IV.The Aid-the-Poor Program for the
Special Groups Among the Impoverished
Ethnic minorities, the disabled and women are special groups among China's impoverished rural population. The Chinese Government pays great attention to poverty alleviation work for these special groups, adopting effective measures to help them get rid of poverty together with other impoverished people.
The Poverty Alleviation Program for Ethnic Minorities and Minority Areas
China is a multi-ethnic country. Restricted by historical, social and natural conditions, the economic and social development of many ethnic minority areas is backward. According to statistics, by 1994 the impoverished parts of the ethnic minority areas were mainly located in western China, including five autonomous regions, 20 autonomous prefectures and 49 autonomous counties. Among the 348 ethnic minority autonomous counties across the country, 257 were poverty-stricken counties given priority in aid. The Chinese Government lays stress on anti-poverty work in the impoverished parts of the ethnic minority areas and extends to these areas special preferential policies and measures.
Giving special treatment to ethnic minorities, raising the standard for relief and aiding more poverty-stricken minority areas. In 1986, the relief standard set by the state for the poor counties on its priority list was less than 150 yuan in the peasants' income per capita in 1985, whereas for autonomous counties, the standard was less than 200 yuan. For the impoverished autonomous counties (banners) in pastoral areas and semi-agricultural and semi-pastoral areas, the standard was less than 300 yuan and 200 yuan per peasant and herdsman, respectively, between 1984 and 1986. In 1994, when the state set about designating the poverty-stricken counties that it should attach greater importance to, it also extended special attention to the ethnic minority areas: Among the 592 impoverished counties on the state's priority list, there were 257 ethnic minority counties, accounting for 43.4 percent.
Favoring ethnic minority areas in appropriating funds from the central budget. To intensify the aid to ethnic minority areas, the state not only favors Tibet and the other four autonomous regions and western provinces with large ethnic minority populations such as Yunnan, Guizhou and Qinghai in allocating aid-the-poor funds, but it has also arranged special funds such as the "Ethnic Minority Development Fund" to solve the special difficulties and problems of the ethnic minorities and minority areas. According to statistics, from 1994 to 2000, the state invested 43.253 billion yuan in the Inner Mongolia, Guangxi, Tibet, Ningxia and Xinjiang autonomous regions, and Guizhou, Yunnan and Qinghai provinces, accounting for 38.4 percent of the nation's total. These included 19.415 billion yuan from the financial funds (including 12.722 billion yuan of work-relief funds), constituting 40 percent of the nation's total; and 23.838 billion yuan in credit funds, constituting 37.8 percent of the nation's total. Over the past six years, the state and local government have invested 1.22 billion yuan in Tibet for launching many anti-poverty projects.
Thanks to the common efforts of all sectors of society, especially the persistent hard work of the cadres and people of the minority areas, the poverty-alleviation work has attained marked achievements in the impoverished parts of the ethnic minority areas.
-The impoverished population is shrinking substantially and the impoverishment rate is decreasing sharply. Statistics show that the impoverished populations of the five autonomous regions and three provinces mentioned above declined from 20.86 million in 1995 to 11.85 million in 1999-a decrease of 9.01 million in four years. Moreover, the impoverishment rate declined from 15.6 percent in 1995 to 8.7 percent in 1999-a decrease of 6.9 percentage points. Since the Seven-Year Priority Poverty Alleviation Program was started in Tibet, with clear aims in view the government has adopted a sequence of special measures for poverty-alleviation. As a result, the situation of long-standing poverty in the rural and pastoral areas of Tibet has changed radically, and the impoverished population has decreased from 480,000 in the early 1990s to just over 70,000.
-The peasants' incomes are increasing rapidly, and their living conditions are improving. In the 232 poverty-stricken counties included in the state's priority aid in the five autonomous regions and three provinces with large ethnic minority populations, the net income per capita of the peasants rose from 630 yuan in 1995 to 1,189 yuan in 1998-an increase of 88.7 percent, or 28.7 percentage points higher than the average increase level of the total 592 impoverished counties receiving the state's priority aid. From 1994 to 1999, the net income of the peasants per capita in the 49 impoverished counties in Guangxi rose from 606 yuan to 1,836 yuan, and the grain yield per capita rose from 310 kg to 380 kg, becoming the first among the ethnic minority areas to reach the objectives of the Seven-Year Priority Poverty Alleviation Program. By the end of 2000, the net income of the peasants and herdsmen per capita in the 18 counties in Tibet receiving state priority aid had reached 1,316 yuan, approaching the nation's average. In Xinjiang, the settlement and semi-settlement rate of the herdsmen rose from 49.5 percent in 1994 to 80 percent in 1999.
-Infrastructure facilities are improving remarkably and social undertakings are developing steadily. According to incomplete statistics, from 1994 to 1999, the five autonomous regions and three provinces with large ethnic minority populations solved the problem of drinking water for 21.635 million people and 29.347 million dranght animals. A total of 26.265 million mu of basic farmland was developed, and 6.72 million mu of meadows were fenced in for livestock grazing. Also, 67,500 km of roads connecting counties, townships and villages were constructed. By the end of 1999, all the townships in Guangxi were connected by roads; some 95 percent of the villages in the 49 poverty-stricken counties were accessible by automobile; 95 percent of the villages had access to electricity and TV programs; and 85 percent of the villages had telephone lines. Besides, education, public health and other social undertakings have developed rapidly in the impoverished parts of the ethnic minority areas.
Aid to the Poverty-stricken Disabled
The disabled form a special social group in straitened circumstances. Currently, there are over 60 million disabled in China, accounting for approximately five percent of the total population. Of them, 80 percent live in the rural areas, and a large number live in poverty due to their own disability and the influence of the external environment. It is estimated that in 1992 there were about 20 million impoverished disabled people in China. Among the disabled poor in the rural areas, 30 percent lived in the 592 state-designated impoverished counties. The Chinese Government has all along attached great importance to and shown concern about poverty alleviation for the disabled, and has adopted a series of effective measures in this regard:
-Making poverty alleviation for the disabled an important part of the state's poverty alleviation program. The state makes unified arrangements to implement poverty alleviation work for the disabled. Both the Outline of the Work for the Disabled in China During the Eighth Five-Year Plan Period and the Outline of the Work for the Disabled in China During the Ninth Five-Year Plan Period approved by the Chinese Government contain coordinated implementation schemes for poverty alleviation for the disabled. In 1998, the state specially formulated the Priority Poverty Alleviation Program for the Disabled (1998-2000) to ensure comprehensive arrangements for poverty alleviation for the disabled, fixing the objectives, tasks, methods, measures and policies for work in this connection. The local governments at various levels also give priority aid to the disabled, drawing up plans, implementing projects, ascertaining responsibilities, and providing energetic manpower, financial and material support.
-Offering special loans to alleviate poverty among the disabled. In 1992, the state established a special rehabilitation and poverty alleviation loan to aid the impoverished disabled. By 2000, 2.6 billion yuan had been loaned to such people. In the past year, great efforts have been made to provide small-amount credit loans for individual households and persons, which has become a major method of helping the disabled shake off poverty. In Henan, Guizhou, Inner Mongolia, Yunnan, Heilongjiang and ten other provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities, such loans have exceeded 70 percent.
-Strengthening the building of the poverty alleviation service system of the China Disabled Persons' Federation at the grassroots level to provide prompt and effective service for the rural disabled. In March 1998, the Coordinating Committee for the Disabled-related Work of the State Council issued the Decisions on Strengthening the Building of the China Disabled Persons' Federation at the Grassroots Level. Besides, six departments under the State Council, including the Poverty Alleviation Office, have adopted the Measures for the Implementation of the Development-oriented Poverty Alleviation Projects for the Disabled in the Rural Areas (1998-2000), setting forth the requirements in strengthening the building of the service system of the China Disabled Persons' Federation at the grassroots level. Through several years of efforts, by the end of 2000 some 80.2 percent of the counties (cities and municipal districts) across the country had established 2,238 county-level service centers for the disabled; and 60 percent of the total townships had set up 28,427 township-level service centers. A grassroots poverty alleviation service system for the disabled has taken initial shape in the countryside, providing an important organizational guarantee for aiding the disabled.
-Choosing suitable poverty alleviation projects and methods for the disabled. In view of the fact that the disabled have many difficulties participating in productive labor, stress should be laid on supporting economic sectors that can directly help tackle the food and clothing problem for the poor disabled in the rural areas. Such sectors include crop cultivation, aquiculture, poultry raising, handicrafts and household sideline production; projects that meet the needs of the development of the local market economy and coordinate with the local pillar industries and are well suited to the characteristics of the disabled; and projects with wide fund coverage and marked results for individual households and closely related to direct income increase for the impoverished disabled.
As a result of great efforts made, the number of the disabled poor in China had dropped dramatically, as evidenced by the fact that the problem of food and clothing had been solved for ten million disabled in the previous ten years, leaving only 9.79 million still beset by this problem by the end of 2000.
Aid for Poverty-stricken Women
The Chinese Government has paid great attention to helping rural women
shake off poverty. The Seven-Year Priority Poverty Alleviation Program
of 1994 clearly stipulates that further efforts should be made to mobilize
the women of the poverty-stricken areas to take an active part in the
fight against poverty.
The state has mobilized all non-governmental sectors to show concern for impoverished women and support social relief activities for women in poverty-stricken areas. Such activities as the Happiness Project to help impoverished mothers, the Spring Buds Program for supporting girl dropouts in poverty-stricken areas and the Cistern Project to aid women in the water-deficient areas of western China, have played an active role in helping rural women to erase poverty quickly. By May 2000, some 145 million yuan had been put into the Happiness Project, helping 107,472 people and indirectly benefiting 483,000 people. By July 2000, the Spring Buds Program had raised 330 million yuan to help 1.05 million girl dropouts return to school.