“We have achieved moderate prosperity, the millennia-old dream of the Chinese nation, through persistent hard work," Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, said in a report he delivered to the 20th National Congress of the CPC.
“We have won the largest battle against poverty in human history. A total of 832 impoverished counties and close to 100 million poor rural residents have been lifted out of poverty, and, among them, more than 9.6 million poverty-stricken people have been relocated from inhospitable areas. We have, once and for all, resolved the problem of absolute poverty in China, making significant contributions to the cause of global poverty reduction,” Xi said.
Xi has always been concerned about people in need. Since the 18th National Congress of the CPC, he has visited almost all the most poverty-stricken areas in China, including those deep in the Taihang Mountains in Fuping county, north China's Hebei Province, those in Dingxi city, northwest China's Gansu Province, Liangjiahe village in northwest China's Shaanxi Province, and those deep in Daliangshan Mountain in southwest China's Sichuan Province.
In Hebei, Xi stressed that a locality's development relies on industry and the labor force. Development can only be achieved when external and internal forces are combined. In southwest China's Chongqing, he said poverty alleviation must take both quantity and quality into account. In Gansu, he said efforts should be made to ensure that relocated residents can settle down, find jobs, earn money and lead better lives.
Over the past decade, all poverty-stricken villages in China have shaken off poverty. Now, these villages enjoy improving ecology, renovated houses, better transport infrastructure, and thriving industries. With the consolidation and expansion of achievements in poverty alleviation, people who were lifted out of poverty now live better lives.
"Life is much better than before"
Liangjiahe used to be a barren village on the loess plateau in Wen'anyi township, Yanchuan county, Yan'an city, Shaanxi. Today, when people visit the village, they are greeted by lush mountains and neat houses near an asphalt road.
Xi lived and worked in Liangjiahe village for seven years as an "educated youth”. His first landlord was Liu Jinlian, who is now 72 years old. Her old cave maintains its original appearance, but great changes have taken place in her life. "Now, we have adequate food and clothing, and life is much better than before," Liu said.
Xi has always kept the village in mind, especially the lives of the people there.
On Feb. 13, 2015, just before the Spring Festival, Xi visited people in Liangjiahe village, including Liu, bringing goods that he had bought for them.
When chatting with villagers, Xi was particularly concerned with their lives, including their food, clothing and housing conditions.
"He asked me about drinking water and life. He was so caring, which made me feel good," Liu recalled.
Over the past years, Xi's care and instructions have always made residents in the village feel cared for. "After Xi visited our village, villagers were inspired to make their lives better," Liu said.
Industry is of fundamental importance to increasing people's incomes and China's rural vitalization. In 2015, Liangjiahe village established a collectively-owned rural culture and tourism company to promote poverty alleviation through the development of rural tourism.
Liu, like many other villagers, became an employee of the company, receiving a monthly salary. In addition, she runs a shop where she sells local specialties, including shoe pads, dates, and coarse cereals. "I earned up to 10,000 yuan (about $1,368) in my best year," Liu said.
Thanks to the development of rural tourism, some villagers run agritainment facilities, while others find jobs near home, for example, as shuttle bus drivers. According to statistics, Liangjiahe village has received 6.57 million tourists since 2015, generating a tourism revenue of 120 million yuan.
The loess plateau is blessed with good land conditions, large differences between day and night temperatures, and abundant sunlight and heat, providing the ideal climate to grow apple trees.
By leveraging its unique natural conditions for growing apples, Liangjiahe village has developed its apple planting industry and promoted the refined management and high-quality development of the industry in recent years. The thriving apple industry has helped many apple growers and impoverished people shake off poverty and march toward prosperity.
“The apples grown here taste nice and are popular nationwide," said Wang Hongrong, a native apple grower.
Wang previously cultivated corn and millet, earning a small income, until he decided to plant apple trees, which have brought him wealth. "I grow over 10 mu (about 0.67 hectares) of apple trees. I can earn as much as 110,000 to 120,000 yuan a year. Compared to before, life is considerably better," he said.
The village's apples have become bestsellers and helped increase apple growers' incomes. "Our village currently boasts more than 900 mu of apple trees, of which 300 mu have yielded fruit, and are expected to generate 1.5 million yuan annually," said Gong Baoxiong, secretary of the CPC branch of Liangjiahe village.
Since the 18th National Congress of the CPC, Liangjiahe village has shaken off poverty by developing rural tourism, the apple industry and the processing industry. The annual per capita net income of villagers rose from 7,917 yuan in 2012 to 18,120 yuan in 2021. After starting from scratch, the village's collective income exceeded 3.71 million yuan last year.
In the past, the one thing Xi wished for most was to make it possible for residents in Liangjiahe to have meat and have it often. Nowadays, dramatic changes have taken place in the living environment of the village and the villagers’ production and living conditions. Many of them now live in new houses and run agritainment businesses. The village has an asphalt road, a cultural square, an apple industrial park, and a modern breeding base. Through relentless efforts, residents in the village have achieved happiness.
"Another door in my life has opened"
"I never expected that a rural woman like me could become a workshop director at a winery," said Liu Li, a resident of Yuanlong, which is a relocated village in Minning township, Yongning county, Yinchuan, capital of northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. She added that everything has changed thanks to the relocation program.
Liu used to live in Xihaigu, an extremely impoverished mountainous area in Ningxia. Xihaigu was long deemed "uninhabitable" due to its barren land and lack of water resources.
Back then, Liu and her husband often carried water buckets through the night along rocky, winding trails in the mountains and had to wait for half an hour to load a bucket of water. She used to complain that there wasn’t enough water to wash her clothes or hair.
Nine years ago, Liu’s family of four, along with more than 100 other villagers, relocated from their homes to Yuanlong village in Minning, a resettlement township jointly built by southeast China's Fujian Province and Ningxia at Xi's suggestion on the sands of a Gobi desert more than 20 years ago.
The local government offered each relocated family a two-room house installed with faucets. After entering her home for the first time, the first thing Liu did was turn on a faucet. "I saw hope in my life the instant I saw running water from the faucet," she said.
Over the past 20-plus years, relocated residents in Minning have thrown themselves into resettlement work and developed industries on the Gobi desert. Minning, which was a village of 8,000 relocated impoverished residents, has evolved into a township that is now home to more than 60,000 people, all of whom have access to drinking water, roads, education, medical services and so on. Furthermore, industry is thriving on this once barren land.
On July 19, 2016, Xi visited Yuanlong village in Minning. He was genuinely happy to see that the neatly arranged village had lifted local residents out of poverty. He pointed out that relocation is an effective way to relieve poverty and called on efforts to sum up and promote the successful experience and do a good job of poverty alleviation through relocation.
The eastern foot of Helan Mountain is regarded as a "golden zone" for growing grapes for wine production. Minning township has developed the grape and wine industries in recent years by leveraging its unique geographical and climate advantages. At present, the township already has a total of 80,000 mu of grape vines, with an annual grape output of 26,000 tonnes, providing stable jobs and sources of income for locals.
Vineyards have played a key role in bringing wealth to relocated residents and helped many of them realize their dreams, including Liu.
After Liu moved to Minning township, she found a job at Chateau Lilan winery in the township. Liu's duties included weeding, harvesting grapes, brushing wine bottles and canning. She was always very diligent in her work.
Her hard-working and reliable attitude led to fresh prospects. At end of 2015, Liu advanced to the position of workshop director. In her new role, she has taken on a heavier responsibility and dedicated herself to her work with even greater purpose. “I’m not only working for myself, but for other women relocated from inhospitable areas," she said.
Liu's story is a classic tale of rags to riches. Liu and her husband now earn over 10,000 yuan per month. They expanded their home, building four more rooms and a garage in the courtyard, and bought a new personal computer and car.
Liu said the policy of relocating impoverished people from inhospitable areas marked a turning point in her life, and opened another door for her. "In the past, I was 'trapped' in the deep mountains, and the road ahead looked very bleak. Now, I make money through my own efforts and I have value to others. I owe much of my happy life today to this era," Liu said.
Liu's life, with her relocation as a turning point, is a microcosm of the road to prosperity for over 60,000 people in Minning township.
Currently, industries such as mushroom farming, breeding, e-commerce, and wine are booming in the township, helping fatten the pockets of locals. The per capita disposable income of villagers in the township increased 32 times to about 16,000 yuan in 2021 from 500 yuan in 1997.
The pairing-up scheme for poverty alleviation between Fujian and Ningxia has turned Minning from a barren desert into a modern township. Today, it is a model for China's collaboration on poverty alleviation between the eastern and western regions, opening a broad path to prosperity for the people.
The children will have a better tomorrow!
A children’s choir called Malanhua from mountainous areas in north China’s Hebei Province sang the Olympic Anthem in Greek at the opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games in February 2022, showcasing the amazing confidence and happiness of Chinese children in the new era.
All of the 44 children in the choir are from rural families in Fuping county, Baoding city of Hebei, 14 of whom are from registered poor households. For most of them, it was the first time they had left their hometown to see the outside world.
"The 'Bird's Nest' is so huge and spectacular! I told myself to sing the song well to the whole world," said Xi Qingru, an 11-year-old member of the choir.
Deep in the Taihang Mountains, Fuping, which has little arable land, was once a severely impoverished county. Nearly half of its population was plagued by poverty in 2012.
During an inspection tour to Fuping county, Xi called on the whole Party and country to win the fight against poverty, stressing that if rural China, particularly impoverished areas, is left behind, a moderately prosperous society will not emerge.
Since then, great changes have taken place there.
The county developed six major industries such as edible mushrooms, fruits and traditional Chinese medicine ingredients, which have been very effective in helping increase the incomes of local residents. The edible mushroom industry, for example, started from scratch and thrived in just six years. The county has built 102 mushroom industrial parks, covering a total area of 21,000 mu of land and 140 administrative villages. Over 15,000 households are engaged in the industry, giving poverty-stricken households an extra income of over 20,000 yuan annually on average.
Better facilities related to people's livelihood have also been built. Fuping built 39 relocation sites accommodating over 30,000 registered poor people. 207 industrial parks were built, bringing job opportunities for many of the relocated residents. The county also built 13 boarding schools in rural areas and upgraded 93 schools that were in poor condition, ensuring that children received an education.
Moreover, the villagers saw their incomes increase. In February 2020, the county was lifted out of poverty. The per capita disposable income of rural residents in the country went up to 12,342 yuan in 2021, 3.7 times of that in 2012.
The key to a country’s governance is improving its people's lives. The common prosperity China is working to achieve is for everyone, and it is also about the enrichment of people's lives in both the material and non-material sense.
Three years ago, Xi Qingru and her family bid farewell to their old, dilapidated dwelling and moved to a spacious new home. "The old home was more than 10 kilometers away from school, whereas the new one is within spitting distance of our new home now. Besides, there is also the favorable policy of ‘two exemptions and one subsidy’. This refers to exemption from miscellaneous fees and textbook fees, and subsidized living expenses for resident students, which ensures that children can get compulsory education," explained Xi Jinhai, Xi Qingru's father.
"Many children in the choir used to live impoverished lives, but they were all lifted out of poverty and now live happy lives. Moreover, they also have more opportunities in cultural education," said Su Zhiyan, a teacher of the choir. "I'm confident that the children will have a better tomorrow!"
"I want to be a music teacher in the future to teach more children in mountainous areas to sing and let them feel the happiness that music brings, like I do," said Xi Qingru, who has made up her mind to embark on a musical path after returning home from Beijing.
The world outside was once too distant for the villagers in mountainous areas, but today, Xi Qingru and her fellow villagers have reached out to the outside world with the help of music.
The relocation sites, the mushroom greenhouses and the children in the newly-built schools in the county are all evidence of the happy lives of local people and the progress made in China's rural vitalization drive.
The story of Fuping county is merely one example of the many villages once stricken by poverty in China. As the country eradicated poverty, it has taken on a new look, while numerous Chinese people have realized their own development. Now, people who used to be poor are marching toward a better life.