Zuoquan: The on-target poverty alleviation model

By Li Fugen, Wei Bo, Wang Qian
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, June 2, 2017
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Slogans vowing to eradicate poverty are everywhere in Zuoquan. [Photo by Zheng Liang/China.org.cn]

Poverty eradication demands both tenacity and innovation. Zuoquan County, amid northern China's Taihang Ranges, is named after General Zuo Quan, who sacrificed his life in the battle against Japanese invaders in the Chinese People's War against Japanese Aggression. On the poverty eradication battlefield of today, the people of Zuoquan carry forward the spirit of tenacity, commitment, and diligence in the county's endeavor to help people rise out of poverty.


"Poverty reduction is the target of our work and the behest of our people." These slogans are on walls everywhere in Zuoquan County, Shanxi Province. "Poverty reduction" is at the top of the local government's agenda and constitutes a clarion call to everyone.

The incidence of poverty in Zuoquan is as high as 21.77 percent. This landlocked county is constrained by inadequate infrastructure and public services. Worst of all, people in certain areas subsist in conditions deemed by the UN as unfit for human habitation. Most families registered as impoverished live in a state of absolute poverty. Rising out of it to build a moderately well-off society seems to them an impossible dream.

In 2001 Zuoquan County was listed as a key county in the national program to reduce poverty. This has since been the main focus of the local government, especially after the 18th CPC National Congress, when the policy of on-target poverty alleviation came into effect throughout the country. The local Zuoquan government has formulated a slew of targeted measures in efforts to eradicate poverty by the end of 2018, and realize a moderately prosperous society by 2020.

Poverty reduction the overarching task

Information charts – including the status quo, analyses of causes, poverty reduction targets for both families and villages, and the poverty eradication roadmap itself – hang on the wall of every village committee office in each of the 125 villages in Zuoquan registered as impoverished.

The extent of progress in poverty alleviation in these villages is determined by their geographic and economic conditions. "On-target" is the buzz word in Zuoguan's battle. Thus far, 29,717 people have been designated as living below the poverty line. Helping them rise out of poverty is the overarching task. In upholding the development concepts of innovation, coordination, green, opening-up, and sharing, the Zuoquan government insists on equitable social and economic development.

The undulant Taihang Ranges formed a natural defense in the Chinese people's resistance against Japanese aggression, but today they hinder communications between local residents and the world beyond. How can this geographic drawback be made advantageous? The forestry industry provides a breakthrough. Zuoquan has made full use of preferrential policies, funds and other relevant resources in this connection. Its afforestation projects now generate jobs for poverty-stricken people, and at the same time improve the county's ecological environment.

During the 13th Five-Year Plan period (2016-2020), forestry will contribute 20 percent or more to the poverty reduction program, with the aim of lifting as many as 12,000 people out of poverty. So far the county has set up 45 afforestation cooperatives manned by 626 impoverished families. The tree planting program has increased the forest coverage rate from 35 percent to 39 percent, according to Guan Xiaodong, chief engineer of the Forestry Bureau of Zuoquan County.

"I will plant trees with other cooperative members in spring, and tend the saplings in the rest of time," said Yang Wenxiu from Matian Town. "I can earn more than 5,000 yuan a year from this program." Yang formerly tried to wrest a living from his 0.2-hectare field, but tuition fees for his three children plunged the family into a mire of poverty. Now a forestry ranger, Yang earns a stable income and has no worries about feeding his family. He has a sense of pride each time he puts on his uniform.

Since 2016, first year of the 13th Five-Year Plan period, Zuoquan has achieved satisfying results in its poverty alleviation drive, as well as in other fields. As many as 23 villages and 8,147 people registered as impoverished have this year risen above this designation. Third-party evaluation data show that 92 percent of those surveyed are satisfied with the poverty alleviation work. Moreover, walnut cultivation, breeding, cultivation of TCM herbs, photovoltaic industry, and rural tourism have flourished. Both the ecological environment and infrastructure in rural areas have improved, and farmers are more optimistic and positive about the future.

To eradicate poverty at its roots calls first and foremost for a change of mindset. Poverty relief is not charity, but a process of reactivating human initiative. With this in mind, Zuoquan has given full play to the role of the "first secretary"of the village-level CPC committee.

Lianbi Village of Longquan Town was long trapped in poverty due to its secluded location. But it abandoned the out-dated mentality of relying on relief funds and government assistance. The village CPC committee started the drive by building confidence – talking with those caught in the poverty trap, and empowering them by showing there was a way out of it. In 2016, Lianbi Village successfully achieved all indexes required to throw off poverty.

"We knew nothing about government policies or national events. But now it's different," said Zhang Shilin who lives in Guair Town. "Since the 'first secretary' came to my village, he has updated us on what goes on beyond our county. Now I generally watch the news, and keep informed on preferential policies."

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