China is determined to continue its offensive against the abject poverty which continues to blight millions of lives.
And building on its past experience and sinking more funds into the fight are key, said Liu Jian, the head of the country's poverty action taskforce on Friday.
The World Bank, which provided US$427.5 million in loans for the just-concluded China Southwest and Qinba Mountains Poverty Reduction Projects, has also pledged its continued support.
By the end of last year, the number of Chinese rural people lacking adequate food and clothing dropped to 29 million from 250 million in 1978, a feat World Bank President James Wolfensohn hailed as "having no parallel in human history."
But Chinese leaders are determined that past successes do not bring about any let up or lead to complacency.
"We must be clearly aware that the country's poverty alleviation situation remains extremely severe," warned Liu, head of the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development.
Liu was speaking at a gathering in Beijing to mark the completion of the two projects.
His concerns are not unfounded and the nation's remaining poverty is widely believed to be deeply entrenched.
The bulk of the poor live in remote and desolate places in the harshest natural conditions, some virtually uninhabitable, said Liu.
And natural disasters, which strike at random, have the greatest impact on those who have just climbed above the poverty line -- in China those with an annual per capita income not exceeding 625 yuan (US$75) -- putting them back in dire straits, said Liu.
"As a result, progress in poverty alleviation has markedly slowed (in recent years)," he added.
A 10-year rural poverty alleviation and development program which runs until 2010, aims to resolve food and clothing problems for those in poverty and establish infrastructure to enable the most destitute regions to rise to moderate prosperity.
The expertise and experience China has accumulated over past years and gained from foreign countries will help, he said.
World Bank-funded projects had drastically improved food security and living conditions in 61 of China's poorest parts of Guangxi, Guizhou, Yunnan, Sichuan, Shaanxi and Ningxia regions and provinces.
The projects contributed to developing an effective multi-sector approach to poverty reduction, involving improved labour mobility, better poverty monitoring systems, and greater participation of the poor themselves in project design and implementation, World Bank President Wolfensohn said in a statement.
Lessons from those ground-breaking projects will be shared in other poverty alleviation efforts in China, said Jiang Xiaohua, another official with Liu's office.
With China's economy ever prospering, government at central and local levels will earmark more funds and mobilize other resources to tackle the country's poverty woes, said Liu.
But he did not specify how much will be spent next year tackling it.
This year's budget for poverty relief programs from central government increased 800 million yuan (US$96 million) year on year to hit 12.2 billion yuan (US$1.4 billion), according to sources with Liu's office.
In a congratulatory message sent to Friday's gathering in Beijing, Vice-Premier Hui Liangyu said for the most part China needed to rely on its own efforts to cut poverty. But it would also seek to expand cooperation with international organizations to that end.
Wolfensohn said the World Bank would continue to work with China and is preparing the next generation of projects aimed at eradicating poverty and help bring greater levels of prosperity to the country.
Alan Piazza, a senior World Bank task manager, on Friday said a priority of future projects in China will target the poorest and most remote ethnic minority people.
(China Daily December 18, 2004)