Baise, one of China's most impoverished areas in the country's vast and backward western region, recently received a donation of 10.65 million yuan (US$1.25 million) from Guangzhou, capital of south China's Guangdong Province, to improve education there.
Located near Guangdong, Baise, a mountainous prefecture in southwest China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, is known as a revolutionary base before the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, and one of the least developed areas in China nowadays.
As the most dynamic economic powerhouse along China's better-off coastal region, Guangdong Province neighboring Guangxi has become a "big brother" committed to funding the educational needs of the ethnic groups in the densely populated area.
Since 1996, Guangzhou has held annual fund-raising campaigns among all walks of life with the theme of spreading education in Baise. The prefecture has received more than 40 million yuan (US$4.7 million) in donations, which were spent on founding 93 primary schools and saving 30,000 children from dropping out.
Apart from aiding Baise, Guangdong has sent a group of cadres with administrative skills to Hami Prefecture in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and raised donations of 58 million yuan (US$6.8 million) for more than 60 projects, which cover road reconstruction, building hospitals and schools.
To impoverished people in the western region, cities and provinces like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong, Fujian and Jiangsu are not only far-off prosperous places, but also helping hands in times of trouble.
In May 1996 the central government called for city-to-city or province-to-province aid programs between China's developed and underdeveloped areas. Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Guangdong, Jiangsu and Zhejiang successively launched their relief programs.
According to official statistics, Beijing has since 1997 given over 100 million yuan (US$11.76 million) in donations to the neighboring Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, which helped initiate more than 400 aid projects. The projects have been attributed to the increase of herdsmen's income by 200 yuan per capita annually in 18 counties of the landlocked region.
Lhunzhub County of the southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, which is 3,950 meters above sea level, has become one of the top three grain producers in the area, thanks to a five-year-long program sponsored by Suzhou, east China's Jiangsu Province, covering education, health care, culture, and infrastructure construction.
Along with the economic benefits, relations between cooperative partners were strengthened, said Chen Kaizhi, chairman of Guangzhou Municipal Committee of Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.
At present, China's coastal cities like Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen are looking into new ways to help their poor countrymen, such as setting up special funds for market-oriented and profitable projects that rely on local resource advantages. Through projects such as these, the assistance will be transformed from just donations to projects of mutual benefit.
Officials from the Leading Group for Aid-the-Poor Development under the State Council said the aid programs complemented the national policy on developing the western areas.