China winning the toughest of tough battles against poverty
| Liu Yongfu (center), director of the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development, at a press conference held by the State Council Information Office on Oct. 10, 2017. Photo by Shen Hong
By Cheng Yunjie, Wang Hongjiang, Cheng Jing, Wangyu, Hou Xuejing, Fan Shihui, Ren Liying
China has made remarkable progress in its poverty alleviation work during the past five years, winning the toughest of the tough battles.
"The number of people living below the poverty line in China has been reduced by an average of 13 million each year since 2012," Liu Yongfu, director of the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development, said at a press conference held by the State Council Information Office Tuesday.
The country lifted 6.39 million people out of poverty annually in the last 15 years of the 20th century, after launching large-scale poverty relief programs in 1986.
During the first decade of this century, the population living below the poverty line decreased by an annual average of 6.73 million.
Priorities such as targeted poverty alleviation have also gained ground. But despite progress, major difficulties still face people living in deep poverty.
Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang (6th from right of front row) poses for a group photo with poverty relief role models before a meeting honoring people who have made great contributions to poverty relief in Beijing on Oct. 9, 2017. Photo by Ding Lin
Chinese President Xi Jinping called for enhanced and solid efforts to win the battle against poverty at a meeting held in Beijing Monday to honor people who have made great contributions to poverty relief.
Although remarkable progress has been made since the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee made a solemn promise to lift all rural people out of poverty by 2020, Xi said, all-out efforts should be made toward poverty relief, as it is the toughest of all battles.
Xi himself has completed more than 30 field tours on poverty alleviation during past five years and hosted five inter-provincial meetings at locations including Fuping County in north China's Hebei Province.
At remote villages in the county, locals experienced the changes following a visit by Xi Jinping in December 2012, shortly after he was elected general secretary of the CPC Central Committee.
"The general secretary said during his tour to our village that he would like us to get rid of poverty and become better off as soon as possible. Today, I want to let him know that we've made it," said Gu Chenghu, a villager from Gujiatai village in Fuping County, Hebei Province.
When Xi visited Gujiatai village five years ago, Gu had nothing but a bunch of corn in his shabby yard. He felt helpless to take care of his sick wife and son.
In Luotuowan village, another village in Fuping County, 428 out of 608 villagers were living in poverty when Xi visited there in 2012. In 2013, nearly half of the residents of Fuping County were living in poverty.
Deep in the Taihang Mountains, Fuping is one of the country's old revolutionary bases. It has scarce fertile land, low levels of education and a high poverty rate.
President Xi Jinping on a field tour in December, 2012, in Fuping County, Hebei Province, northern China. Photo-Xinhua
During his 2012 trip to the county, Xi told officials to work hard to help villagers in poverty live better lives as soon as possible.
In the following four years, the country introduced 126 poverty alleviation and development plans, including selecting more capable and suitable officials to guide poverty relief work at different levels.
"We have selected a group of officials in their 40s with rich work experience in rural areas and appointed them to key posts in towns," said county party secretary Hao Guochi.
Officials were dispatched according to their abilities, according to Hao. For example, officials with business savvy were sent to poverty-stricken villages, while officials with specialized industrial knowledge were sent to villages with an industrial base.
Thanks to their efforts, Gu and his wife have gained access to social assistance programs and endowment insurance. The family's income has also increased to more than 5,000 yuan (about 750 U.S. dollars) from their farmland.
Gu is not the only who has pulled himself out of poverty in Fuping. The county's registered impoverished population dropped to 35,700 in 2016 from nearly 110,000 people in 2013.
For most villagers in Fuping, the obvious path out of poverty they could imagine was through financial help from the government, which could ease their burdens over a short period, but could never be a long-term solution.
Hopes of fundamental change came as local authorities realized the importance of developing agricultural industries and encouraged villagers to produce certain products and foster industries, including vegetable and fruit.
President Xi Jinping on a field tour in December, 2012, in Fuping County, Hebei Province, northern China. Photo by Lan Hongguang
While villages are responsible for mass production, companies are tasked with marketing and selling the products. In the process, the government aided industry development by guiding funds to support growth and offering agriculture insurance to create a sound security network for villagers.
By the end of 2016, Fuping had built 3,000 greenhouses for growing mushrooms, with the participation of more than 6,000 households. The per capita disposable income of rural residents in Fuping has doubled to 6,542 yuan from 2012, higher than the national average in poverty-hit areas.
Determined to win the war against poverty, China has adopted various means to reduce poverty, including e-commerce, financing, industry, relocation and improvement of infrastructure.
The country is aiming to eradicate rural poverty by 2020 by lifting the remaining 55 million rural poor out of poverty, roughly 10 million each year.
Editor: Li Mengxin