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Commentary: Eliminating poverty, the Chinese way

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-09-03 06:55

BEIJING - President Xi Jinping has a history of working to alleviate poverty. He personally led a campaign to end poverty in Ningde Prefecture, southeastern China's Fujian Province, as early as 1988, and is now leading China toward a poverty-free future.

"The weak birds must start earlier than others," Xi, then-secretary of Communist Party of China (CPC) Ningde Prefectural Committee, told local officials, according to the full text of his remarks at a symposium on poverty relief in north China's Shanxi Province on June 23, which was made public Thursday.

Confident that "constant drops wear away a stone," Xi led local people to work incessantly to alleviate poverty in the prefecture.

Some of Xi's speeches in Ningde were later compiled into a book titled "Up and Out of Poverty," which analysts said could serve as a general guide on China's experience in poverty alleviation.

Ningde was not the only "weak bird" that strived to catch up with others. At the end of 2016, more than 43 million people, or about 3 percent of China's population, lived under the country's poverty line of 2,300 yuan ($349) of annual income in 2010 constant prices.

China's top leadership has remained aware of the arduous task they are facing. Since becoming the general secretary of the CPC Central Committee in 2012, Xi has placed poverty alleviation on top of the CPC agenda and called it "the baseline task for building a moderately prosperous society," which the country strives to achieve by 2020.

At the symposium in Shanxi, Xi sat down with Party officials from provincial to county levels, discussing ways they could help the "weakest birds" get a head start.

"Eradicating poverty has always been a tough battle, while eradicating poverty in extremely poor areas is the hardest fight of all," Xi said.

Fortunately, China's finest are taking the frontline in the fight to eradicate poverty. By the end of 2016, about 775,000 officials had been sent to rural areas to design tailored poverty relief programs for and with the local communities.

The banks followed. As of the end of 2016, outstanding loans from financial institutions for poverty alleviation totaled 2.5 trillion yuan, with 818.1 billion yuan in new loans in 2016.

From 2013 to 2016, 55.64 million rural people, or more than 10 million each year, were lifted out of poverty in China.

Figures aside, benefits have been seen and not just in terms of money. An example cited by Xi was a village in central China's Hunan Province where men had difficulty finding wives because the poverty of the village was well-known. Following improvements to the local economy, 20 single men were married and their wives joined them to begin a new life in the village.

To realize the ambitious goal of eradicating poverty by 2020, China still needs to lift more than 10 million people out of poverty every year.

Creating jobs or offering training will not work so well for many of those who remain in poverty -- particularly the old, the sick, and the disabled. In response, China has decided to take the time to patiently work with the poor on a case-by-case basis.

In its essence, this precision poverty relief adopts varied policies to different regions according to their needs. For those living in remote areas with few natural resources, the government has offered assistance to relocate; for people in ecologically fragile areas, the government has provided compensation; for the sick and the disabled, the government has increased local medical care.

"Our experiences have proven that abject poverty is not formidable. As long as we pay great attention, think correctly, take effective measures, and work in a down-to-earth way, abject poverty is absolutely conquerable," Xi said.

What sounds like a tall order is becoming reality step by step. Chinese leaders are pragmatic enough to set reasonable goals, which make sure that the rural poor will at least have food to eat, clothes to wear, and places to live in by 2020.

After all, it is a vision that the CPC has always wanted to realize since the very beginning of its founding -- when China prospers, it will leave no one behind.

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