III.Major Contents and Channels of
the Aid-the-Poor Program
In carrying out its aid-the-poor program, the Chinese Government has persistently centered its efforts on economic construction, developing the productive forces of poverty-stricken areas, and combining development with relief. It aims at helping the rural poor to shake off poverty through various ways and channels, and by adopting comprehensive coordinative measures.
Adhering to the Policy of Development-oriented Poverty Alleviation
Providing development-oriented aid to the poor is a reform of and adjustment to the old, traditional way of dispersed relief, forming the core and basis of the Chinese Government's aid-the-rural-poor policy. Adhering to the policy of development-oriented aid means centering efforts on economic construction, supporting and encouraging cadres and ordinary people in poor areas to improve their production conditions, exploit local resources, develop commodity production, and strengthen their ability to accumulate funds and develop by themselves.
The policy of development-oriented aid mainly consists of the following five aspects: First, advocating and encouraging the spirit of self-reliance and hard work, and helping poor peasant households overcome the common attitude of "waiting for, relying on and requesting" aid. Second, considering that the poor areas are weak in infrastructure and capability for defense against natural disasters, the state encourages and supports poor peasant households to put labor into the construction of infrastructure, such as farmland, irrigation works and highways, by arranging necessary work-relief funds, so as to improve the conditions for developing production. Third, the state provides concessional loans for special aid items at discounted interest, and formulates preferential policies, centering on helping the poverty-stricken areas and peasant households develop market-oriented crop cultivation, aquiculture and poultry raising and corresponding processing industries, so as to increase production and incomes. Fourth, conducting training in advanced practical agrotechiques, in order to improve poor peasant households' sci-tech and cultural levels, and strengthening their ability to develop by themselves. Fifth, combining development-oriented aid with soil and water conservation, environmental protection and ecological construction, implementing the strategy of sustainable development, and helping poor areas and peasant households enhance their ability to make further progress.
Bringing Aid Within the Reach of Individual Villages and Households
Since the beginning of the 1990s, considering the reality of the poverty-stricken areas, China has paid special attention to making aid accessible to individual villages and households, as an important measure. The state has also used the individual household as the basic unit in quantifying the various indices for solving the poor peasant households' problem of food and clothing.
China has developed many effective ways in the practice of work in this regard: First, assigning individual households to cadres, which means organizing cadres at all levels to form a "one helps one" team with individual poor peasant households, and making clear the cadres' duties in this respect by signing a responsibility contract or through other ways. Second, households raise their incomes through the help of economic entities, which means realizing a benign circle of production, supply and marketing of agricultural products by encouraging enterprises to cooperate with peasant households in setting up bases for producing or processing agricultural products. Third, development through relocation, whereby poor households are persuaded to move from their native places, where production and living conditions are exceptionally bad, to places with better conditions, so as to help lift them out of poverty. Fourth, encouraging all social sectors to aid poor peasant households.
One of the key measures for making aid accessible to individual households is providing small-amount credit loans. Having learned from the aid-the-poor experiences of other countries and international organizations, the Chinese Government has achieved good results in providing poor households with small-amount credit loans. By 1999, a total of three billion yuan had been loaned to over 2.4 million poor peasant households. At the same time, China has primarily standardized the experimentation with and promotion of small-amount credit loans, and has entered the new stage of enlarging the involved population, as well as the scale.
Aiding the Poor with Technology and Education
In 1986, in accordance with the state's general strategy and requirements in poverty relief, relevant authorities of the Chinese Government proposed the aim, measures and implementation methods of aiding the poor with technology. In 1996, they formulated an Outline of the National Plan for Aiding the Poor with Technology (1996-2000), strengthening the policy guidance for aid along this line.
In order to further enhance the ability of poverty-stricken areas to fight poverty, the Chinese Government has provided special funds for aiding the poor with technology, which have been used for introducing, testing, demonstrating and promoting improved seed strains and advanced practical technologies, and for conducting technological training. Since 1995, the State Education Commission and the Ministry of Finance have jointly implemented the National Project of Compulsory Education in Poor Areas, through which over 10 billion yuan has been provided for all state-designated poor counties, some province-designated poor counties, old revolutionary base areas and ethnic minority areas, to help them institute the national nine-year compulsory education.
The Chinese Government encourages institutions of higher learning and scientific research institutes to promote advanced practical agrotechniques in poor areas, and has organized scientific and technological personnel and research institutions to teach in poor areas or promote agrotechniques in poor townships or villages. These measures have effectively changed the backward modes of production in these areas, increased the yield of farmland, and swiftly raised peasants' incomes. In the past 15 years, the Ministry of Science and Technology has sent, by turnstile count, 30,000 technicians to poor areas, implemented 580 model projects of aiding the poor with technology, set up 1,500 technological demonstration centers, solved over 200 key technological problems, and promoted over 2,000 suitable techniques in poor areas.
Mobilizing and Organizing All Social Sectors to Participate in Aiding the Poor
Based on the uniform requirements of the Central Government, to solve the food and clothing problem of the impoverished population as soon as possible, and in accordance with the actual conditions of the poor areas, government departments have borne an active part in the development-oriented poverty reduction drive. They have drawn up specific implementation plans for their own technological aid projects, employing a series of favorable policies to help poor areas to develop and poor people to shake off poverty. Making full use of their own advantages, these departments have contributed to the development and construction in poor areas by favoring them in providing funds, materials and technology.
Since the mid-1980s, more and more units and organizations have participated in development-oriented aid-the-poor work, including central government organs, enterprises and institutions, non-Communist parties and mass organizations, and the scale has been steadily enlarged. Each department or organization has a specific target of aid and definite responsibilities, keeping up its aid until the aided have shaken off poverty. By the end of 2000, the number of such units and organizations had reached 138, involving over 3,000 cadres, 4.4 billion yuan in direct investment, and 10.5 billion yuan in funds from domestic and overseas sources.
The provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities, and the poor areas themselves have put energetic efforts into the poverty reduction work in specific areas. From 1995 to 1999, about 46,000 cadres were sent to do aid-the-poor work in poor counties and villages; as much as 8.762 billion yuan worth was directly invested, both in cash and in kind; a total of 10.3 billion yuan in support funds was derived from other sources; over 20,000 aid projects were launched; and over 13,000 technicians and nearly 7,000 items of technology were introduced.
In addition, social organizations, non-governmental organizations and private enterprises have actively initiated or participated in a wide spectrum of aid-the-poor activities, such as the Hope Project, Cause of Glory, Aid-the-Poor Through Culture, Happiness Project, Spring Buds Program, Young Volunteers' Project of Supporting Education in Poor Areas in Relays, and Poor Peasant Households' Self-Support Project. A project aimed at helping children from poor families to go to school, the Hope Project has received a total donation of nearly 1.9 billion yuan from both home and abroad since its inauguration in 1989, with which to fund the establishment of 8,355 Hope schools and help nearly 2.3 million children to go to school.
Cooperation of the Eastern and Western Regions in the Aid-the-Poor Work
In order to speed up the pace of eliminating poverty in the western region, China has adopted the idea of getting the more-developed provinces and municipalities in the east to support the development of their western counterparts. This scheme is carried out as follows: Beijing helps Inner Mongolia; Tianjin helps Gansu; Shanghai helps Yunnan; Guangdong helps Guangxi; Jiangsu helps Shaanxi; Zhejiang helps Sichuan; Shandong helps Xinjiang; Liaoning helps Qinghai; Fujian helps Ningxia; and the cities of Dalian, Qingdao, Shenzhen and Ningbo help Guizhou. Based on the principles of "taking advantages of each other's strengths, mutual benefit, long-term cooperation and common development," the cooperating parties have joined efforts in all aspects and at multiple levels, including cooperation between enterprises, project aid, and personnel exchange. Such cooperation between the eastern and western regions focuses on improving the production conditions and ecological environments in the poor areas as well as solving the food and clothing problem in these areas. Following the laws of the market economy, making full use of science and technology, and mobilizing all social forces, various forms of economic cooperation have been conducted, while efforts are being made to realize more such cooperation.
In the recent year, nearly 2.14 billion yuan-worth of donated funds and materials have been provided by the governments of 13 provinces and municipalities and various social sectors in the east; 5,745 project agreements have been signed; investments of over 28 billion yuan have been agreed upon, of which over four billion yuan has already been invested; and 517,000 workers have been transferred from the poor areas. The eastern and western regions have also cooperated in cadre exchange, personnel training, establishing schools, building basic farmland and highways, easing the shortage of drinking water for people and livestock, and so on. Since 1992, the State Education Commission and State Ethnic Affairs Commission have organized the more developed provinces and municipalities to support education work in the poor areas and areas inhabited by ethnic minorities, building or rebuilding 1,400 primary and secondary schools, helping nearly 40,000 children to go to school, and training 16,000 primary and secondary school teachers.
Aiding the Poor by Encouraging Migration
The state encourages and supports poor peasant households to move out of areas with extremely difficult living conditions to more favorable areas, which is a new way to solve their food and clothing problem. The Chinese Government has stressed that the poor population migrating voluntarily, in addition to enjoying the state's preferential aid-the-poor policies, should be helped by local governments through their specific measures and preferential terms, to guarantee that each migrating household's food and clothing problem is solved. This work has been undertaken according to the principles of migration by free will, resettlement in the nearest possible areas, acting within the limit of resources, and the provision of appropriate subsidies.
The major methods of aiding the poor by migration include: First, governments subsidize the poor households for migrating and resettling near their relatives or friends. Second, governments establish migrants' settlements, and make sure that their food and clothing problem is solved without damaging the ecological environment around the settlements. Third, the migrants are allowed to keep their old homes until the new settlements are well in shape for stable production and habitation. In the recent year, about 2.6 million of the poor have been relocated in various ways and through various channels, among whom 2.4 million have already settled down. The total poor population that needs to migrate has shrunk from 7.5 million to about five million.
Transferring Labor from Poor Areas
To increase the chances of employment and the income of workers in poor areas, the state encourages and organizes the transfer of labor from areas favorable for such transfer. Such labor transfer will not only increase the employment and income of workers from the poor areas, but, more importantly, it will also enable these people to learn new technologies, life-styles and working methods from the places where they work, to broaden their outlook, increase their self-confidence and improve their ability to develop independently. Many migrant workers from the western region have become envoys for spreading in the western region the modes of production, life-styles, culture and technologies from the more developed eastern region. In Sichuan Province, there are over eight million workers employed outside the province each year, ranking first in the country, and every year they send about 20 billion yuan back to their native places.
Combining Poverty Reduction with Eco-environmental Protection and Family Planning
While developing the poor areas, the Chinese Government pays close attention to the protection of the ecological environment, and encourages peasants to develop ecologically-and environmentally-friendly agriculture. Poverty reduction by reliance on science and technology has helped to change the previous way of production by indiscriminate means at the expense of the ecology in poor areas, and gone a long way toward promoting sustainable development in these areas.
The large quantity, high growth and low quality of the population in the poor areas have seriously handicapped economic and social development, the efforts to solve the food and clothing problem, and the peasants' attempts to shake off poverty and get rich. The Chinese Government specially emphasizes changing the people's ideas on the family in the poor areas, and encourages them to closely adhere to the national family planning policy. The combination of family planning with poverty reduction has produced important effects on the coordinated development of the population, economy and society and the sustainable development of the impoverished areas.
Promoting International Exchange and Cooperation in Aid-the-Poor Work
The Chinese Government carries out its aid-the-poor program mainly by its own efforts, at the same time paying attention to exchange and cooperation with the international community in this sphere of endeavor. The Chinese Government believes that promoting such exchange and cooperation will not only help speed up the solving of the food and clothing problem of its own poor population, but it will also help raise the general level of China's aid-the-poor work by learning from the international community its long years of experience and successful methods in aiding the poor. Since the 1990s, the Chinese Government has actively studied the international anti-poverty experience, and continuously widened its cooperation with international organizations in work in this particular field, in which it has made obvious progress.
The World Bank was the first international body to cooperate with the Chinese Government in aid-the-poor work, and has made the largest investment so far. The three-stage aid-the-poor loan project jointly carried out by the World Bank and China in the southwestern areas, the Qinling and Daba mountain areas and the western region has involved a total of 610 million US dollars, covering nine provinces and autonomous regions, 91 poverty-stricken counties and over eight million poor people. In July 1995, the Southwestern China-World Bank Loan Project started in the 35 state-designated poorest counties in Yunnan and Guizhou provinces and the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Of the total investment of 4.23 billion yuan, 247.5 million US dollars were in the form of loans from the World Bank; the Chinese Government provided a supporting fund of 2.18 billion yuan. This project mainly involved mega-agriculture, infrastructure, development of secondary and tertiary industries, labor service export, education, health care and poverty monitoring. The project is expected to eventually solve the food and clothing problem of 3.5 million needy people. This inter-province, inter-industry comprehensive aid project is the largest of its kind in China, and one that has made use of the largest amount of foreign funds so far. Having progressed smoothly, the project is currently in its phase-out period.
In addition, some other countries, international organizations and non-governmental organizations have also conducted a wide range of cooperation with China in aid-the-poor work. The United Nations Development Program has carried out some aid and research projects in China. Other governments and organizations that have successfully carried out aid-the-poor projects in China include the European Union, the governments of Great Britain, the Netherlands and Japan, the German GTZ, the Asian Development Bank, the Ford Foundation, the CARE of Japan, the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, the World Vision International, and the Hong Kong Oxfam.