As the world quietly passes a milestone of becoming more urban than rural, the most rural of all - peasants in China - may slowly be gaining ground.
Most of the houses have obviously been newly rebuilt, with brick walls and higher roofs. (Feng Shui and the cost of land may explain why houses stay on the same plots.) This is entirely typical for the area. It's dangerous to generalise about a huge country from anecdotal evidence; still, it is evidence that at least one substantial group of Chinese peasants are doing absolutely better than before, whether or not they are falling relatively behind the city-dwellers. [More and great photos of stuff other than tourist sites]
The billions of trade dollars pouring into China are of course being sopped up mostly by a few entrepreneurs (to use the polite word) and a growing middle class in the cities, but to be fair, the Chinese government is taking some steps to help the vast countryside and rural population live better lives.
It is both sad and hopeful that only a few dollars can make such a big difference there.