Changes in Chinese countryside in the eyes of auto repair shop owner in Xinjiang

By Li Yanan, People’s Daily


Tumanbay Yoldash, a 41-year-old owner of an auto repair shop in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, was changing tires for a freight truck while humming a tune to himself on the afternoon of a sunny day. The service was provided for the fourth client he received that day.


There was a time when Yoldash’s shop was the only auto repair shop in Ulugqat township, Wuqia county, Kizilsu Kirghiz autonomous prefecture, Xinjiang. Over these years, Yoldash has experienced personally the changes in his hometown, and seen how the lives of the local people have changed.


In the past, horse and camel were the main means of transport for herdsmen, and most of the local roads were gravel roads full of bumps and hollows. Today, more and more families have private cars, and expressway network has extended to Ulugqat township.


Local herdsmen have seen their income increase continuously and moved into spacious and bright new houses built under the country’s construction projects launched to provide better and affordable housing for rural and urban residents, leading better life with each passing day.


Yoldash’s family has raised livestock for a living for generations. Horse and camel were their main means of transport every time they move to a new pasturing area in the past.


“We drove sheep and cattle forward on the back of horse or camel. The distance between our two pasturing areas is more than 60 kilometers. We could only drink unboiled water and eat Nang (a kind of crusty pancake) during the journey,” recalled Yoldash, who added that they often had to spend the night in the field when there was a rain or other unexpected circumstances.


According to Yoldash, at that time, when they needed to go to Wuqia county to seek medical services or deal with urgent affairs, the only choice they had besides riding a horse was to wait for a ride on a freight truck.


“I remember that once when my grandfather was ill, he was not able to ride a horse. He waited for four or five days, but still couldn’t hitch a ride in a truck. In the end he got on the back of a truck fully loaded with ore. When my grandfather finally arrived at the county after four or five hours, he was covered with dust,” Yoldash told People’s Daily.


Life of local herdsmen began to change around the year 2010. “At first some people got motorcycles, then more and more people bought pickup trucks and private cars,” said Yoldash, who observed business opportunities from these changes: once people have cars, there will be demand for car repair services.


Based on the car repair skills he learnt when he was a migrant worker before, Yoldash then opened an auto repair shop near the office building of the government of Ulugqat township.


At the beginning, most of the people who came to the shop were for tire repair services, according to Yoldash, who explained that the bumpy gravel roads back then made tires worn easily.


Nevertheless, as there were not a lot of cars in Ulugqat township, Yoldash could only earn about 2,000 yuan ($309.8) a month at most. Because the road in front of his shop was an unsurfaced road, his jack often got stuck in the mud after rain.


Greater changes in the locality began around 2015 when expressways extended to Ulugqat township, and the bumpy gravel road in front of Yoldash’s shop was replaced by a flat asphalt road.


Since the auto repair shop was located on the only way from Wuqia county to Irkeshtam port, a border land port in west China, business in the shop has picked up as the number of commercial vehicles passing the road has risen gradually.


“Now I can make more than 5,000 yuan by running the auto repair shop alone. My business gets even better in July and August when there are more tourist cars here,” said Yoldash.


“I have entrusted my livestock to other people. Besides running the auto repair shop, I’ve also started a decoration business. Now I can make more than 100,000 yuan a year from running these businesses. My two children are both in school and our life is becoming better and better,” said Yoldash, who got a new car just a few years ago.


“My daughter is in a boarding junior high school in Wuqia county. I often drive to see her. It’s only a one-hour car ride,” Yoldash added.


Yoldash’s family is not the only one that has enjoyed great changes over these years. In fact, all the herdsmen in Ulugqat township have embraced major changes.


By improving breeds of their livestock, local herdsmen have achieved constant increase in their income. In recent years, they have been relocated to places with better living conditions and moved into spacious and bright houses, thanks to major construction projects launched by the government.


In addition, getting tired of moving from one pasturing area to anther as nomads, herdsmen have established “pasturage alliances” to take turns to herd livestock, so that the unoccupied people can increase their income through ways including working in the cities.


In the past, the locality was deeply impoverished and local herdsmen could barely make ends meet. Today, all the prefecture-level areas in Xinjiang have been covered by expressway network, all the county-level cities in the region are connected by secondary roads, and all the townships and administrative villages with the right conditions are accessible by hardened roads.


“All these changes couldn’t have taken place without the good policies of our country. My auto repair shop, for instance, would never enjoy such great business had it not been for the improved roads in our hometown,” Yoldash said joyfully, who is surprised by the rapid changes in life.