Government officials and businessmen from 26 countries have just completed a visit to Xiaogang Village in east China's Anhui Province.
As MPA and doctoral students in the Institute of South-South Cooperation and Development of Peking University, they made the trip to Xiaogang, known as cradle of China's rural reform, for a deeper understanding of China's economic reform.
One of the 41 students, Abdoulaye Ndiaye from Senegal said they had learned the story about Xiaogang from a lecture in Beijing before the trip, and were most impressed by the detail that 18 villagers in Xiaogang agreed on a secret pact to break the egalitarian agricultural system by signing, in this case leaving thumbprints, a land contract in 1978.
During the visit on Tuesday, they actually shook hands with one of the pioneering villagers, Yan Junchang, who is now 77 years old.
Yan told the foreign visitors that leaving thumbprints is a traditional form of contract signing, to show the contracter's commitment.
What the farmers did 40 years ago was brave, said Dilamo Otore Ferenje, a trade official from Ethiopia.
He said he thought the story of Xiaogang village could set a good example for development in other South-South countries.
Visiting an exhibition hall on the village history and talking with villagers, the students learned how the pact enabled farmers to hand in a certain percentage of their produce to government, and keep the excess to themselves.
Looking at modern farms, rural renewable energy facilities and a glass factory, the students gained an understanding of how the Chinese village had evolved over 40 years.
The village has undergone dramatic changes. Road traffic is now controlled by traffic lights. Sanitary workers always keep the streets clean. A yellow school bus takes kids to school. Old run-down houses are protected as a reminder of its past.
"Through reform and technology innovation, villagers of Xiaogang made their own way to develop their home," Dilamo said.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of China's reform and opening-up.
Fu Jun, academic dean of the institute, said the field trip shared China's development experience and different stages of reform and opening-up.
Graduating soon, Solphi Joli Hamelo from Madagascar said the trip was inspiring, and he was looking forward to more exchange programs between China and Madagascar to be brought under China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative.