China vows to cement progress in poverty alleviation

By Guo Yiming
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, March 10, 2021
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A worker at an orchard in Xichou county, Yunnan province, shows off the organic kiwis grown in the area on Nov. 18, 2020. [Photo by Wang Yiming/]

After declaring victory in eradicating absolute poverty, China is finding ways to ensure that the people's movement up the economic ladder is sustained and no one backslides into poverty.

During the annual session of the National People's Congress (NPC), the country's lawmakers pondered next steps for cementing the hard-earned achievement.

A major effort for building on the victory against poverty will be pushing for higher-level development in China's rural areas. In this year's government work report, Premier Li Keqiang announced that China will set up a robust long-term mechanism to consolidate and expand the achievements in poverty alleviation through the dovetailing rural vitalization drive.

Zhu Youyong, a deputy to the 13th NPC, said, "Shaking off poverty is just the first step, and creating better lives needs continued efforts."

After years of hard work, impoverished areas have seen better living environment with support from outside, said Zhu, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and a plant pathologist. "To make development sustainable, rural areas need to create their own growth drivers by developing local businesses."

For the areas that were lifted out of poverty, the government needs to keep its policies consistent, and offer follow-up support for those in need, Zhu said. He stressed that rural areas should explore business strategies based on local conditions, and recruit professionals and develop a talent pool with technological, marketing, and business management skills.

According to the government work report, a five-year transition period will apply for regions that were lifted out of poverty. Major assistance policies will remain unchanged during this time. 

Li Jian, a deputy to the 13th NPC and director of the poverty alleviation and development office in Guizhou province, said it is important to establish a dynamic monitoring and assistance system to forestall a large-scale reemergence of poverty.

Through big data technologies, officials in poverty relief departments can closely monitor major data on areas such as healthcare, education, and housing to identify and find causes for people at risk of falling back into poverty, and offer timely and targeted assistance, Li said.

Li also called for government agencies to provide employment aid and vocational training for those who find it hard to land a job, and support local business development to increase rural income.

Last month, China established a new government body for promoting rural vitalization, which replaced the country's anti-poverty agency that oversaw poverty relief programs in rural areas over the past years. 

The debut of the new administration marked the transition of China's policy focus from poverty alleviation to promoting rural vitalization across the board, said Wei Houkai, a deputy to the 13th NPC. 

"Anti-poverty and rural development should be our long-term goal," Wei said. "Although we have eradicated absolute poverty under the current standards, relative poverty will continue to exist due to economic imbalances and the income gap."

As director of the Rural Development Institute at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Wei said he found that China's rural productivity is still low compared to other agricultural powers, and the gap between urban and rural income is relatively wide.

As urbanization gathers pace, the influx of young and middle-aged rural residents to the city has left an increasing proportion of senior residents behind in rural areas, he said. "But infrastructures and facilities in large fall short of the needs with the aging population there."

Wei called for more efforts to retain young rural residents, including helping them find jobs and start businesses in their hometowns. He also said businesses in urban areas should be encouraged to establish operations in the countryside through policy incentives and subsidies, so that those businesses can bring capital, technology, marketing, and branding solutions to rural areas.

Tang Renjian, minister of agriculture and rural affairs, said that as rural development comes to a new stage, China will make more practical plans to improve the living and working conditions of rural residents, and provide better public services in areas such as education, healthcare, and senior care to meet their needs.

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