China’s Little Che Pushes Rural Reform

From Economic Observer Online:

Ma Yonghong, 25, exudes a shrewdness and maturity inconsistent with his age. Scarred by two unsuccessful attempts to shake up local politics in his mountain hometown in Shaanxi, he still harbored ambitions to impact rural agriculture and leadership there.

After losing a 2005 election for the village chairmanship, Ma devoted four years to improving local education, and founding a farmers’ association in his hometown village of Hexing.

These formative experiences fostered a perception of Ma among other volunteers as a revolutionary in the Maoist mold, devoted to rural issues. “Have you ever seen the television series, Youth of Dream? Had I been born in that time, I would have been the first revolutionary to stand up,” he said. Volunteers have also drawn comparisons of him to Che Guevara.

But despite ramping up his grass-roots involvement and refining his campaign tactics, he lost a second run for village chair in 2008, against the incumbent He Gang.

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