Great changes in a small city: a close look at China's fight against poverty
Published: Feb 20, 2023 10:56 PM
Illustration: Liu Xidan/GT

Illustration: Liu Xidan/GT

"We should further clarify the definition of poverty in the context of COVID-19 pandemic." On May 2, 2022, delegates from universities across China reached the above consensus after their first session of an online Model United Nations (MUN) conference. Just like their peers abroad, Generation Z in China, who are committed to upholding the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and the international system with the UN at its core, have been taking active part in MUN activities.

Gen Z is surely a generation with international perspective. Since global governance can always learn from regional and national successes, it would do good towards ending global poverty if Gen Z also looked homeward to review the domestic progresses. Xichang, a remote city in China's southwestern province Sichuan, has witnessed and experienced China's complete victory in the fight against poverty. To review the great changes this small city has gone through with other places in China would be a good choice of looking homeward so as to gain inspirations for global governance.

Great changes over the past decade

Xichang, capital city of Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture, is known as the "Space City" for the Xichang Satellite Launch Center. Despite its high-tech side, due to the remote geographical location, unbalanced industrial structure and backward conception of education, Liangshan as a whole has long been a habitat for poverty.

Less than 70 years ago, it was under the leadership of the Communist Party of China that Yi people in the area finally got rid of the slavery system and stepped into a brand-new era in which they are their own masters. Decades later, it was again under the leadership of the Party that Liangshan successfully made the great leap from extreme poverty to the moderately prosperous society in all respects.

The GDP of Liangshan in 2021 reached a historic high of 190.1 billion yuan, which has more than doubled the 94.9 billion yuan in 2011. The resettlement programs were completed to provide more than 70,000 houses for one million people in need. In May, 2020, more than 80 households in the "cliff village" of Atuleer bid farewell to the treacherous road leading to their old clifftop homes, and moved into new houses in the county seat. National and provincial trunk highway of 2,000 kilometers and rural roads of 20,000 were newly constructed or repaired. Problems existing in education, healthcare as well as access to clean water, electricity and communication have been properly addressed.

After years of hard work, 1.05 million people living in the great mountains in Liangshan were lifted out of poverty, when 11 counties and 2,072 villages were removed from the poverty list.

Centrality of the people

Members of the CPC come from the people and they are constantly reminded of the original aspiration and the mission of the Party. It is essential for the Party to keep people's interests in mind. If it had not been for the Party's people-centered philosophy of development, none of the great changes would ever take place in the remote area of Liangshan. 

Throughout the strenuous process whereby the CPC has led the Chinese people in the battle against poverty, the Party members have always been working at the very front. On the morning of February 11, 2018, several days before the Spring Festival, President Xi Jinping, also general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, took a trip that included 70 kilometers of winding roads over a 3,200-meter-high mountain from Xichang all the way to Sanhe Village, Zhaojue County. He visited the homes of impoverished villagers of the Yi ethnic group and chatted with them to better understand their livelihood. In the nation's poverty alleviation drive, 2,497 "first secretaries" and 8,625 cadres from Party organizations at all levels in Liangshan were selected to work in poor villages deep in the mountains. Other Party members contributed to the cause of poverty alleviation by such endeavors as making donations to families of extreme poverty and purchasing agricultural products from impoverished areas.

To ensure the sustainability of poverty alleviation results, Liangshan has moved forward to the consolidation of previous achievements and facilitation of local development through rural revitalization. The anti-poverty monitoring mechanism was set up at all four levels of village, township, county and prefecture. Regular household visits are paid to make sure that everyone in need should have access to assistance. The government has also followed up to support relocated villagers by developing industries, expanding employment and improving basic public services. Villagers are encouraged to increase their income through land contracting right buying shares, guaranteed dividends, leaseback operations, etc.

The accurate and effective implementation of policies for ethnic minorities is another manifestation of the CPC's concept of "people first". The equal rights of Yi people are guaranteed by the Constitution and the Law of the People's Republic of China on Regional National Autonomy. It is regulated that the heads of governments at all levels of autonomy shall be elected from corresponding ethnic minorities. While mandarin is taught even in the most remote village schools, vigorous measures are adopted to preserve the Yi culture and language. Texts in public area and various certificates are all bilingual. Yi language is included in the Senior High School Entrance Examination in favor of Yi students. For the Party, "People first" means no one shall be left behind. Its favored policies for minorities have promoted social justice and the unity among the 56 ethnic groups, which lays a solid foundation for combating poverty.

Meanings and inspirations

In his report to the 20th National Congress of the CPC, Xi Jinping, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, has highlighted the three major events of great immediate importance and profound historical significance for the cause of the Party and the people over the past decade. One of those events is that "we eradicated absolute poverty and finished building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, thus completing the First Centenary Goal".

It was a miracle that China has scored a complete victory in its fight against poverty. Throughout the fight, the final 98.99 million impoverished rural residents living under the current poverty line have all been lifted out of poverty. All 832 impoverished counties and 128,000 villages have also been removed from the poverty list. The whole nation was mobilized to pool strength, which has demonstrated the political advantages of the country's socialist system which can bring together the necessary to accomplish great tasks.

Meanwhile, China is home to nearly one fifth of the world's population. Its complete eradication of extreme poverty—the first target of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development—10 years ahead of schedule, is a milestone in the history of the Chinese nation and the history of humankind, making an important contribution to the cause of global poverty alleviation. A "China example" has been created to provide less developed countries with inspirations in their own fight against poverty.

It has been set as the Party's central task to lead the people of all ethnic groups in a concerted effort to realize the Second Centenary Goal of building China into a great modern socialist country in all respects and to advance the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation on all fronts through a Chinese path to modernization. Under the leadership of the Party and government whose people's satisfaction has exceeded 90% for 10 consecutive years, the Chinese people are ready to embrace an even brighter future.

In 1935, Liu Bocheng, General of the CPC's Central Red Army, aligned with the head of local Yi tribe in Liangshan during the Long March. As almost a century went by, the statue commemorating the alignment still stands in the center of Xichang city, witnessing various ethnic groups heading towards a new era hand in hand.

The author is a scholar based in Beijing. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn