spare money to spend on giving their children an education. This meant that the children would grow up and just take over whatever job their parents did or another very low paid job in the city meaning families would just stay in that one social group without the ability to move. Having a new school in the city meant better education and a larger chance for the child to grow up and succeed in life. However when the new school was made, many children did not get in to start with and even if they had a place, the classes were very large, with around 5000 pupils in a school and 100 in a class. This meant the student to teacher ratio was too high for any child to get the real attention and education they needed in the classroom. Farmers had just agreed to the new city because they wanted the future generation to benefit with a new high school but, though the government did give the farmers what they wanted, they bent the truth and did not really give a very large opportunity for the children.

The change of Whitehorse village was really forced upon the villagers and many did not have a choice in the matter. Those who did not accept it, were slowly picked on by the government until they too were forced to change. The idea was that this was just a price that was worth paying for the overall benefit, even though it was not fair on the farmers. This change not being voluntary made villagers even more upset and some people even started riots after being told that they were going to be evicted.

When the city was fully built and ready, the good lives that the farmers were promised or hoped for were not necessarily given to them. The social benefit did not come quickly for many people as the rural families were not the automatic priority. The villagers are forced to pay the price of change and the government benefits.

Political Challenges

Politics played a big part in the development of Whitehorse village as it was the government who decided everything. They gave the villagers little choice in the process of development and throughout everything, it looked as though they were not thinking about the quality of the new city but just thinking about how fast they can do it, eventually though they where forced to promise safety in the building after protests. The problem with the building of Wuxi is that the government had the choice in everything, building the cities and transforming places, and they were not always thinking about what was best for the villagers and the people who wanted to live in Wuxi.

Corruption is known to be one of the biggest threats to China's advance. With so many people competing and earning more the chance of corruption is much higher in the new city. Developing more places like Whitehorse village might just destroy China in the end as in time, the society would become more corrupt. In this case, China developing so much quicker than the rest of the world is a mistake and should slow down but at the same time the society might not become corrupt enough to destroy China. Even because of the odds, China is willing to take this risk whic could be a very large mistake.

Environmental Challenges

The rapid urban growth is dangerously affecting China, however Chinese officials have barely started to acknowledge the problem. In the meantime, the people of China are forced to face environmental disasters on a daily basis due to the rapid urban growth. Building places like Wuxi new town would only make this worse with things like air pollution, water pollution, deforestation and the fact that China is still home to about 1.3 billion people, meaning over one-seventh of the planet's people live in China and with more people brings the need for more resources which again would affect the environment.

China has a theory; that by 2020 one in eight humans will live in a Chinese city, totalling more than one billion people. To accomplish this they are taking a significant gamble. Instead of slowly expanding urban areas, the country's government decided to build entire towns all in one go, like the development of Whitehorse village, instead of over a long period of time. China really needs to look at the environment they are destroying and try to fix it, as if they carry on like this it is estimated that an added 300 million Chinese will become city residents by 2030, taking in as much as four times more energy and two and a half times more water per head than rural Chinese. That shows that creating Wuxi new town will infact, have a negative affect on the enviroment in the long term

Was It Worth It?

This generation is living through the transformation of Whitehorse village so that future generations can benefit. It might not feel fair or worth it in the present time for the villagers as they are casualties of the process but the hope is that in the future lives would get better. The expectation is that as the landscape is transformed, the opportunities get transformed and ways of life get transformed. Even though a lot was lost in this process, it is to be expected that a lot more will be gained with the new more modern ways of life introduced to the villagers of Whitehorse village. If China did not develop, if it just stood still, then it would get left behind which would have a negative effect on a much larger population than Whitehorse village.

The problem with development is that we don't know now what the total cost will be to society, the environment, the culture or the economy. It seems in Whitehorse village as though there is potential for lives to be improved, opportunities created and standard of living going up. Development is only successful if the government invests in sustainable and environmentally friendly methods of production. So time will tell if the price was worth paying but on balance it seems that more people have benefitted eventually than have lost out.

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