Across China: Int'l digital nomads embrace countryside life in China


CHENGDU, May 9 (Xinhua) -- As a gentle mountain breeze mixes with the aroma of freshly brewed coffee and oven baked bread, it is not hard to see why many digital nomads have chosen to live and work in Renli Village, Ziyang City, southwest China's Sichuan Province.

"The village, just a half-hour drive from downtown, offers a bucolic retreat for us," said Ke Yu, one of the founders of the digital nomad community in Renli. "Here, we escape the pollution, traffic, and crowds of the urban sprawl."

In late 2023, while searching for a remote working location, Ke stumbled upon a photo online of the observation deck atop the village.

"Who would have thought that in such an unassuming village, there would be a uniquely designed structure?" she said. "Viewed from above, its spiral design resembles a lollipop, it is the perfect blend of rural charm and modern architecture."

Near the observation deck, three unused buildings were also ripe for repurposing, she noted. "With minimal modifications, they could be offices, accommodations, dining rooms, even entertainment spaces for the community," she added.

"Digital nomads" are generally individuals who, thanks to advances in communication infrastructure, do not rely on traditional office settings. They can work and generate income exclusively through the Internet. The premise is simple; "working on the go" while traveling.

Born in 2000, Ke is familiar with the trend. While studying in the United States, she had many friends who embraced remote work. Upon returning to China, she also learned about digital nomad communities in places including Anji in east China's Zhejiang, and Dali, Yunnan in southwest China.

A shared aspiration to escape the fast-paced and high-pressure life of big cities to work in scenic and cost-effective locations unites many digital nomads. But, besides this, what unique experiences can they offer? Ke had an idea.

Ke and her partners invited artists from around the world to create 10 interconnected art installations, providing visitors with a truly distinctive artistic journey.

Within the 2,000-square-meter shared office space in the community, facilities like 3D printers, live-streaming rooms, and studio lights are provided to meet the specific needs of the remote workers who typically work in creative design, programming, and self-media.

"We aim to blend the natural countryside with an urban office vibe," Ke said.

Most digital nomads who come to the community stay for short periods, ranging from a few days to several weeks. Choo Ho Jin is one of the first community residents.

Choo has lived in China for over a decade. He used to own several coffee shops in Chengdu, capital city of Sichuan, and is now looking to establish a coffee factory in the community.

In addition to coffee bean production and storage, the space will offer shared facilities for coffee curation, markets, and experiential courses.

"Here, brainstorming and resource connections can happen anytime," Choo said. During his spare time, he enjoys posting event notifications and chatting with other nomads about coffee.

Zhou Tao, a professor at the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China, also serves as the representative for the design and operation of the digital nomad community.

He believes that digital nomads are a natural product of the flourishing digital economy and represent a new force in the era of mobile internet. "They will also bring a youthful vitality to the rural revitalization of Ziyang, and these 'new villagers' will undoubtedly become an important force in the co-building process," said Zhou.

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