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Huangguoshu Waterfall

A mountainous province in southwestern China, Guizhou is home to record-breaking underground caves, sheer limestone peaks, staggering sinkholes, rocky gorges and cascading waterfalls. Until recent years the area has remained largely untouched, but Guizhou is now one of the most promising travel destinations in the country - tourism numbers are increasing as access to its pristine beauty and ethnic culture has steadily improved.

An ecological civilization

The province is dotted with meandering corkscrew routes and terraced mountain villages, many untouched by modern development. Its karst landscape, part of a UNESCO world heritage site, has plenty to offer both adventure seekers and business travelers.

Blessed by its magnificent undulating landscape and rich ethnic culture, Guizhou is transforming into an ecologically-focused civilization. In 2016, the province was one of the first National Ecological Civilization Pilot Zones to be established in China. These pilot zones embody an ancient Chinese philosophy of harmonious coexistence of man and nature that traces back 2500 years.

With this grand vision in mind, China's most biologically-diverse province did not just seek to develop a lucrative tourism industry, but to create sustainable practices to preserve its ecology while improving the wellbeing of its population.

Zhaoxing Dong Village
Liudong Village, Pingtang County

Village with rice terrace

Guizhou is increasingly becoming a paradise for entrepreneurial investors, a park that visitors long for, and a happy home for local residents.

– Shen Yiqin, Guizhou’s governor

For Guizhou Party Secretary Sun Zhigang, Guizhou "is a leading province in environmental quality in China." Guizhou governor Shen Yiqin recently added that the province is also "increasingly becoming a paradise for entrepreneurial investors, a park that visitors long for, and a happy home for local residents."

Indeed, green development has paid off. It has allowed Guizhou to snag a Top Three spot in GDP growth among all Chinese provinces for the past seven years. In 2017, the province's GDP increased 10.2% from the previous year. Meanwhile, Guizhou's tree canopy coverage reached 55.3%. Significantly, nearly 97% of the days in 2017 were designated as having good air quality; likely making coastal metropolitans green with envy.

of the days in 2017
were designated as
having good air quality

Green economy

Guizhou has embarked on a path of rapid economic transformation through massive infrastructure investments.

The Guizhou government has invested more than US$100 billion into the construction of transportation in the past five years. The sheer number of new buildings, roads, factories and equipment doesn't just represent a fraction of the GDP. This modern infrastructure is designed to have a long-lasting positive impact on people's futures - which is the driving vision of an "ecological civilization".

Zhenyuan Ancient City

332 ecological and
green economic projects

Guizhou has pledged to balance economic growth with resource reservation and environmental protection. To succeed with its ambitious green vision, the government has accelerated the development of four specific industries: ecological, high-efficiency, low-carbon and environmentally-friendly. That ambition translates to 332 ecological and green economic projects with an investment of more than US$39 billion and shuttering of 1.67 million tons of steel production. These 'four pillars of the green economy' contributed 37% to the local GDP in 2017, with the ambitious goal of delivering half of the GDP by 2020.

The big data industry is a case in point. Since 2014, the province has made remarkable progress in big data innovations. Its mild climate means a constant supply of cool air to servers housed in data centers, thereby reducing their energy consumption. Now known as China's 'big data valley', Guizhou has attracted tech juggernauts including Apple, Alibaba and Amazon, as well as thousands of other big data companies.

"The big data industry is a perfect opportunity for Guizhou to develop its economy without introducing polluting industries, while helping its poor population shake off poverty," Jing Yaping, deputy director of the provincial big data development authority, told Xinhua.

Zhaoxing Dong Village
Forest of Ten Thousand Peaks in Guizhou

Guizhou Longli

The big data industry is a perfect opportunity for Guizhou to develop its economy without introducing polluting industries.


This far-flung province has a unique cultural heritage to showcase. The life and culture of its diverse ethnic minority people are distinct and possess an intangible quality that is best experienced and understood in person. There is a certain sense of history and tradition, often missing in more highly-developed tourist destinations.

Almost 36% of the Guizhou population is made up of ethnic minority groups. Their ancient traditions, customs, architecture and cuisine continue to charm visitors with their unique appeal.

Zhaoxing Dong Village
Guizhou Xijiang Miao Village

Miao Tribe Girls

When visiting Guizhou, Italian photographer Michele Palazzi was touched by an image of older Miao women growing vegetables outside their own apartments in a relatively more well-developed part of the province - a way of life more common in rural Guizhou.

I found this image strongly representative of the human effort of preserving an identity, repeating rituals and gestures that belonged to them but do not belong anymore to their environment," Palazzi told CNN.

Partly due to the remoteness of their homes, the ethnic inhabitants have managed to preserve well their long-established, distinctive lifestyles. Living deep in the mountains also meant that these people's lives have always been tough.

To seek sustainable improvements of living conditions for the impoverished, including the ethnic minorities, Guizhou did not uproot rural communities and migrate them into cities. As part of an effort to preserve their time-honored cultures and traditions to their fullest, the Guizhou government has pumped a significant amount of resources into remote villages for infrastructure upgrades.

This plan fits into Guizhou's grand mission of developing eco-tourism. By helping improve lives of ethnic minorities and keeping intact their roots, Guizhou has made its cultural gem more accessible to tourists.

The rewards are appreciable. In 2017 Guizhou attracted more than 744 million tourists, contributing more than US$110 billion to the local economy. Both the number of tourists and the province's tourism income rose more than 40% from the 2016 figures. Notably, more than 500,000 locals rose out of poverty thanks to the tourism boom.

744 million
tourists in 2017, contributing more than
US$110 billion to the local economy

Guizhou Huangguoshu scenery park

A role model

Guizhou aims to continue to make strides in creating thriving communities while maintaining the natural resources that future populations will depend on.

During his visit to Guizhou, China's President Xi Jinping said, "Guizhou, the 'Province of Parks,' needs to enrich its eco-tourism and deepen its cultural implications, turning tourism into a big business."

To Guizhou, 'Province of Parks' is much more than a tagline. What it entails is a more sustainable economic growth model: a larger natural ecological space and a more livable space for all its population.

For hundreds and thousands of years, the landlocked province fell behind coastal regions in economic development. Guizhou's time has finally arrived. It has seized the opportunity and taken advantage of its unparalleled natural resources, gifted by mother nature. Guizhou has become a model for ecological civilization development that China, and the world, can look to.

The Big Data Valley
of China

Guizhou has made multiple innovations in the technology space, and the province is now the location of China’s first big data pilot zone. Five years ago, there were only a few big data companies in Guizhou; now, there are thousands. What happened, and how did these changes take place in Guizhou?

read more

The Road to Success

Guizhou is poised to be more strategically significant for China’s growth than ever before. The province’s geographic location was once considered a disadvantage and but now leverages it to full advantage. What changes in infrastructure have been rolled out, promising breakneck economic growth?

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