Rural Chinese Farmer Finds New Path To Wealth Millions of young Chinese farmers have left their villages to find work in the Dickensian factories of China's coastal cities -- but not everyone in the Chinese countryside wants to take that route. One farmer in Jiangsu province, seeing the opportunities afforded by the Internet, decided that he could set up a factory in the countryside and make business come to him. He saw a gap in the market and established a furniture factory, benefiting from cheaper rural costs to undercut IKEA furniture prices by 50 percent, and now earns millions selling his furniture online across China -- all simply because of the Internet. He's been so successful, that Beijing has sent a team to study his business model in the hope of helping other poor rural areas do the same.
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Rural Chinese Farmer Finds New Path To Wealth

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Rural Chinese Farmer Finds New Path To Wealth

Rural Chinese Farmer Finds New Path To Wealth

Rural Chinese Farmer Finds New Path To Wealth

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Millions of young Chinese farmers have left their villages to find work in the Dickensian factories of China's coastal cities — but not everyone in the Chinese countryside wants to take that route. One farmer in Jiangsu province, seeing the opportunities afforded by the Internet, decided that he could set up a factory in the countryside and make business come to him. He saw a gap in the market and established a furniture factory, benefiting from cheaper rural costs to undercut IKEA furniture prices by 50 percent, and now earns millions selling his furniture online across China — all simply because of the Internet. He's been so successful, that Beijing has sent a team to study his business model in the hope of helping other poor rural areas do the same.

AUDIE CORNISH, Host:

Here's NPR's Rob Gifford.

ROB GIFFORD: Things are changing fast in China, but it's still unusual for a farmer to have a brand new iPhone 4. But here, sitting in his sunny but cold office in the tiny village in rural Xiangsu(ph) Province is 28-year-old Sun Han, chatting away on his beloved new gadget.

M: (Mandarin spoken)

GIFFORD: Just five years ago, Sun was one of the army of migrants following the well-beaten path from countryside to city. He worked in a factory, and also as a security guard in Shanghai. But one day, as he was thinking about how he could improve his life a little faster, he had a light bulb moment.

M: (Soundbite of printer)

GIFFORD: Starting with cheap shelving, before moving up to beds and tables and chairs, his success was all achieved without even having his own website. It was all done on China's most popular online marketplace, TaoBao.com, where you can literally buy and sell anything.

M: (Through Translator) Most of our sales are from the Internet, especially through TaoBao. I'd say about 70 percent of our sales are from there. If there were no Internet, we'd never make this kind of money. Without the Internet, we wouldn't be able to do this at all.

GIFFORD: (Soundbite of machinery)

GIFFORD: With woodcutting machines all around, one of the local Communist Party leaders - whose family name, like almost everyone in the village, is also Sun - gives a tour of the factory. He's deeply involved with the new business here. We officials have to lead the way in getting rich, he grins.

M: (Soundbite of hammering)

GIFFORD: (Soundbite of conversations)

GIFFORD: And when she's saved some money, party chief Sun says he knows where she is going to want to live. He takes visitors to a housing development on the edge of the village that looks remarkably like an urban housing development in Shanghai or another city.

M: (Mandarin spoken)

GIFFORD: Rob Gifford, NPR News, Xiangsu Province, Eastern China.

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