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China expands war against poverty
Xinhua, May 3, 2011 Print  E-mail

Ma Delan's ten water cellars were tightly locked to prevent others from stealing the water stored inside, an extremely precious resource in the city of Wuzhong in northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.

Ma used the cellars to collect rainwater, a common practice in the area. Even though the cellars were often littered with manure and tree branches, a year-long drought in the region meant that Ma's family valued the cellars and the precious water that they held.

At least, that was the case ten years ago, before the Ma family moved to Wuzhong's Hongsibao district, where they live in a new house. Their new home has a bathroom and tap water - things that the family couldn't even dream of having before.

Ma is among more than 300,000 people who have moved to the district over the last decade to escape the harsh environments of their hometowns in other parts of Ningxia.

The region plans to move its poorest people out of these harsh environments over the next five years, and will take another five years after that to boost their incomes to the national average level, according to the region's chairman, Wang Zhengwei.

Statistics show that by the end of last year, there were about 23.7 million Chinese living under the poverty line. This means they each earned only 1,196 yuan (about 181 U.S. dollars) annually, according to the country's 2009 poverty standard.

Over the past decade, the number of Chinese citizens living in poverty has been reduced by nearly 60 percent. However, the government is considering moving the poverty line to 1,500 yuan earned per year, due to price inflation and other factors, according to an official from the Association of Poverty Alleviation and Development (APAD).

Many regions of China, including central Henan Province, already use the 1,500-yuan line to gauge poverty.

By that standard, the number of people living in poverty could explode to more than 100 million, the official from APAD says.

A Tuesday meeting of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), which was presided over by President Hu Jintao, discussed the development-oriented Poverty Reduction Program for Rural China (2011-2020).

"Expanding the fight against poverty through development projects is an important step to improve the well-being of the people, narrow the income gap and to ensure that all people share the benefits of China's incredible economic growth," said a statement from the meeting.

Addressing poverty is considered to be the key to narrowing China's income gap and balancing the country's unstable development.

Henan Province, which boasts the largest provincial population in China and is home to more than 5 million people living in poverty according to the 1,500-yuan standard, has been attempting to reduce poverty by improving the skills of its workers and encouraging their self-development, says Zhang Chengzhi, director of Henan's poverty alleviation office.

In northwestern Gansu, China's earliest province to conduct poverty reduction programs, planting potatoes and corn is the primary method of boosting its poorest citizens' incomes.

Li Jian, an official from Gansu's poverty alleviation office, said most poor people in the region live in mountainous areas with little access to transportation and infrastructure.

"If disasters or serious illnesses befall these people, poverty reduction progress could fall down to an even worse state," Li says, referring to the difficulty of his job.

Gansu has offered vocational training for the youngest members of poor families and helped them find jobs in cities in order to lift their families out of poverty.

"This practice has become a new trend in poverty reduction," Li says.

Experts suggest that the government should increase its investments in infrastructure projects such as new roads and highways, which will help to improve living standards and encourage industrial development in some of China's poorer areas.

These experts have also suggested developing tourism in China's western regions, such as Yunnan, Sichuan, Xinjiang and Tibet. They say that abundant natural resources in those areas could also be utilized to boost local incomes.

The government should also step up efforts to boost incomes for migrant workers from western China. The area provides about one-fourth of the country's migrant laborers, who typically seek work in big cities and coastal regions.

Labor-intensive companies have also been encouraged to set up factories in the west in order to boost employment there.

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