Editor's Note: China is striding firmly toward achieving its target of eliminating absolute poverty by the end of this year. What are the factors behind its imminent success? In the third of a series of commentaries, a senior journalist of China Daily tries to find the answers.
One reason behind the success of China's anti-poverty campaign is that the government has turned it into a "people's war". While the government has left no stone unturned in using its resources, such as continuously increasing the special budget for the antipoverty campaign and sending millions of civil servants and professionals to work shoulder to shoulder with poor villagers, the central leadership has been clear that unless the entire country is mobilized, absolute poverty cannot be eliminated by the end of this year.
Thanks to widespread publicity, the government has convinced people that national rejuvenation can be realized only when everyone is lifted out of poverty. In fact, the national consensus is that every person should do his or her bit to make the fight against poverty a success.
Common folks are also bolstering the fight against poverty. Over the decades, millions of people have joined Project Hope by donating money to help children from poor families complete the nineyear compulsory education
The better-off provinces and cities, especially those along the eastern coast, have been asked to help develop the relatively poor provinces and regions, mainly in the inland western areas, by providing them with resources, investments and skill training, because until the poor provinces develop and lift their residents out of poverty, true common development cannot be realized.
For example, during his tenure as a senior official in Fujian province in the late 1990s, President Xi Jinping was asked to facilitate the development of the Ningxia Hui autonomous region. After making thorough inquiries, Xi decided that among other supportive measures, shifting the poor households from remote areas to areas that have better connectivity and living conditions could help alleviate poverty. Fujian also helped build a new town called Minning, which today is home to about 40,000 villagers. Hospitals and schools were built to take better care of the new settlers, and factories and workshops established to provide them with employment.
When the first group of immigrants settled in Minning, their average annual income was only 500 yuan ($71.4). Today, it's well over 15,000 yuan, much higher than the national poverty line of 4,000 yuan. And the cooperation between Fujian and Ningxia is still going on.
The central government has made sure that each poor province or region has one or two "rich" brothers to look after it. Every central ministry and organization has been paired with a poor county (usually with a population between 10,000 and 500,000) to provide whatever help it can.
China Daily, for instance, was asked to help Dongxiang county in Gansu province. With donations from our staff and readers worldwide, we helped the county to build one dozen Schools of Hope, which enabled many youngsters to complete their higher education and lead a better life.
The 100-plus State-owned central enterprises, also played their part, each responsible for helping a number of poor counties. They have helped build roads, schools and hospitals, improve irrigation and drinking water supply systems, and establish factories and workshops so the poor residents can get jobs.
Many private enterprises, too, have joined the fight against poverty. China has more than 15 million such enterprises. And many in impoverished areas are owned by people who were once poor residents there, and have now joined the anti-poverty campaign on their own or asked by the government to do so.
During my reporting tour of Zhanjiang, Guangdong province, last year, I talked with the young owner of a pearl business company. After earning millions of yuan in Guangzhou, he chose to close his business in the provincial capital and return to his home village in Zhanjiang to help the poor villagers.
"Every time I thought of my poor villagers, I felt an obligation to help them," he told me.
In the village, he has formed a kind of cooperative, and the villagers can earn a living by selling him the pearls they cultivated. The villagers can earn more by working in his company to polish the pearls to make them marketable.
"There is a lot more pressure on me now because the pearl market has become unpredictable, and I have to pay the villagers decent wages whether I make profits or not", he said. "But when I see the smiling faces of the poor villagers counting the renminbi bills, I think it's worth it."
Common folks are also bolstering the fight against poverty. Over the decades, millions of people have joined Project Hope by donating money to help children from poor families complete the nine-year compulsory education.
People have also found a new way to boost the anti-poverty campaign－"purchasing products from poor areas". Millions of people have been placing orders online to buy products such as fruits, vegetables and dried rice noodles from impoverished areas. I, too, have bought such products, more than I can use. But, as the young entrepreneur in Zhanjiang said, I think it's worth it.
Indeed, with the whole nation mobilized, we are set to win the people's war against poverty.
The author is former deputy editor-in-chief of China Daily.
HONG KONG NEWS