Qingyanliu, China (CNN) – In the U.S., the Internet is forcing the closure of brick and mortar stores. In China, the web is building up entire villages.
Visit Qingyanliu in China and you quickly get a sense of how the Internet is revolutionizing the nation's job scene.
For decades, the good paying jobs have been at the factories. Chinese workers still travel long distances to make jeans and plush toys for consumers around the world. Others wind up in the big cities of Beijing or Shanghai trying to make ends meet. But now people like Liu Jin can make a ton of money closer to home – thanks to the web.
Liu works in Qingyanliu, a farming town that has been transformed by e-commerce. He and some of his friends rented space in one of the squat buildings here, and armed only with a computer, they started taking and filling orders for online customers all over China.
Like many in this town, they buy goods at the nearby wholesale market of Yiwu and ship them across the country. Millions of dollars in sales are rung up in this village every year. Without the Internet, Liu told me, he likely would have had to move to find work. Instead, he lives close to his parents who farm oranges nearby. The Internet, Liu says, gives him freedom.
As China's economy develops, the government is looking for ways to even out growth and create jobs in rural areas. The Internet is providing a solution.
Our week-long focus on the Internet in China has made me nostalgic about my Beijing Internet days in the late 1990s.
It was the spring of 1998 and, fresh out of grad school, I couldn't land my dream job as a full-time reporter in China. With school loans to pay off, I took up a post with a fledgling Chinese entrepreneur whom I met while covering a Beijing Internet conference as a freelancer.
His name was Charles Zhang.
Charles would later become known as a China Internet pioneer and score a fortune big enough to make it on the Forbes China rich list. But back then, he was just another dotcom dreamer. His company was called Internet Technologies China or ITC, a generic catch-all name which described what it did at the time - everything from basic Web design to indexing a Chinese language search engine.
The ITC office was a single room jammed with about a dozen people in Beijing's Chang An Building. My job was simple - to help Charles chronicle the rise of what he already believed to be the greatest Net company in China run by a superstar CEO.