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China's Largest Ethnic Minority Growing Wealthier
China's most populous ethnic minority, the Zhuang people living in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, are shaking off poverty and becoming more affluent.

"In 2002, the annual gross domestic product per capita in Guangxi reached 5,062 yuan (US$612). The average annual disposable income of urban people per capita reached 7,300 yuan (US$882.7) and the average annual net income of farmers per capita exceeded 2,000 yuan (US$241.8)," said Li Zhaozhuo, chairman of the autonomous region, in the government report to the regional People's Congress Friday.

In 1985 when China initiated the plan to support the rural poor, Guangxi had 1.5 million people below the poverty line, accounting for one tenth of the total people in poverty in the country. Of the 1.5 million, 10 million were Zhuang people.

The Chinese government established many programs to develop theregion since then.

In 1999, the average net income per capita rose from 200 yuan(US$24.2) in 1985 to 1,800 yuan(US$217.7), said Hu Decai, an official in charge of the poverty-alleviation program in Guangxi.

In recent years, the economy has developed rapidly in the region and the consumer goods market is becoming more prosperous. In 2002, total sales of consumer goods in Guangxi exceeded 100 billion yuan (US$12 billion), an increase of 50 percent from five years ago.

In 1998, Baise, an area where the Zhuang people live in compact communities and one of the largest poverty-stricken areas in China, had resolved the problem of lack of food and clothing.

Zhuang farmers have begun to pursue better standards of living with more seeking further education and cultural and technological knowledge.

Xie Zhiqiang, a Zhuang farmer in Aijiang Village of Daxin County, has just bought a color TV set, hi-fi equipment and a VCD player. "Now our life is better and we hope to enjoy a cultural life," said Xie.

Many farmers in Guangxi have also begun to travel. Some Zhuang farmers travel to Hong Kong, Macao and southeast Asia.

Expenditure on food has dropped to below 50 percent among Guangxi farmers. In the last five years, the Engel's Coefficient in Guangxi has dropped by two percentage points every year.

(People's Daily January 13, 2003)

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