XI'AN - For the village of Gaojie, good things have come in a young package.
Unable to pick a new leader from a crop of older candidates, the villagers roundly threw their support behind a 19-year-old sophomore, who became the youngest and most educated leader the remote village has ever had.
"The villagers hoped to have a young and more educated person lead them into modern production and living," said Bai Yitong, who has now served two years as head of Gaojie village, in Qingjian county, Shaanxi province.
"I have fulfilled some of the promises I made in my campaign speech and I have another year to go, which will give me time to fulfill my other promises," Bai told China Daily.
Over the past two years, Bai has joined her villagers building a 48-kilometer road, 12 baking barns for jujube processing, 13 greenhouses for vegetable growing, two dams for water storage and a breeding base for some 100 ostriches.
"The young girl also facilitated the restoration of our cultural theater stage, originally built in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), and built a new square in front of the stage for our villagers' entertainment," said Bai Fuzhou, director of Gaojie village election committee.
According to him, the election for the new village director failed four times in November 2008 as none of the candidates were able to win enough votes - presumably because most of the villagers did not believe in the leadership abilities of the candidates, who had received little education.
Then he and his election committee got a call from Bai Yitong, saying she was interested in competing for the position.
Her father, who grew up in the village, learned of the election impasse during a trip back to the village in November 2008 and encouraged his daughter to run.
"My father believed I had the potential."
Then a sophomore at a vocational school in Ankang, a city in southern Shaanxi province, Bai was considering her career choices as she had only one year left before graduation.
Having been born into a well-off family - her father was among the richest businessmen in the county - she could have led a comfortable life even without a job.