China aims to wipe out poverty by 2020 and has beaten its annual target by lifting 12.4 million people out of poverty in 2016. But with 40 million still in poverty, the next four years will be critical if China is to eradicate the scourge. China's border areas are among the regions that have been plagued with the worst poverty, and alleviating this poverty is also of primary concern in safeguarding stability in border zones.
These regions are blighted by their own peculiar conundrums. Industrial development is lacking and public services and infrastructure are often poor. They also have to confront problems brought by population mobility. According to the director of the Standing Committee of Dehong People's Congress, people from every ethnic group in Myanmar have crossed the border and now live in Dehong Dai Prefecture in Southwest China's Yunnan Province. More than 20,000 Myanmese women have married Chinese men and live in Dehong without proper documentation.
This does not only happen in Dehong. Given the deficiency of relevant policies and regulations, a large number of illegal immigrants from other nations that live in China's border regions can neither enjoy preferential policies like local people, nor be punished if they commit criminal acts. They were poor before they came, but they continue living in poverty after they have settled, because of the difficulty in finding a job. Some even have drug problems or are HIV carriers, which may also affect the stability of China's border regions eventually.
As a nation which has international borders with 14 sovereign states, it goes without saying how significant safeguarding peace and stability in border areas is for China.
Yet, since Beijing initiated the One Belt and One Road initiative, those places are no longer simply regions on the edge of the map of China, but have become linking points or even centers that connect China with other economies worldwide. They will have enormous opportunities to reduce poverty, upgrade their urbanization and economic development, and Beijing will without doubt offer increasing assistance.
If they don't take advantage of this, and fall further into poverty and instability, they will become a stumbling block in China's overall development.
That being said, the particularities of the border areas must be taken into account when China ponders ways to lift more people out of poverty there. It will not be as simple as allocating more funds.
More wisdom is needed to establish related laws, regulations, supervision and education systems to diminish security risks in the border, stabilize border regions while fighting the war on poverty and clear the way for the Belt and Road initiative.