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Special> 35 Years of Reform and Opening Up (1978-2013)> People
UPDATED: December 23, 2013 NO. 52 DECEMBER 26, 2013
A Grateful Heart
Southwest China's youngest female mayor talks business
By Yu Yan

"Of course, there were challenges. The most difficult one was when I relocated a group of temporary sheds where migrant workers lived," said Yuan. "Those sheds, which had a lot of garbage, formed a big hygiene and safety concern."

At that time, the migrant workers strongly protested the relocation. They gathered outside the government building, voicing their anger. Under pressure, Yuan invited representatives into her office and talked with them patiently.

"After the talk, the representatives discovered that the relocation was actually in their interest, too. With their relocation, the whole city's environment could be improved, and they could move into the new communities built by the government. Their quality of life could be greatly improved," she said.

"To be a good leader, you must have passion, responsibility and judgment," she said, adding, "If I had not withstood the pressure and used a sound judgment, my later success would not have been possible."

Caring for the people

"I worked as vice county magistrate in Zhenyuan for five years and was responsible for culture, education and hygiene work. Every week, according to the schedule, the county leaders would meet citizens and listening to their appeals. Many visitors demand to meet me," she said.

"They said that even though they went into the government building in fury, after talking with the female vice magistrate and listening to her suggestions, their mood was better when they left," she recalled.

Indeed, Yuan has a special charm, which inspires optimism and happiness in the people surrounding her.

"I am only an ordinary person who loves her job and wants to help others as much as possible. I just want to do something for the people," said Yuan.

While in Zhenyuan she was in charge of culture, education and hygiene work, now in Qujing, she is responsible for economic work.

Qujing covers an area of 28,900 square km and has a population of 6.323 million people. As the origin of the Pearl River, the third longest river in China, the city boasts an amazing natural beauty and a rich local culture. During the reform and opening up, economic development has been a top priority for the city.

Facing the transition, Yuan expressed confidence in herself, noting, "I know I won't let the people down."

This explains why she has always been so devoted to her work whatever position she has held. Her job at the Disabled Persons' Federation in Pu'er entailed hard work, her passion and love for the job made her stay there for 10 years.

She had never imagined she would be promoted to vice magistrate of Zhenyuan from there, neither had she thought of being further promoted to vice mayor of Qujing and becoming the youngest vice mayor ever in the province.

Speaking of her career path, she said, "I always think, a sincere and simple person can achieve more. So whatever position you are in, just concentrate on your job and do your best. You will surely be noticed."

"My 10 years' work at the Disabled Persons' Federation brought me a feeling of gratitude. It made me grateful for life, and for what I already had," she said.

The most touching part of the job was the cataract project that she worked on for many years.

"In the border areas, hygiene conditions are poor. Generally, people in those places with bad hygiene habits, strong ultraviolet light and high altitudes are more vulnerable to cataract problems. So a lot of local people in Zhenyuan are cataract patients. While I worked there, my colleagues and I helped these patients to regain vision," said Yuan.

"At that time, doctors coming to do their surgery in our county were surprised to find there were translators beside the surgery table," Yuan recalled with a smile. "Because many local people couldn't speak Mandarin, we sent translators according to their ethnic group."

"After getting their vision back, they were so overwhelmed with happiness that they sang and danced around the doctors, which deeply moved the doctors and the working staff including me," she said.

Indeed, attention to vulnerable groups shows the care of a nation, she said. While working in the federation, she often went to raise money from local companies. She persuaded them to support the disabled people and meanwhile establish their own company's image.

In fact, Yuan's compassion and devotion is linked to her family education. She was born in a reputed and wealthy family in Mohei Town, Ninger. The town, known as an ancient tea-horse town, is a stop along the Ancient Tea-Horse Road that winds through Yunnan, Sichuan and Tibet to Southeast and South Asia.

"My grandma always taught us to have a kind heart, be nice to people and help those in need," she said. To teach her descendants independence, Yuan's grandma donated the family house to the local government. "My parents are both teachers. They have taught me to be a person of honor," said Yuan

"I don't want to be a dragon lady. I just want to be a woman of value. A firm and persistent woman of value," she said.

Email us at: yuyan@bjreview.com

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