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Research on the Symbiosis Model of the Core Interest Subjects of Chinese Ancient Village Tourism Sites in the Context of Rural Revitalization

Department of Public Administration, South China Agricultural University, Guangzhou 510000, China
Department of Marxism, Harbin Institute of Technology, Shenzhen 518055, China
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2022, 14(19), 12001;
Submission received: 1 July 2022 / Revised: 29 August 2022 / Accepted: 19 September 2022 / Published: 22 September 2022
(This article belongs to the Collection Rural Policy, Governance and Sustainable Rural Development)


The rural governance pattern suffers from the loss of field resources, stagnation of factor flow and disintegration of public authority. Based on this, this paper takes symbiosis theory as the perspective of analysis and explores the optimization of the rural revitalization path and the construction of a symbiosis model under the logic of “common construction, common governance and sharing”. Taking Zhoutian village in China, which has significant endogenous resource advantages but is difficult to develop, this paper uses quantitative analysis and qualitative interviews to analyze the logic of ancient villages that are difficult to form sustainable development paths in and explore the conditions for the formation of symbiotic relationships. The results show the following: (1) The current symbiosis model of ancient villages is an asymmetric reciprocal symbiosis model, resulting in short-term behavior for each symbiotic unit, which is not conducive to the sustainable development of ancient villages. (2) The core stakeholders are closely related to each other and have partly common goals. (3) The symbiotic relationship of ancient villages should evolve toward a symmetrical and reciprocal integrated symbiosis model, which should coordinate the relationship between the various interests and build a symbiotic path. To this end, this paper tries to build a symbiotic development model of “co-construction, co-rule and sharing” and refine the development mechanism based on the case of resource co-construction, joint governance and benefit sharing, hoping to provide reference for the rural revitalization and sustainable development of other villages.

1. Introduction

In January 2022, the Communist Party of China put forward a document to comprehensively promote the key work of rural revitalization. China is now accelerating the development of the countryside, focusing on the modernization of rural governance [1]. Rural governance is the “nerve end” of the national governance system. Rural governance aims at maximizing rural interests and good rural governance, and it is an interactive process in which stakeholders such as the government, villagers, village committees and social organizations participate, negotiate and coordinate in the rural field [2]. To promote the modernization of rural governance and rural development, it is crucial to revitalize the existing resources in the countryside, explore the characteristic paths suitable for rural development, clarify the relationship between prosperous industry, ecological livability, civilized rural style, effective governance and affluent living and crack the current rural development problems. In recent years, the construction of villages across the country has been in full swing, and the development of rural tourism has become an important channel to solve rural problems and promote rural development, agricultural transformation and farmers’ prosperity.
Ancient villages are the synthesis of material and intangible heritage, with important historical, geographical, cultural, architectural, religious, artistic, aesthetic and tourism values of physical existence, containing precious human nostalgic memories [3]. With the rapid development of modern tourism in China, ancient villages are flourishing as important tourist places, and as the basic components and the last barrier of traditional settlements, the relationship of the interest subjects involved in their tourism development is extremely typical. The study of the survival mode among its core interest subjects can help coordinate the demands among the interest subjects and create new momentum for the sustainable development of ancient village tourism sites [4,5]. Since the implementation of the rural revitalization strategy, a boom of ancient village tourism development has been launched in China, and many ancient Chinese villages have become hot spots for tourism [6,7]. However, with the gradual expansion of tourism’s influence on ancient village tourism sites, many problems have begun to emerge, the most prominent of which is the contradiction and conflict of interests between local villagers and local government in addition to foreign enterprises and village committees, including both resistance, tension and competition in a hidden state, as well as open and direct behavioral conflicts and violent confrontations. In particular, the interests of local residents as a vulnerable group are constantly being infringed upon [8]. Then, how to establish a coordinated structural relationship, fair participation and benefit distribution mechanism between local villagers and the local government as well as the village committee and foreign enterprises to promote a mutually beneficial and stable symbiotic relationship is an unavoidable issue in the process of ancient village tourism development [9,10]. How to effectively coordinate the relationship between the subjects and prevent and solve social conflicts as well as ensure the realization of the objectives of each subject and the realization of the objectives of the system of tourism ancient villages has become an important proposition for the development of tourism for ancient villages, which is directly related to whether the tourism of ancient villages can achieve sustainable development and the harmony and stability of society, which is a problem worth studying.
Therefore, this paper tries to study the symbiotic relationship and symbiotic development of core stakeholders of ancient village tourism from the perspective of symbiosis theory in order to provide useful ideas for coordinating both their conflicting and mutually beneficial relationships. Specifically, based on data analysis and in-depth interviews, this paper conducts a case study of Zhoutian Hakka Village, a village with good development prospects but still in a bottleneck, analyzes the symbiotic relationship of various stakeholders based on symbiosis theory, explores the optimization path of rural revitalization, constructs a symbiosis model of the core stakeholders of ancient villages and provides a replicable model for other similar villages that “have resources but are difficult to develop”. This study provides a new development model that can be replicated and promoted for other similar villages that are “difficult to develop with resources”.

2. Literature Review

Rural tourism is an important vehicle, and support for promoting rural revitalization [11] and sustainable development is an important proposition in rural tourism research. The concept of rural sustainability encompasses a comprehensive concept of the economic, environmental, political and social dimensions, and it can be summarized as a process in which the countryside is constantly changing its goals in development, seeking a way out, maintaining the health of the natural environmental system and shaping an attractive countryside [12]. Compared with developed countries, rural tourism in China as a whole is still in a rough and low-level development stage, and various problems such as environmental pollution, waste of resources and dilution of local rural characteristics and culture have emerged in the process of rapid development, which have become bottleneck factors limiting the high-quality development of rural tourism in China. The authors of [13] found that the problem of sustainable rural development mainly lies in the acceptance of various projects or schemes by rural society, in which there is a relationship between the coordination mechanism and social capital [14] and tourism developed by using local resources and natural landscapes can attract tourists’ consumption and help to achieve sustainable development [15]. In exploring the influencing factors of rural development, it was found that rural tourism has a catalytic effect [16]. Ancient villages show China’s long history of regional characteristics and traditional culture, and the tourism value of ancient village resources has been continuously developed under the promotion of rural tourism policies. However, inappropriate resource development will first lead to the unbalanced development of ancient village resources, local human life and the ecological environment, which affects the sustainable development of ancient villages [17], and secondly, the development of ancient village tourism involves the interests of multiple subjects, and the interest subjects are composed of “government”, “tourism companies”, “villagers” and “tourists”. The four parties have different interests and demands in tourism development, and “villagers” are the main constituents of the main body of interests in tourism development [18]. How to solve the contradiction between tourism interest subjects and how to achieve the protection and inheritance of cultural resources in development requires an innovative model of ancient village tourism development [17].
The government plays a “top-down” leading role in the development of ancient village tourism and is the leader and coordinator of rural governance. Rural governance aims at maximizing rural interests and good rural governance, with the government, villagers, village committees, social organizations and other stakeholders participating in, negotiating and coordinating the rural arena [19]. To achieve effective rural governance, villagers’ participation is a prerequisite, and effective villager participation is a guarantee [20]. The current theory of rural governance can be broadly divided into three models: collation governance, polycentric governance and meta-governance, of which polycentric governance and meta-governance are the hotspots of research. Polycentric governance mainly refers to the fact that in order to improve the social supply and governance system, multiple powers or service centers cooperate with each other to achieve good governance through autonomous governance [21]. At present, due to the demand for collaborative governance in villages, only a common governance mechanism embedded among rural governance subjects [22], which needs to cover the grassroots government, village committees, villagers and other subjects and form the joint participation and interactive cooperation of multiple interest subjects [23], can promote the effective realization of rural social governance. In contrast, the theory of meta-governance hopes to build an institutional arrangement in which the national government leads the macro pattern and the market and civil society carry out the micro affairs, regrouping the governance mechanism and giving full play to the power of the market and society to maximize their effectiveness. At present, rural social governance has entered the stage of “social coordination”, but there is still no definite conclusion on who the main body of rural governance should be. However, it is generally agreed that the township government is an important subject, villagers are substantive subjects, and village leaders are indispensable subjects. The construction of a meta-governance model in villages requires a ternary structure of “administrative leadership-grassroots party organisation-self-governance” [24], forming an interactive model of “limited state leadership-cooperative and co-operative governance of subjects” [25]. However, due to the shortcomings of polycentric governance and meta-governance, such as a simple theoretical structure and weak operability, the academic community now tries to invoke the concept of symbiosis to construct a symbiotic governance model to explain and explore the current rural governance model [26]. Symbiotic governance emphasizes the cooperation of multiple parties and the leading role of the government, the subjects of interest are all highly motivated, and they are all placed in the symbiotic field to complete the governance interaction, trying to find the point of convergence of interests, build a concrete form of good governance in rural society and promote the development of the countryside in the direction of effective governance [27]. Therefore, the process of rural governance is a process of harmonious symbiosis and benign inter-construction between governance subjects and the construction of a rural living community. Applying symbiosis theory to rural governance structures and realizing “symbiosis” in the true sense through effective rural governance is of high theoretical value for further research on rural governance in China and, at the same time, plays a guiding role in improving rural governance in China and promoting the enhancement of rural governance capacity.
Symbiosis is a basic concept of ecology which was first proposed by German mycologist Anton de Bary in 1879 while studying fungi and later developed and perfected by feminism, phototoxicity and others to form a systematic theory of symbiosis [28]. It refers to a mutually beneficial, interdependent and co-living relationship formed between two or more organisms of different species in competition for living space, where symbiotic units are formed in a certain symbiotic environment according to a certain symbiotic pattern [29]. Symbiosis is not a mutual exclusion between symbiotic units but a co-evolution in mutual cooperation [30]. Synergy and cooperation are the essence of symbiosis, and symbiosis does not exclude competition; it is mutual cooperation and mutual promotion between symbiotic units through cooperative competition [31]. This competition is achieved through the innovation of the internal structure, function of the symbiotic unit and the repositioning and cooperation of the functions between the symbiotic units, which ultimately achieves a “win-win” or “multi-win” situation [32]. In the increasingly competitive environment, the selection of a suitable symbiosis model can eliminate the adverse effects of vicious competition, thus promoting the synergistic development of symbiotic units and enhancing the overall development of the symbiosis. Based on this understanding, some sociologists have proposed a governance theory of the “symbiosis approach” to design the social production system and coordinate the roles and relationships of various factors in the social production system. In fact, whether it is the symbiosis of human social elements or the symbiosis of other organisms, the essence is the relationship of interdependence among living organisms in a certain area for survival [6]. In a general sense, symbiosis refers to the relationship with certain forms created between symbiotic units in a certain symbiotic environment through a symbiotic medium and a symbiotic interface. A symbiotic governance system consists of three elements: a symbiotic unit, symbiotic environment and symbiotic mode. A symbiotic unit refers to the basic energy production and exchange unit that constitutes the symbiosis, and it is the basic material condition for the formation of the symbiosis. The symbiotic environment consists of the sum of all factors outside the symbiotic unit and is the external condition for the existence of the symbiotic relationship and the symbiotic unit. The symbiotic environment influences the symbiotic unit through the symbiotic medium so as to achieve its coordinated development. The symbiotic mode, also known as the symbiotic relationship, refers to the way in which the symbiotic units interact with each other through the symbiotic channel or the form of mutual union. These three elements are interactive, closely related and indispensable [33], and together, they reflect the dynamic change in direction and law of the symbiotic system. Among them, the symbiotic unit is the foundation, the symbiotic environment is an important external condition, and the symbiotic mode is the key [34].
In the 1950s, symbiosis theory was used in the field of Western sociological research to explain the interactions of human interactions in modern society, which was the beginning of the application of symbiosis theory to the field of social sciences [35]. Since the application of symbiosis theory from biology to sociology, economics and management, there has been growing research on the use of symbiosis theory to analyze sustainable rural development issues. Most of the scholars mainly base their analysis on symbiosis theory and combine it with specific villages, such as symbiotic unit and symbiotic system issues [36], the symbiotic relationship between heritage conservation and utilization [37], the symbiotic relationship of stakeholders and the symbiotic model, symbiotic environment [38] and symbiotic mechanism [39]. Research on the symbiotic governance of ancient villages has also begun to take off, combining practical analysis based on previous theoretical studies. The interest subjects of ancient villages have been diversifying from a single rural resident to tourism enterprises, village committees and the government. Each interest body has its own value orientation and vested interests, and how they can harmoniously coexist in the governance system of ancient villages has been the focus of academic discussion [40]. Ancient villages are the concentration of China’s millennium of rural civilization, and people living and working in ancient villages are closely connected with the culture, ecology and environment of the villages in a harmonious symbiosis. Therefore, when we explore the symbiotic development of ancient villages, we must adhere to the principle of wholeness and combine stakeholders, village cultural and ecological spaces and cultural heritage to establish an overall symbiotic and sustainable development model for ancient villages [41]. The sustainable development of ancient villages will be influenced by various stakeholders [42], and it is necessary to analyze the characteristics and optimization of the symbiotic evolutionary model [10], gradually construct a symbiotic model for core stakeholders [43] and evaluate the benefits of the model [44].
At present, the development of Chinese rural society is in transition, and in the transition of traditional villages from a slow and naturally changing development model to a development model in which industrial civilization continuously penetrates traditional agriculture, rural areas and farmers and from a single-dwelling model to a model with multiple functional provisions, not only are the aesthetic and cultural changes manifested, but the interests of all parties are also filled in all aspects of development and production. The symbiosis and coexistence of interests become a realistic proposition that must be faced in the development of traditional villages [45]. The symbiotic units in the rural symbiotic governance system are highly dynamic, and their action logic is influenced by their interests. Different core interests make each symbiotic unit make different behavioral choices, but due to insufficient organization, it is difficult to coordinate the interests of all parties, thus triggering symbiotic conflicts and leading to the alienation of symbiotic relationships [46]. In order to break the symbiotic blockage, the symbiotic units must seek the fit of interests among themselves so as to maximize the benefits. The symbiotic unit mainly consists of two characteristic factors: qualitative and elephantine parameters, among which the qualitative parameters determine the internal nature of the symbiotic unit [47]. This is because the symbiotic units in the countryside have some internal connection with each other with which they can form a symbiotic relationship and generate a symbiotic interface, and we call this internal connection the symbiotic unit mass–parametric compatibility relationship [48]. The intrinsic motivation for the formation of the symbiotic pattern of the symbiotic unit mass–parametric compatibility relationship (i.e., the degree of autonomous activities of the symbiotic unit and the smoothness of the exchange of material, information and energy flows between the symbiotic units at the symbiotic interface) affect the formation of the symbiotic pattern [30]. The material flow, information flow and energy flow will run through all aspects of the symbiosis interface, and once the “three flows” encounter an obstruction, it will affect the effective operation of the whole symbiosis system and the positive interaction of the interest subjects. The penetration of material, information and energy flows needs to be accomplished under the logic of “co-construction, co-governance and sharing”. Shared development includes the meanings of common construction and common governance. Common construction is the premise of common governance and sharing, common governance is the guarantee of common construction and sharing, and sharing is the purpose of common construction and sharing. These three concepts intermingle and promote each other. Resource sharing is the basic element and logical starting point, and the resource circulation mechanism is used to smooth the flow of rural governance resources. Linkage and shared governance are the key element and connecting intermediary, and the main body linkage mechanism is used to establish the governance mode of “government responsibility-multi-participation”. Benefit sharing is the target element and value orientation, and the benefit distribution mechanism is used to coordinate the interests of the main body of village governance so as to satisfy the interests of all subjects to the greatest extent. Benefit sharing is the goal element and value orientation, and the benefit distribution mechanism is used to coordinate the interest demands of village governance subjects and satisfy the interest needs of each subject to the greatest extent.
In summary, the symbiosis interface is good, the material, information and energy flows are smooth and efficient, the symbiosis model tends to be symmetrical, and reciprocal integration is the basic criterion for the optimization of the state of the symbiosis governance system (Figure 1). Therefore, the symmetrical and reciprocal integration of the symbiosis mode as the direction of the evolution of the rural symbiotic governance system [49] requires that each symbiotic unit in the village and the local architectural relics, village customs and vernacular culture form a community and each symbiotic unit in the community carries out various activities around the advantageous resources in the symbiotic environment so that the material and energy can be used optimally, thus making things form a balanced, stable, and harmonious symbiosis.

3. Methodology

In 2020, China’s Zhoutian village was established as a rural revitalization demonstration area. The village uses a characteristic rural style, humanistic relics and folklore experience as tourism attractions to accelerate the creation of a village with tourism characteristics and drive the construction of rural tourism. However, at present, Zhoutian Village has different degrees of fit and difference in demands among multiple interest subjects such as grassroots government, rural residents, social organizations and market subjects, and there are even situations where interest subjects clash in their interests, causing social capital to flee and the pace of rural revitalization to stall. Exploring a suitable rural governance path for Zhoutian village has become an urgent problem to be solved.
Based on this, this study adopts a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods, which can be divided into the following parts. First, we conducted a field survey by participating in a research project called “Rural Revitalization in China”. Investigators were organized to enter the village in groups to understand the rural development process and coexistence governance problems in Zhoutian village. Secondly, a self-administered questionnaire was used to compile the results of the questionnaire, analyze the interests of each stakeholder using mean analysis and a paired-sample t-test and test and rank the significance of the differences between the interests. Third, in-depth interviews were conducted with villagers, village committees, government and tourism enterprises to obtain insights from different perspectives, discover the respective difficulties encountered in the development process of Zhoutian village, seek to identify the key interest conflicts that block the development of Zhoutian village and discuss the logic of the generation of symbiotic governance blockage. Finally, we integrated all the data and interview analysis results, explored the symbiotic conditions of stakeholders and constructed a symbiotic development model of co-construction, co-governance and sharing.
Specifically, this study developed a questionnaire based on existing research materials, and the content and structure of the questionnaire were closely focused on sustainable rural development and coexistence governance. We followed the research team to contact the local government and village committees in advance, completed the sample selection using stratified sampling based on the list of existing governance subjects and provided guidance to the research respondents when they filled out the questionnaire to ensure its reliability and validity. At the same time, this study selected respondents related to sustainable rural development (Table A1) and designed the corresponding interview outline (Table A2). With the consent of the respondents, in-depth interviews were conducted according to the interview outline, and written records of the interviews were obtained. The “onion peeling” model was used to interview the respondents, and the criteria and methods for selecting the respondents, the questions to be asked in the interview, the way and order of the questions being asked, the way the respondents answered and the way the interview was recorded were standardized to reduce errors in the interview and to obtain true and reliable information. Each interview lasted approximately 20–90 min. In this paper, a total of four trips were made to Zhoutian village from 2019 to 2021, and 15 in-depth interviews were conducted. Regarding the selection of interviewees, this study adhered to two principles: one was to allow interviewing as many rural governance subjects as possible, including villagers, village committees, government and tourism enterprises, and the second was to select governance subjects that were directly related to sustainable rural development. By combing through the interview transcripts, some important interview contents are quoted in this paper, and some contents are integrated into the conclusions and discussions of this paper. All data were obtained with prior explanation and consent from the interviewees and indicated as necessary for scientific research.

4. Empirical Analysis: Analysis of the Interests of Key Governance Actors

4.1. Analysis of Local Villagers’ Interests and Demands

By comparing the quantified mean values of local villagers’ interest demands, it can be concluded that the most important interest demand indicator of the local villagers was being conducive to improving income, followed by increasing employment opportunities and improving infrastructure such as roads, water, electricity and communication, while the demand for participation in tourism decision making and management was relatively weak (Table 1).
In order to test whether the differences in the importance of local villagers’ interests were meaningful, this paper used the “t-paired sample test” method to make a judgment (Table 2). In the table, the data above each box represent the mean subtraction of longitudinal indicators from the mean of the cross-sectional indicators, and the data below are the t-test values of the two indicators. The data above are marked with an * or ** sign to indicate that the difference in means passed the confidence test, while the data below are underlined to indicate that the difference in means did not pass the test. For example, the data in the first column of the table where A and C intersect indicate that the difference between the mean value of the perceived increase in employment opportunities and the perceived increase in income for the local villagers was −0.063, which means that the demand for increasing employment opportunities was slightly less important than the demand for increasing income, but the t-test value was −0.324, which did not pass the confidence test, and a horizontal line was drawn below −0.063. Therefore, the demand for increased employment can be seen as the same as the demand for increased income in terms of importance. The second column of the table intersecting B and J shows that the difference between the mean value of local villagers’ demand for improving infrastructure and their demand for participating in local tourism management was 0.854, and the t-test value was 3.748, which passed the confidence test, so the ** mark above 0.854 indicates that local villagers’ demand for improving infrastructure was indeed more important than their demand for participating in local tourism management (i.e., the local villagers placed more importance on improving infrastructure).
According to the test results in Table 2, we can find that although the local villagers’ three interest demands, coded as A, B and C in decreasing order of importance, there was no statistically significant difference in this descending order, so these three interest demands were equally important. However, they did have importance differences with other interests, so these three interests were attributed to the indicators of the interests of local villagers’ life improvement. Similarly, the interests with codes D, E, F, G and H were attributed to the indicators of the interests of the local villagers’ cultural environment, and the participation in tourism management was excluded. The interests with the participation codes I and J were attributed to the indicators of local villagers’ participation in the demand indicators. Combined with Table 1 and Table 2, it can be seen that the local villagers were most concerned with life improvement, followed by cultural and environmental interests, and less concerned with participation demands.

4.2. Analysis of Government and Village Committee Interests and Demands

By comparison with other interests, it was found that the primary interest concern was to improve the economy of Zhoutian village, followed by providing a way for villagers to get rich and become employed, promoting social harmony and stability and then improving local financial tax revenue. The government and the village committee also hoped to gain profits from the tourism development of Zhoutian. However, the local government paid less attention to the historical and cultural relics of Zhoutian village, natural and cultural environmental protection and the lives of Zhoutian’s villagers (Table 3).
A t-test was used to further determine whether the ranking was significantly different, and the test results are shown in Table 4.
Similar data treatment was adopted with local residents’ interest demands, and from the results of the paired-sample t-test, it can be found that the indicators of the economic interests of the government and village committees included improving the local economic situation, directly obtaining economic benefits and improving local financial taxes. The indicators of the social interest demands of the government and village committees included providing ways to get rich and become employed, promoting local social harmony and stability, driving the development of other industries and improving the local infrastructure. Similarly, the indicators of the government’s and the village committee’s interests in the cultural environment included protecting local historical relics, protecting the natural environment of the site and enriching rural cultural life. Combined with Table 3 and Table 4, it can be seen that the local government’s interest demands were, in descending order, economic interests, social interests and cultural and environmental interests.

4.3. Analysis of the Interests of Tourism Enterprises

A comparison of the mean values of the specific indicators of interest of small tourism enterprises showed that the tourism enterprises were most concerned with “obtaining high profit returns”. They paid less attention to “economic development” and “providing employment opportunities”, which also indicates a weak sense of social responsibility in Zhoutian tourism enterprises (Table 5).
Then, we further determined whether the difference between the mean values of each of the above two indicators was significantly different by a paired-sample t-test, and the test results are shown in Table 6.
From the test results, it can be found that there was no significant difference in the importance of the four indicators of obtaining high profit returns, improving the visibility of Zhoutian, obtaining a good tourism enterprise image, and winning the long-term survival and development of the enterprise, which can be attributed to the indicators of the economic interests of the enterprise. The four indicators of preserving historical relics, protecting the natural environment, promoting local economic development and providing employment channels were attributed to the indicators of corporate social responsibility. According to the above analysis, it can be seen that the tourism enterprises were most concerned with economic interests and less concerned about social responsibility.

4.4. Summary of Core Stakeholder Interest Claims

Although local villagers, government and village committees and tourism enterprises manifested different concerns about various interests in the tourism development process, the core stakeholders were also closely related to each other and had some common characteristics (Table 7).

5. Discussion

When a symbiotic system is blocked, it is usually due to a problem in the exchange process of material, information and energy between symbiotic units and between the symbiont and the symbiotic environment, resulting in a governance failure. Next, this paper will analyze the logic of symbiotic blockage generation from the relationship of the interest subjects.

5.1. Villagers and Government: Villagers’ Rational Choice and the System Supply Lagging Behind

5.1.1. Overall Strategic Planning Lags behind as Hakka Roundhouses “Exist” or “Waste”

Interest subjects are all rational. When multiple subjects participate in the process of rural governance, they have their own interests and compete with each other, forming a pattern of mutual constraints, and all subjects hope to maximize their own interests. Therefore, when the interest subjects make rational choices, the lack of a sound information communication mechanism will hinder the transmission of information and reduce the understanding between the symbiotic units, which will largely lead to differences and conflicts.
The overall strategic planning of Zhoutian village lags behind, mainly in the areas of land and tourism. In terms of land planning, it is difficult for villagers to apply for residential bases, and the population has returned to the village, further aggravating the conflict between people and land and making villagers focus on “Hakka Roundhouses”. In terms of tourism planning, the huge flow of people has not been transformed into economic benefits, and villagers have not yet relied on the Hakka Roundhouses to achieve “prosperity”. The above-mentioned reasons have created a conflict between the government’s desire to protect and develop the Hakka Roundhouses and the villagers’ desire to knock them down:
My B&B(Bed and breakfast) has been losing money, tourists stay too short, simply do not need accommodation; although the rural areas now have memorial gardens, ecological farms, but the government is the lack of a planning, how to integrate the tourist routes, so that tourists stop a little longer.
(Villager, interview CM0320210801)

5.1.2. The Conservation Fund Is a Drop in the Bucket, and the Application Procedure for Repair Is Cumbersome

The information feedback mechanism between the symbiosis and the symbiotic environment, especially the legal and policy environments, adversely affects the information exchange. In the village governance field, the communication between villagers and the government is more one-way (i.e., the government department issues various documents or orders to the village), while villagers cannot feed information back to the government department effectively, resulting in a lag in institutional supply.
On the government allocation, the villagers eventually share the funds within the villages for the repair of Hakka Roundhouses, which are a drop in the bucket, so some villagers hope to raise funds to repair their own roundhouses, but because of the signing of a treaty to protect the unit, the villagers cannot repair a roundhouse without permission. According to the “Huizhou Historical Building Repair Subsidy Management Measures”, villagers can apply for subsidies and repairs according to the repair funds, but the process is cumbersome and complicated, and many villagers have given up on raising funds for repairs. In addition, the government has delayed the relevant action to repair the Hakka Roundhouse, making the roundhouse into the plight of no one to protect the development:
The government currently wants to take the Hakka Roundhouses for tourism development and promises to fix it up for us; however, construction has not even started by 2020; the 50,000 yuan allocated by the government is simply not enough, and the repair workers are paid 400–500 yuan/day. We pooled our money to repair the Roundhouses, but the government did not allow it, and only a few days ago thieves stole our cultural relics.
(Villager, interview XX0220210731)

5.2. Villagers and Village Committees: Loss of Public Authority and “Atomization” of Villagers’ Subjects

5.2.1. Alienation of Public Sector Goals and Lack of Trust in Grassroots Self-Governance

Due to the interaction of survival dilemma and institutional deficiencies, rural grassroots organizations, as public authorities, have to some extent replaced public goals with self-interested goals, and working for public goals has become their own work, making rent-seeking an inevitable choice for many township cadres and making township governments or village committees strengthen their extraction from farmers step by step. At the same time, village committees have been stigmatized over the decades as “extraction” systems, and their image perception and authority have been greatly weakened. With the outflow of rural elites, rural governance has fallen into the double dilemma of a lack of endogenous authority and weakened exogenous authority. Therefore, the unbalanced distribution of symbiotic energy and symbiotic loss by the benefit distribution mechanism, coupled with the lack of a trust mechanism, will cause the symbiotic energy generated by the symbiosis to not meet the needs of the members, and the symbiotic energy generated by the symbiosis is not enough to counter the negative effects of the symbiotic environment on the symbiosis.
Through the public affairs board of the village committee, it was found that the village committee did not announce the flow of protection funds to the villagers, which shows that the flow of funds for the enclosures in Zhoutian village is indeed unclear, increasing the villagers’ distrust of the village committee and forming a vicious circle, making it difficult to achieve the goal of “effective governance”. The villagers’ distrust, coupled with the scattered property rights of the Hakka Roundhouses, makes it difficult for the village committee to integrate the resources of the Hakka Roundhouses in Zhoutian village for tourism development and attract social capital to enter, which hinders the pace of rural revitalization:
I am a clan member of the Hakka Roundhouse, but because our clan is not close to the village committee ah, every year we have no conservation funds, not a penny, the village committee likes to distribute the money to their own clan or the clan that is close to them there, they take our villagers’ money and distribute it indiscriminately.
(Villager, interview CM0620210802)

5.2.2. The Main Position of the Villagers Is Weakened, and It Is Difficult to Gather the Masses’ Power

On the one hand, due to the ambiguous positioning of the grassroots administrative organization, the autonomy and administrative power are interspersed, and the phenomenon of internal conflict in the governance structure emerges. For example, village committees need to respond to higher-level assessments and convey the political will of the higher regime, but at the same time, they have to deal with collecting villagers’ opinions and dealing with village affairs. This conflicting interchange of roles brings about internal conflicts caused by the desire to deal with political and village affairs in a balanced manner, which makes them give up their role of buttressing the villagers. On the other hand, the lack of local authority in the current rural society has seriously weakened the relevance of the whole rural society, making the village seem like scattered sand, and villagers are more likely to be like atoms as scattered and isolated individuals. Therefore, there is a lack of a perfect information communication mechanism between villagers and village committees, and village committees cannot obtain information from villagers collectively in a timely manner, resulting in a stagnant information flow, which makes it difficult for both sides to reach a consensus on the goal of coexistence development and leads to a serious decrease in the efficiency of coexistence energy gathering.
In recent years, local villagers have gained a better understanding of the value of the Hakka Roundhouses, and their sense of subjectivity has become stronger. Each villager wants to develop Hakka Roundhouse tourism according to their own ideas and participate in the decision-making process. However, the current development of tourism has not yet reached the expected level of income for the villagers. They are still excluded from the decision of the conservation and development of the Hakka Roundhouses and can only passively accept the instructions and lack of an effective communication environment with the village committee:
There are many reasons why the clan did not want to take part in the project. First of all, the house belongs to the whole clan, but the clan members are distributed at home and abroad, it is quite difficult to unify the views of everyone, the process to consume how much manpower and material resources ah; secondly, the lease fee is really too low, a few hundred square feet of the house will give that little, the clan share is not enough to share, the village committee to take advantage of the opportunity to profit.
(Villager, interview CM0120210801)
When it comes to this matter, I really think it’s unreasonable. There is an ancestral hall in this house, how can you just give it to outsiders, in case the ancestral hall is destroyed, it’s very unlucky.
(Villager, interview XX0120210731)

5.3. Villagers and Tourism Enterprises: Interlocking Resources Overlapping the Interests of the Demand Forced

5.3.1. Capital Entry Is Risky, and Ecological Protection Is Worrying

The presence of capital in the countryside leads to changes in the spatial form of the countryside. With the change in resource elements in the rural governance field, this causes a systemic result that affects the whole system, specifically including situations of crowding, integration, exclusion and even friction. Although the presence of capital brings a new impetus to rural development, it also gives rise to new elements, such as conflicts of interest and negotiation dialogue between villagers and enterprises, and the negative impact of tourists on villages, which results in the continuous interlocking and overlapping of resource elements and increases the complexity within villages. The lack of a comprehensive resource circulation mechanism to regulate the introduction and multiplication of capital causes a large consumption of material flow in the process of circulation between symbioses, resulting in a serious energy loss of the whole symbiosis and rendering the villagers’ income not much improved or even possibly reduced.
Ordinary villagers of Zhoutian, as well as political cadres, entrepreneurs and cultural people of all kinds of groups, have a common understanding of the positioning of the village, namely an ecological tourism village taking the road of ecological protection and tourism development. However, there are currently no tourism enterprises located in Zhoutian village, which is closely related to the villagers’ concerns about tourism development. Local villagers are worried about overcrowding, increased insecurity and serious damage to the ecological environment caused by overdevelopment in the scenic area:
Nowadays, the economy of our village is rather backward if we revitalize the countryside. Because for decades we are also holding this piece of green mountains and water, or a relatively original village. Therefore, we dare not introduce large tourism enterprises for development.
(Villager, interview CM0420210802)

5.3.2. Lack of an Interest Coordination Mechanism, and Villagers’ Interest Protection Is Worrying

Under the power-driven logic, capital entry can be accomplished by simply reaching a consensus between the grassroots government and the enterprise. However, with the awakening of villagers’ rights, villagers demand to protect their rights to participate in village affairs, respect their own will and protect their own interests. Therefore, the villagers’ interest demands have become one of the resistances to the entry of capital, forcing a change in the village governance mode and capital entry method and promoting the construction of an interest coordination mechanism. The lack of an interest coordination mechanism will affect the energy and further development of the whole symbiosis, and the symbiotic units will fall into confrontation, which will eventually affect the energy and development of each symbiotic unit in the symbiosis and affect the stable relationship between the symbiotic units.
The original humanistic community with rich historical and cultural connotations in Zhoutian has gradually evolved into a combination of a community and a scenic spot, and the problems of a shrinking population, weak management, environmental clutter and overcrowding in the community are what the villagers do not want to see. The power of the villagers is weak compared with that of the enterprises, and the problem of how to coordinate the interests of the villagers in tourism development so as to prevent them from being damaged and benefit them has not yet been solved, which is the deeper reason for why Zhoutian village is hesitant to introduce tourism enterprises:
If the countryside is to be developed, it will definitely involve the distribution of interests. But the villagers’ power is not assembled, so how to arrange the distribution of benefits and rights if it is developed? This is what we need to think about.
(Cultural achiever, interview WH0120210804)
Those enterprises will not consider whether we farmers will have money or not, they are just black-hearted, they will leave after using our resources to develop, and we won’t get a penny.
(Villager, interview CM0520210802)

5.4. Government and Tourism Enterprises: Institutional Constraints Limit and Increase Transaction Costs

In the process of rural governance, the emergence of new problems and contradictions has led the government to constantly adjust various regulations and policies and the institutional supply, bringing multiple subjects under the jurisdiction of the system as a way to improve rural governance performance. However, this inevitably leads to the tendency of cascading in the rural governance field and the proliferation of formalized elements, which constrains and limits the behavior of actors, such as through entry qualification restrictions, handling processes and control standards, and this eventually leads to actors inevitably getting caught in the complicated institutional network, spending a lot of time and energy, increasing institutional and transaction costs and forcing actors to participate in rural governance passively or even flee the governance field. Currently, there is no information sharing and communication mechanism between the government and social capital, making it difficult to deepen the understanding between the two sides, slowing the growth of organizational business and performance and making the relationship between the symbiotic units more fragile.
The government’s function is that of a public service, and more often than not, it focuses on its political interests. Social capital, on the other hand, exists in the form of enterprises and pursues economic interests. Therefore, the game between social capital and government has a fundamental need for coordination. On the issue of introducing foreign social capital to develop the walled houses, the government’s support is very insufficient, resulting in certain restrictions when social capital wants to use walled houses for tourism development. In addition to the lack of relevant support policies, there are also some policies that fetter the entry of social capital. For example, there are the regulations related to cultural relic protection units, although the original intention of these regulations is to protect, to a certain extent, they also limit the entry and development of social capital. Thus, the inability to coordinate between social capital and the government lies in the policy’s inability to truly protect and develop the Hakka Roundhouses yet restrict the entry of enterprises, thus severely limiting the development of Hakka Roundhouse tourism:
We initially very much hope to use the Z village of overseas Chinese culture and Hakka Roundhouse heritage resources to create a Chinese cultural tourism project, but the Huiyang government side does not seem to be very willing, but we have to provide a bunch of certificates, run around to stamp, to our business entry increased a lot of restrictions, but these in the tourism development regulations are not ah, these restrictions and procedures increase the Development costs, we can only give up.”
(Tourism enterprises, interview QY0120210807)

5.5. Possible Space: Stakeholder Symbiosis Conditions

The core stakeholders of Zhoutian village mainly refer to the groups or individuals who produce and live in Zhoutian and whose economic, social and moral interests are closely related to Zhoutian. They have a decisive influence on the construction of an industrial economy with Zhoutian characteristics and are directly connected with the development activities of the Zhoutian Hakka Roundhouses. According to the above discussion, it is clear that the core stakeholders are closely connected with each other and have some common goals. The local government, villagers, the village committee and tourism enterprises all have the desire to enhance the visibility of Zhoutian walled houses, preserve the local culture and ecological environment and develop the local economy. Therefore, the local government, tourism enterprises and villagers are compatible in terms of their vision of interests and meet the conditions of mutual benefit and symbiosis.
According to symbiosis theory, symbiosis conditions are the basic conditions that reflect the constituting symbiotic units that the symbiosis relationship must have [50]. Although there is a symbiotic conflict between the core stakeholders of Zhoutian Waiya tourism, they have in reality three conditions for the formation of symbiotic relationships for the compatibility of symbiotic subjects, the formation of symbiotic interfaces and the interoperability of information [38]. The conditions of stakeholder symbiosis are mainly reflected as follows.
First, the symbiotic units must be compatible with each other by their inherent nature. Our survey found that the core stakeholders of Zhoutian Weiya tourism are closely related to each other and have some common goals. The local government, village committee, tourism enterprises and local residents all have the desire to enhance the visibility of Zhoutian Waiya, attract more tourists and promote the harmonious and sustainable development of Zhoutian Waiya tourism. Therefore, it can be assumed that their expectations are convergent and have inherent compatibility in terms of tourism development aspirations, thus satisfying the first condition.
The second condition is the ability to generate at least one symbiotic interface between the symbiotic units and the possibility of autonomous activities in the symbiotic interface at the same time. For Zhoutian village, the Zhoutian perimeter house is the symbiotic interface. Zhoutian village introduces enterprises, joins with the village committee and organizes villagers to operate and manage the Zhoutian walled houses. The responsibility of the village committee is to manage and protect the tourism resources and environment of Zhoutian village and to supervise the operation of other subjects. The tourism enterprise is responsible for tourism development and the provision of tourism services in Zhoutian village. Zhoutian villagers also participate in tourism operation and resource protection, and some villagers develop their own special products, such as local specialties and Hakka tea stores. Therefore, the second symbiosis condition is also available between the core stakeholders of Zhoutian village tourism.
Thirdly, the symbiotic units are able to exchange material, information and energy with each other through the symbiotic interface. In the process of Zhoutian village Hakka Roundhouse development, the village committee, enterprises and local residents play different roles at different levels. The village committee is responsible for supervising the management of the Hakka Roundhouses and attracting investment. The tourism enterprises hold meetings to make discussions on the tourism development of Zhoutian Hakka Roundhouses, among other aspects. Zhoutian villagers, as owners of tourism resources, show tangible resources such as Hakka Roundhouses to tourists, while the enterprises pay rent to the village collective at a fixed amount every year. It can be seen that there is then a relationship of supply and demand between tourism enterprises, local villagers and tourists. There is a synergistic and complementary relationship between the village council, enterprises and local villagers, and thus the third condition is also present.
As mentioned above, the villagers of Zhoutian village, the tourism enterprises and the local government already have good symbiosis conditions between them, but to really form a good symbiotic relationship, it is crucial to further clarify the symbiotic mode of the three parties, which can show the direction for the path selection, namely through the construction of a symbiotic mechanism for the key stakeholders in Zhoutian village. The symbiosis model is called a symbiosis relationship. For the symbiosis of an organism’s benefit and harm relationship, the symbiosis relationship can be divided into a parasitic relationship, partial benefit symbiosis relationship and mutually beneficial symbiosis relationship. According to symbiosis theory, reciprocal symbiosis is the consistent direction of symbiotic system evolution, and “symmetric reciprocal symbiosis” is the most efficient and stable model among all symbiotic behavior patterns, as the distribution of benefits among symbiotic units is balanced and can achieve multiple victories, which is the ideal behavior pattern for the core stakeholders of Zhoutian village, as shown below. Therefore, reciprocal symbiosis should be the long-term goal pursued by the core stakeholder cooperation in Zhoutian village. In this model, the rights and responsibilities of the local residents, village committee, local government and tourism enterprises are first clarified, and the coexistence, sharing and mutual win-win situation of each stakeholder are sought through the sharing of benefits and obligations [46] (Figure 2).

6. Conclusions and Implications

The core stakeholders of Zhoutian village mainly refer to the groups or individuals who are closely related to Zhoutian in terms of production and life in the village, economic interests, social interests and moral interests. They have a decisive influence on the construction of an industrial economy with the characteristics of Zhoutian village and have a direct connection with the development activities of Hakka Roundhouses. According to the above discussion, it can be seen that the core stakeholders are closely connected with each other and share some common goals. The government and the village committee, villagers, and tourism enterprises all have the desire to enhance the visibility of the Hakka Roundhouses, to preserve the local culture as well as the ecological environment and to develop the local economy. Therefore, the government and the village committee, tourism enterprises and villagers are compatible in terms of their vision of interests and meet the conditions of mutual benefit and symbiosis.
By examining the current situation of Zhoutian village’s economic development and other resource utilization, we know that Zhoutian village has rich cultural and ecological resources and especially diverse and complete cultural relics. However, the development and exploitation of Zhoutian village has not utilized the various resources in the village, and there is no specific and effective implementation plan for the positioning of ecological and cultural tourism villages. After this study, the following conclusions were drawn.
First, for the villagers, who are the main force in realizing rural revitalization, their role should be given full play as well as the establishment of a communication mechanism in order to gather the villagers’ strength, fully protect the villagers’ interests, coordinate with the villagers on the distribution of property rights, improve more development opportunities for the villagers, strengthen the communication with the villagers, respect the villagers’ opinions and cultivate the villagers’ literacy in protecting cultural resources.
Second, for the village committee and the government, the primary goal is to do a good job as a guide, shouldering the tasks of both protecting and developing the countryside, so the two should determine the powers and responsibilities, improve efficiency, actively introduce foreign forces, act as a good communication link between the various interests and play a leading role in the development of the village.
Third, for foreign forces, they should consider their own social responsibility and long-term development while seeking profits and constitute healthy communication with all subjects and rational use of resources.

6.1. Suggestions for Countermeasures

The symmetrical reciprocal integrated symbiosis model is the most efficient and stable model among all symbiotic behavior models, through which a balanced distribution of benefits among symbiotic units can be achieved. By establishing the reciprocal symbiosis model of resource co-construction, linkage, co-governance and benefit sharing and coordinating the interests of all stakeholders in an integrated model, we can effectively promote Zhoutian village toward rural revitalization. Accordingly, this paper draws the following recommendations (Figure 3).

6.1.1. Resource Co-Building

Resource co-creation mainly consists of an industry co-prosperity mechanism, ecological co-creation mechanism and power return and empowerment mechanism. First of all, in order to achieve industrial prosperity and revitalize rural resources, local governments and village committees should actively attract social capital under the institutional framework, strengthen communication between the government and enterprises and create a favorable investment environment for capital investors, including financial support for infrastructure and supporting services, tax concessions and fee waivers, among others, in order to reduce the institutional costs of enterprises. At the same time, the government should quickly implement land for new village construction and give villagers appropriate subsidies to eliminate their idea of “pushing the Hakka Roundhouses to build new houses” so as to preserve the endogenous resources for the development of the tourism industry. Secondly, villagers should insist on promoting village development by green agriculture and tourism. The introduction of tourism enterprises should be based on the premise of protecting the original village appearance and resources, and social capital should be developed according to the positioning of eco-tourism villages so as to reduce the impact on villagers’ lives and keep the village as an “ecologically livable” environment. Finally, the local government should provide an institutional supply to guide villagers to join the tourism industry and encourage villagers to use their own advantages and village resources to develop special industries, cooperate with the government to develop spin-off industries, empower farmers to enhance the value of human capital and awaken the main consciousness of farmers to participate in rural revitalization so as to improve villagers’ income.

6.1.2. Linkage and Co-Governance

Linkage and co-governance are mainly composed of a power restraint mechanism, rights protection mechanism, capital regulation mechanism and non-institutional trust mechanism. First of all, the tourism resources in the countryside are seriously damaged, and stakeholders report that there is a contradiction where “villagers are restricted from raising funds to repair the Hakka Roundhouses” and “the government fails to implement the promise of repair”, which reflects the administrative inefficiency of the local government and its failure to take up the responsibility of protecting and developing cultural heritage, such as through houses. The local government has demonstrated administrative inefficiency and failure to take responsibility for the protection and development of cultural heritage, such as through walled houses. Therefore, the local government should clarify the power and responsibility of each department, simplify administrative procedures, strengthen supervision and management, regulate the exercise of power and effectively improve administrative efficiency. Secondly, to focus on real problems, villages should pay attention to important matters involving villagers’ immediate interests, starting from villagers’ rights to information, decision making, supervision and benefits to protect villagers’ rights and enhance villagers’ organization. At the same time, local governments should encourage individual entrepreneurs to actively develop local specialties and provide a corresponding institutional supply, and the government should give priority to villagers in arranging scenic spot construction, tourism reception, business management and other work. At the same time, the local government should encourage individual entrepreneurs to actively develop local specialties and provide a corresponding institutional supply, and the government should give priority to villagers in arranging scenic spot construction, tourism reception, business management, etc. to ensure that enterprises give priority to employing villagers, promoting local employment and allowing villagers to participate in the rural co-governance pattern. Once again, after the arrival of capital, villagers worry that enterprises will ignore their own demands and interests. Therefore, establishing a dialogue mechanism for enterprise representatives is conducive to dissolving the communication barriers between enterprises and villagers and reducing information asymmetry. Moreover, there are laws to follow and rules to follow in order for various stakeholders to express their interests, allocate their interests and compensate for their interests. The village committee, social capital and villagers should also sign a legally valid symbiosis contract under the condition of equality and voluntariness to clarify their respective rights and responsibilities, the scope of interests and penalties. Finally, in the face of the loss of endogenous authority in villages, the dissolution of exogenous authority, the sharp contradiction in the distribution of benefits and the difficulty in integrating resources, the public sector can make use of the authority of local villagers to allow new villagers to communicate with villagers so that both villagers and the public sector can understand each other’s ideas and convey them, which is conducive to the effective implementation of governance policies.

6.1.3. Benefit Sharing

Benefit sharing mainly includes a benefit distribution mechanism and benefit coordination mechanism. First of all, villagers and tourism enterprises for land development cooperation seem very cautious, mainly because the future income is not clear and land property rights are not clear. In order to effectively protect the interests of the subjects, the government and the village committee can set up a “village group to set up a joint stock company”, where villagers have collective land and housing as assets in the village joint stock company and then cooperate with the tourism company to jointly develop and share the benefits. Villagers in the cooperation process can bear the low risk each year from the cooperative enterprises to obtain guaranteed income and profit dividends. Even if the project ends, the resources still belong to the village, and the identities and rights of villagers will not change because the tourism company is given only the right to use the land. This development model allows villagers to share the fruits of rural revitalization and realize the deep integration of “production, village and people”. Secondly, the villagers are worried that the development of tourism companies will harm the interests of the villagers, and the vulnerable position of the villagers cannot be ignored. The main duty of this committee is to supervise the behavior of all parties in the whole process of the Hakka Roundhouse protection, development and operation as well as protection of the heritage and ecological environments and coordinate the interests of all parties, as well as an important platform for the expression of interests of various stakeholders, which is conducive to solving the problems of non-transparent information and unfair implementation, effectively resolving the conflicts between different stakeholders.

6.2. Summary and Insights

In the rural governance pattern, there are both competing interests and a convergence of interests among the symbiotic units. In order to solve the problems of an imbalance of interests in rural areas, we need to seek a possible space (i.e., the symbiosis condition of “seeking common ground while reserving differences”), construct a symbiosis scenario of “common construction, common governance and sharing”, smooth the exchange of material flow, information flow and energy flow and form a symmetrical and mutually beneficial symbiosis development model. The symbiotic development mode of mutual benefit is formed, and the goal of rural revitalization is finally realized.
The concept of “building, managing and sharing together” is an important guideline for social governance with Chinese characteristics in the new era, which has its practical basis and realistic feasibility. The reciprocal and symbiotic development model constructed under this logic can help Chinese villages get out of the dilemma of the unbalanced distribution of interests and conflicts. This paper argues that the symmetrical symbiotic development model relies on the following mechanisms: a resource co-building mechanism, linkage co-governance mechanism and benefit sharing mechanism. It is the interaction of these four mechanisms that ensures that the symbiotic model of countermeasures is possible, enabling villages to effectively respond to social shocks and improve their self-organization capacity. The spirit or value of symbiosis is demonstrated through the practice of symbiotic governance, which emphasizes the ideal situation where the symbiotic units are heterogeneous and complementary, independent and equal and mutually beneficial as a whole. At the same time, the concept of symbiosis also provides guidelines for co-construction, provides the necessary theoretical basis for co-governance and defines the value goal for sharing. The symbiosis schema of co-building, co-governance and sharing builds a smooth public platform for multi-body co-governance from the dimension of overall governance, highlights the action and coordination ability of interested subjects and builds a symmetrical and reciprocal co-governance mechanism of “government-society-public”, which brings symbiosis to the village. The “government-society-public” symmetrical and reciprocal co-governance mechanism has always concretely demonstrated the natural and social environment of rural governance, comprehensively interpreted the logic of shared governance, effectively dissolved the tension between tools and values in rural governance and ensured that the rural networked co-governance relationship has progressed to an orderly state of synergy, cooperation and co-governance under the spirit of self-organization.
Due to the limitations of time and research level, the number of interviewees in this study is relatively small, and there are still shortcomings in this study. Finally, the construction of a symmetrical and reciprocal integrated symbiosis model requires a long process, and the symbiotic units need to fit together. This is more applicable to Zhoutian, but more laws need to be explored to break through the dilemma of rural tourism development in China.

Author Contributions

Conceptualization, B.T. and Z.Z.; methodology, B.T. and Z.Z.; investigation, Z.X.; writing—original draft preparation, Z.Z. and Z.X.; writing—review and editing, B.T., Z.Z. and Z.X.; project administration, B.T.; funding acquisition, B.T. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.


This research was funded by the 2021 China Academy of Engineering Institute Land Cooperation Project (2021GD12).

Institutional Review Board Statement

Not applicable.

Informed Consent Statement

Not applicable.

Data Availability Statement

Not applicable.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Appendix A

Table A1. Personal information of interviewees.
Table A1. Personal information of interviewees.
Interview Coding AgeInterview DurationInterview DateIdentity Information
ZM16020 min31 July 2019Scholar
ZM27045 min31 July 2019Economic Achieverachiever
ZM34625 min1 August 2019Villager
ZW45320 min2 August 2019Villager
ZM54220 min3 August 2019Villager
ZM63225 min2 July 2020Villager
ZW74220 min3 July 2020Villager
ZM86725 min4 July 2020Villager
ZM94530 min7 July 2020Village official
ZM103720 min8 July 2020Village official
ZM112830 min4 August 2021TV reporter
ZM124170 min5 August 2021Government official
ZM133590 min6 August 2021Elementary school principal
ZM144930 min7 August 2021Entrepreneur
ZM155570 min8 August 2021Entrepreneur
Notes: Code Z represents Zhoutian Village, code W or M represents female or male, respectively, and the code number represents the serial number of the interviewee.

Appendix B

Table A2. Interview outline for the sustainable development of Zhoutian Village.
Table A2. Interview outline for the sustainable development of Zhoutian Village.
I. Common Interview Questions
a. Do you think the walled houses need to be protected and developed? Why?
b. What impact (benefit) do you think the development of the huts will bring to the village?
c. From your personal experience, what measures can be taken to develop the huts and at the same time to protect the environment?
II. Outline of Interviews with Villagers
a. What kind of work do you do in the tourism enterprises in the village?
b. Do you or your family members operate any tourism-related products or services (tourist souvenirs, local specialties, homestays, restaurants, etc.)?
c. Does your family receive financial compensation from tourism development in the village?
d. Has the local township (town) or village tourism management ever consulted you or your family about tourism development?
e. Have you or your family members ever participated in the village’s tourism development decisions?
f. How satisfied are you with the current status of tourism development in your village?
g. In order to ensure that your personal and family interests are maximized in the process of tourism development, what approach would you take?
h. Would you want to change your career to work with the huts if the huts are well-developed here afterward?
i. As far as you know, has the government taken any measures to protect the houses?
j. Do you think the development of the huts will have an impact on your family’s economy and change it?
k. Do you think the development of the huts will have an impact on your life? If so, what are the main impacts?
III. Outline of Interviews with Government and Village Councils
a. Is there any current funding from higher levels of government for the preservation of the walled houses? If so, how is this funding mainly used?
b. Are there any village rules and regulations for the protection of the houses in the village?
c. If the government determines to develop the culture of walled houses here, what do you think will be the starting point?
d. If there is an influx of tourists, have you thought of ways to prevent the outsiders from destroying the lives of the original residents to a large extent?
e. Do you think the current economic breakthrough in the countryside has much to do with the development of the walled houses?
f. What are the next government measures to develop the huts? What are the specific plans for the revitalization of the countryside?
g. What kind of industry is the current development of the countryside relying on? How will this industry be used to achieve rural revitalization?
h. As a manager of the tourism of ancient villages, which of the following strategies do you think the government will take to realize its own interests?
IV. Outline of Interviews with Tourism Companies
a. If the government wants to build a hut culture here, will you develop tourism in this area?
b. From your perspective as a businessperson, how can you better promote the development of hut culture?
c. Do you think the development of the walled houses can promote the development of the village economy? Why?
d. Would you invest in the development of walled houses if they were to be developed? Why?
e. As an operator of an ancient village tourism business, are you willing to hire local residents to participate in the tourism?
f. Which of the following do you think local residents can be engaged in for the tourism industry?
g. What are the attitudes of local residents toward the development of ancient village tourism by foreign tourism enterprises?
h. In the process of ancient village tourism development, what do you think the tourism enterprises will do to maximize their own interests?


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Figure 1. Logic diagram of symbiotic model formation.
Figure 1. Logic diagram of symbiotic model formation.
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Figure 2. Symbiosis model evolution diagram.
Figure 2. Symbiosis model evolution diagram.
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Figure 3. Symmetric reciprocal symbiosis model diagram.
Figure 3. Symmetric reciprocal symbiosis model diagram.
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Table 1. Ranking the importance of local villagers’ interests (n = 672).
Table 1. Ranking the importance of local villagers’ interests (n = 672).
Code NameBenefit Requirements (Indicators)MinimumMaximumAverageStandard DeviationImportance Ranking
AIncrease employment opportunities for our local villagers597.7651.7372
BImprove local infrastructure (roads, water, electricity, communications, etc.)197.6181.7913
CContribute to improving the income of our local villagers397.8281.6901
DBeneficial to enhancing our communication with the outside world197.0072.0115
EShould not affect our current way of life396.9992.5318
FShould contribute to the enrichment of our cultural lives197.1392.0784
GShould protect the original appearance and folk customs of the site196.9102.5547
HShould not bring damage to the local natural environment597.0352.2886
IShould have the right to make decisions about the development of local tourism176.4932.47210
JShould have the right to participate in the management of the local tourism industry176.7642.1499
Table 2. Local villagers’ demand interests in terms of t-test results.
Table 2. Local villagers’ demand interests in terms of t-test results.
D0.689 **
0.542 *
0.751 **
E0.876 **
0.729 *
0.939 **
F0.626 **
0.479 *
0.689 **
G0.855 **
0.708 *
0.918 **
H0.730 **
0.583 **
0.793 **
I1.272 **
1.125 **
1.334 **
0.583 *
0.396 *
0.646 *
0.417 *
0.542 *
J1.001 **
0.854 **
1.064 **
0.313 **
0.375 *
* indicates p < 0.05, and ** indicates p < 0.01.
Table 3. Ranking the importance of government and village council interest requirements (n = 135).
Table 3. Ranking the importance of government and village council interest requirements (n = 135).
Code NameBenefit Requirements (Indicators)MinimumMaximumAverageStandard DeviationImportance Ranking
AIncrease local tax revenue397.2221.4944
BImprove the local economy597.5561.0941
CProvide a way for local people to get rich and become employed597.4991.4982
DObtain economic benefits directly from tourism397.1561.5535
EEnrich the rural cultural lives of local residents395.9991.36611
FProtecting the natural environment of the tourist site596.0991.71110
GEnhancing the overall image of the local area396.6221.2598
HDrive the development of other related industries through tourism396.7561.4786
IPromote local social harmony and stability597.3561.1383
JImprove the local infrastructure596.6990.9627
KPreserve local historical relics596.2991.3049
Table 4. Government and village council interests in terms of t-test results.
Table 4. Government and village council interests in terms of t-test results.
E1.333 **
1.677 **
1.600 **
1.267 **
F1.133 **
1.467 **
1.400 **
1.067 **
G0.600 *
0.933 **
0.867 **
−0.733 *
0.800 **
0.733 **
−0.867 **
−1.467 **
−0.867 **
−0.733 *
0.867 **
0.800 **
−0.800 *
−0.600 *
0.667 **
K0.993 **
1.267 **
1.200 **
0.867 **
1.067 **
* indicates p < 0.05, and ** indicates p < 0.01.
Table 5. Ranking the importance of tourism business benefit requirements (n = 306).
Table 5. Ranking the importance of tourism business benefit requirements (n = 306).
Code NameBenefit Requirements (Indicators)MinimumMaximumAverageStandard DeviationImportance Ranking
AGet high profit returns797.6260.9921
BEarn the long-term survival and growth of the business597.3101.0724
CProvide a way of employment for local residents396.0471.2138
DGaining a good image for the tourism enterprise597.4151.1233
EProtecting the local natural environment596.4681.5766
FPreserve local historical relics396.5731.2045
GPromote the popularity of the tourism place597.5211.1662
HPromote the development of the local economy396.1521.1947
Table 6. The t-test results for tourism business benefit requirements.
Table 6. The t-test results for tourism business benefit requirements.
E1.333 **
1.677 **
1.600 **
1.267 **
F1.133 **
1.467 **
1.400 **
1.067 **
G0.600 *
0.933 **
0.867 **
−0.733 *
H1.474 **
1.158 **
1.263 **
1.368 **
* indicates p < 0.05, and ** indicates p < 0.01.
Table 7. Overall analysis of core stakeholders’ interest claims.
Table 7. Overall analysis of core stakeholders’ interest claims.
StakeholdersClaims of InterestSpecific Embodiment
Local VillagersThe first interest demand: life improvementIncrease income
Increase employment opportunities
Improve infrastructure
Second interest claim: cultural and environmental interestsEnriching cultural life
Communicate with the outside world
Preserve the original local landscape and natural environment
Not affect the way of life
Third interest claim: participation claimParticipation in tourism business management and decision making
Government and Village CouncilFirst interest claim: economic interestsIncrease local tax revenue
Improving the local economy
Obtain economic benefits directly from tourism
Second interest claim: social benefitsProvide local villagers with ways to become rich and employed
Promote local social harmony and stability
To stimulate the development of other industries
Improve infrastructure
Enhance the overall image of the local community
Third interest claim: cultural environmental benefitsPreserve historical relics
Enriching rural cultural life
Protecting the local natural environment
Tourism EnterprisesFirst interest claim: economic interestsGet high profit returns
Develop a good corporate image
Enhance local popularity
Win the long-term survival and development of the enterprise
Second interest claim: social responsibilityProtecting the local natural environment
Preserve historical relics
Promote local economic development
Provide employment opportunities for local villagers
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Tang, B.; Zeng, Z.; Xi, Z. Research on the Symbiosis Model of the Core Interest Subjects of Chinese Ancient Village Tourism Sites in the Context of Rural Revitalization. Sustainability 2022, 14, 12001.

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Tang B, Zeng Z, Xi Z. Research on the Symbiosis Model of the Core Interest Subjects of Chinese Ancient Village Tourism Sites in the Context of Rural Revitalization. Sustainability. 2022; 14(19):12001.

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Tang, Bin, Zhenjian Zeng, and Zhenhua Xi. 2022. "Research on the Symbiosis Model of the Core Interest Subjects of Chinese Ancient Village Tourism Sites in the Context of Rural Revitalization" Sustainability 14, no. 19: 12001.

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