According to historical records, China's Lahu nationality led a vagrant life before liberation. In the early period after the founding of New China, 90 percent of this ethnic group was illiterates. Over the past two decades, particularly after the implementation of the poverty relief program, over 60 percent of Lahu villages have got power supply, and the attendance rate of school-age children has reached 96 percent.
Like the Chinese Lahu people, hundreds of millions of poor people in China have solved the problem of getting enough food and clothing and embarked on the road leading to prosperity, as a result, China has fulfilled its promise of solving the problem of feeding and clothing the poor by the end of this century.
The successful accomplishment of the above-mentioned program is not only a glorious chapter in the chronology of New China, but a miracle in world history to be handed down from generation to generation. An average of 47 poor people is added to the world every minute, while China has 20 less the number. China's massive anti-poverty action has drawn a magnificent picture in human history of civilization.
According to statistics from the United Nations, among the world's population of 6 billion, 1.3 billion are poor people, an increase of 0.3 billion over that of five years ago; 1.5 billion people cannot get the basic medical service; and over 1 billion people lack safety drinking water and other basic living conditions; among the globe's 2.8 billion labor power, 0.12 billion are in long-term unemployment, and 0.7 billion in a semi-unemployment state; every day as many as 0.75 billion people are in a state of famine. At present, the world's poverty-stricken population is increasing at an annual rate of 25 million people, or 47 additional people per minute. It is estimated that by 2010, the world's people living in abject poverty will increase to over 1.5 billion.
Miracle has been wrought in China. Statistics show that remarkable achievements have been gained in China's anti-poverty action. Impoverished rural population which had not been properly fed and clad had decreased from 250 million in 1978 to 34 million in 1999, the proportion of poor people who had not got enough food and clothing to the rural population had dropped from 30.7 percent in 1978 to 3.7 percent in 1999.
In recent years in particular, China's poverty-stricken population has slipped at an annual rate of over 10 million, or over 20 less people per minute. By the end of this year, the problem of feeding and clothing China's poor people in the countryside is expected to be by and large solved, the goal set by the Chinese government in its poverty-relief program by the end of this century will be realized as scheduled. China's anti-poverty action is proceeding in a systematic and planned manner.
The period from 1978 to 1985 was the stage of the drastic reduction of impoverished population. In these seven short years, poverty-stricken population had decreased by half, from 250 million in 1978 to 125 million in 1985.
The 1986-93 period was the stage of a steady reduction in poor population, the rural impoverished population had further shrunken to 80 million. The poverty-relief program promulgated and implemented in March 1994 says that China would solve the problem of providing enough food and clothing for the 80 million poor in about seven years. Compared to other countries, China faced harsher conditions in its anti-poverty efforts. Having made most outstanding contributions under wretched natural conditions, we can say that the achievement of China's anti-poverty endeavor is global and of historic significance.
"We'll absolutely not leave the poverty problem to the next century!” People from the top to the bottom are determined to win the decisive anti-poverty battle. On December 24, 1996, General Secretary Jiang Zemin came to Dingxi of Gansu Province where he called at the home of farmer Li Kui in Taiping Village of Lujiagou. The General secretary sat on the kang (brick bed used in rural areas of north China) and spread a new cotton-padded blanket on it, he cordially held the hands of Li's blind wife, saying, "This is a new bedding for you, since you can't see it, you may just touch it!"
Referring to poverty-stricken areas, the general secretary said, "For the poverty-stricken areas, the most important political issue is to ensure sufficient food and clothing for the common people," adding that "We must never leave the poverty problem to the next century!" Jiang Zemin has always attached great importance to China's help-the-poor work.
In 1996, the Central Poverty Relief and Development Working Conference was held under his guidance. On behalf of the Party Central Committee and the State Council, he declared: In the next five years, no matter how arduous the anti-poverty task and no matter how it is pressed for time, we must make up our minds to win this decisive battle. We must never waver in regard to the goal of getting enough food and clothing for the poor people by the end of this century!" "Letting the common people live a happy life" has always been a subject of concern to several- generation leaders of New China. After the founding of New China, in the face of the devastated shambles left over from the old government,
Mao Zedong led the people of the whole country in carrying out a mammoth agrarian reform, which brought rapid restoration of agricultural production and marked improvement in farmers' livelihood, thus providing basic institutional guarantee for resolving China's poverty problem.
In the late 70s and the early 80s, Deng Xiaoping stated, "poverty is not socialism", which marked the beginning of the anti-poverty endeavor.
In 1982, the help-the-poor work spread from local region to the whole of the country. The anti-poverty fire kindled by Deng Xiaoping was taken over by the third-generation leaders with Jiang Zemin at the core and passed on everywhere with the force of a prairie fire.
In 1997, China's poverty-stricken population had shrunk from 250 million in 1980 to 50 million, the proportion of China's impoverished population to the world total had slipped from one-fourth to one-20th. Today, China has eventually solved the problem of having enough food and clothing for its poor people. China has become the first country in the world whose government has materialized the anti-poverty goal. Based on national financial resources, China has increased the input of funds for poverty relief and development.
By 1999, the annual scale of the central poverty relief funds had amounted to 24.8 billion yuan, over 30 times that of 0.8 billion in the early 80s. The poverty relief funds arranged as such had totaled 137.8 billion yuan. The remarkable achievements China has scored in the anti-poverty struggle have meant important contributions China has made to mitigate the world's pauperization. In the battle against poverty, the masses of the people have toughened their willpower and enhanced their self-confidence. In the battle to shake off poverty, the Communists have been standing in the van, demonstrating the graceful bearing and playing the role as "a lead wild goose". Since the introduction of the reform and opening up program, the Party and government have implemented a series of principles and policies, which have led to the gradual reduction in the poverty-stricken area in Chinese territory. In the battle to shake off poverty, the Song of Unity has been sung over the vast expanse of China, and the force of national cohesion has been enhanced.
Altogether 138 Party and State organs have been assigned to help 325 impoverished counties needing key State support, 13 developed eastern provinces and cities and 10 western provinces and autonomous regions have entered into cooperation in carrying out the poverty relief program. In the battle to get rid of poverty, the five continents and the four major oceans have been linked closely together to expand international influence.
In 1995, the start and implementation of the World Bank's poverty relief projects aim to help the 290 poorest townships and towns among the 35 impoverished counties needing key State support in Yunnan and Guizhou provinces and the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and help the 1,798 poorest administrative villages, with the volume of loans amounting to US$247.5 million.
Through 15 years of help-the-poor work, particularly the nearly seven years of major efforts, although China has basically solved the problem of feeding and clothing the rural population, the standard, however, is not high, further raising the income level of poor population and poverty-stricken areas in the countryside and ensuring long-term peace and stability of the country are the more arduous, more complicated and long-term problems and tasks placed before us.
The clarion call for the large-scale development of the western region has been sounded, the struggle to eliminate poverty is still going on. In the face of the 21st century, the task involved in the poverty relief program is heavy and the road ahead is long!
(People’s Daily 10/17/2000)