Eliminate Poverty in Severely Impoverished Areas*
June 23, 2017
To make faster progress in eliminating poverty in severely impoverished areas, we should follow the overall plan of the CPC Central Committee and implement the targeted poverty reduction and elimination strategy. We will continue the working mechanism whereby the central leadership makes overall plans, provincial authorities take overall responsibility, and municipal and county authorities take charge of implementation. Top leaders of the Party and government at each level should be responsible for the work of poverty alleviation under their jurisdiction. Special projects, corporate support and social assistance should be integrated to form a joint effort in overcoming bottleneck problems, implementing major programs, taking specific measures for individual villages and rural households, and making breakthroughs in areas of weakness. We should also strengthen support systems, and give preferential policies to severely impoverished areas, whilst rallying the efforts of all sides to solve difficult cases, ensuring that the people in severely impoverished areas lead a moderately prosperous life like people in other parts of the country.
Firstly, set reasonable goals for poverty elimination.
The CPC Central Committee has drawn up a plan for poverty elimination. By 2020, all impoverished people in rural areas will be guaranteed the basic needs of food and clothing as well as proper access to compulsory education, medical care, and safe housing. The rate of increase of per capita disposable income in poverty-stricken areas will be higher than the national average. Indicators of the main areas of basic public services will be close to national average. All rural population below the current poverty line and all impoverished counties will shake off poverty, so that regional poverty as a whole, including severely impoverished areas, will be a thing of past. Nevertheless, we should be realistic; by 2020, in terms of development, areas of extreme poverty will not be able to catch up with developed areas. However, these are the goals that we are striving to reach. We must not set the bar too high, to prevent impoverished areas from having overly-high expectations.
Secondly, increase input.
Government investment should be the major input, playing a guiding and coordinating role in encouraging investment from other financial sources. Newly-added funds for poverty elimination projects should be mostly directed at severely impoverished areas; new poverty elimination projects should be placed in these areas, and new measures should be mainly applied there too. Governments at all levels should first arrange projects designed to benefit local residents in these areas, and newly-assigned funds for agricultural development should be used for poverty elimination programs.
Government financial departments at all levels should expand their scale of payments to, and increase investment in, severely impoverished areas. The capital market should make it possible for more enterprises in these areas to go public, and insurance companies should also lower premiums for these areas.
We should increase the land assigned for construction to support the development of severely impoverished areas. When allocating newly-increased construction land-use quotas, priority should be given to these areas. Besides, we should allow land quotas for urban construction to be used in a flexible way within provincial boundaries.
These measures will be combined to form a joint force that supports poverty elimination in all severely impoverished areas.
Thirdly, concentrate all our strength to fight poverty.
"Strength is weakened once divided."1 There are many different causes for extreme poverty in different places. We should proceed from the actual conditions in these areas and redouble our efforts as we do for many other major missions. Our next step is to address problems concerning public services, infrastructure facilities, and basic healthcare in all severely impoverished areas nationwide. After listening to the poverty elimination briefing at a meeting of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee in December last year, I made it clear that we should start a program of upgrading run-down and neglected villages, help develop their collective economies, improve infrastructure facilities, and remove the last major hurdle to implementing poverty elimination policies. As long as we concentrate our resources and find the right way, we will, for sure, be able to resolve these thorny issues. Therefore we should:
– relocate more impoverished people living under adverse natural conditions;
– create more jobs such as forest rangers in areas that restrict or prohibit exploitation to preserve the fragile environment;
– provide more healthcare support, temporary assistance and charity relief for people living in poverty caused by sickness; and
– guarantee social security assistance for families who are unable to escape poverty through business-driven poverty alleviation or employment assistance programs.
Fourthly, targeted poverty alleviation is the major mission of regional development.
Regional development is the basis as well as an important part of targeted poverty alleviation in severely impoverished areas. In contiguous poverty-stricken areas, our focus should be on problems relating to public services, infrastructure, and industrial development. We must be clear that these approaches aim to provide an environment conducive to poverty elimination. Our measures must be workable and help create a favorable environment for targeted poverty reduction. We should prevent launching projects and asking for funds in the name of promoting regional development; this will only further widen the gap between rich and poor, regardless of regional economic growth and improved social services.
Severely impoverished areas should improve their growth models and give priority to the development of business activities that benefit the impoverished, such as agriculture based on local features, labor-intensive processing industries, and the service industry. Transport projects should mainly focus on roads connecting villages; water conservation projects should favor impoverished villages and small-scale agricultural production; ecological preservation projects should employ more underprivileged people and benefit the poor; the new-type rural cooperative medical care system and the serious illness insurance scheme should also widen its scope to benefit the impoverished.
Fifthly, get all sectors to give more support to alleviate poverty.
The eastern region and central organizations should increase their support for severely impoverished areas and take more initiative concerning one-to-one assistance. Eastern areas which have paired up with areas in the west in cooperative programs and central organizations which have designated targets of assistance should provide more funds, projects and personnel to areas of extreme poverty. Such projects as the "Joining Hands to Get Prosperous Action" initiated by developed counties in the east to help impoverished counties in the west and the "Program of 10,000 Enterprises Helping 10,000 Villages" initiated by private enterprises should all be more targeted to areas of extreme poverty. The Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development of the State Council should help coordinate these efforts. We should also solicit extensive non-governmental strength to combat poverty in severely impoverished areas and resolve poor people's difficulties in production and daily life. We should seek public donations for poverty-stricken areas and people, and publicize typical cases of contributions aiding poverty relief, to create a positive atmosphere of fighting poverty.
Sixthly, motivate the impoverished to eliminate poverty.
I have often said that to alleviate poverty we must first help the poor to acquire knowledge, and we must arouse their aspirations. Both the desire to learn and the aspiration to change are driven by the inner self. When I worked in Ningde, Fujian Province, I told the locals a folktale titled A Weak Bird Takes Flight Early. My intention was to explain to them that the area and the people should do two things – first, "take wing" and then "leave the nest". If you have no desire to make an effort, but rely solely on external aid, you will remain poor forever. Now, in certain places, village officials are really busy whereas farmers remain indifferent. The poor do nothing but wait, relying on and asking for poverty relief. This tendency has been caricatured in such terms as "Idle men lean against the wall, enjoying the sunshine and waiting for others to bring them a moderately prosperous society." We must arouse their enthusiasm and let their creative ability play its role. We should train them to develop skills so that they can find jobs or go into business. It is important to stimulate their desire to lift themselves out of poverty and work hard for a better life. What we must develop is their capacity for self-development.
We should motivate people in severely impoverished areas to follow the Chinese tradition of working hard and living thriftily. We should promote filial piety and family harmony, encourage people to take on family responsibilities, cultivate fine family traditions, and take care of the elderly.
A healthy, enterprising nation should encourage its people to work hard, get employed, provide for their family on their own, serve the public, and contribute to their country. We should change our approach in poverty reduction from simply handing out funds and goods, and even cattle and sheep, to giving rewards and subsidies for more work and work relief. We must not offer profuse promises and do everything for them, instead we should encourage them to lift themselves out of poverty through their own hard work.
Seventhly, improve organization and leadership.
When fighting poverty in severely impoverished areas, we must stress actual results. Poverty-relief personnel must be put in place, responsibilities must be defined, and results must be achieved. To eliminate extreme poverty, we must strengthen organization and leadership. The Central Committee has called on all Party members to enhance the Four Consciousnesses2. This is not a slogan or empty talk, but rather something we must apply in practice.
All Party committees and governments must implement the Central Committee's policies and plans for combating poverty. Party committees and governments in severely impoverished areas must make poverty elimination their top priority during the 13th Five-year Plan period (2016-2020) as well as the most important project for improving the people's wellbeing. They should focus on poverty elimination in their overall social and economic development.
County Party committees should be the headquarters of the poverty elimination campaign; county Party secretaries should take overall charge of poverty elimination – coordinating schedules, launching projects, allocating funds, assigning personnel, and implementing projects.
Here I reiterate that during the critical phase of the battle against poverty in impoverished counties, Party committee secretaries and county governors should remain steadfast in their posts. Outstanding ones will be eligible for promotion after the campaign is over. I hope those concerned will not fail the mission they have been entrusted by the Party.
To help severely impoverished areas shake off poverty, we must strengthen organization and leadership at the forefront. Officials are the key to success. In recent years we have dispatched to poverty-stricken villages first Party secretaries, resident working teams and, in certain places, university graduates as village leaders. Fighting extreme poverty is a hard battle. To win it, we must send the most capable people, and this is what all these places must take good care of. Money alone is not the solution. We should strengthen village Party branches while fighting poverty, appoint capable leaders and strengthen their leadership. We must be firm in removing those who are slacking, and ensure that village Party branches perform a decisive role in this battle. We should crack down on village despots according to law, and guard against their interference in the operation of local government. The Party and government departments at all levels should dispatch officials and resident working teams to poor villages to gain experience in the battle against poverty.
Grassroots officials at the forefront of poverty fighting are working hard. In my New Year message this year, I made a point of extending my greetings to them. This was on par with a call to local Party committees and governments to care about them and give them support. We should treat severely impoverished areas as testing and training grounds for our officials. Poverty relief officials must go deep into the villages and work hard together with the locals. They must not make token efforts or be slack at work. In this regard, Party committees and organization departments at relevant levels must ensure that those first Party secretaries and working team members are working hard in the poverty elimination campaign.
Eighthly, enhance supervision of poverty elimination.
The fight against poverty cannot be won overnight. The Central Committee does not require poverty to be eliminated ahead of schedule, and certainly not in severely impoverished areas where the issues are complex. Poverty elimination programs must not be capriciously moved ahead of schedule, and the poverty line should not be lowered. Fake poverty reduction or reduction only in figure is not allowed. We should conduct the strictest possible evaluation of poverty elimination and implement a reporting and oversight system for annual poverty reduction results. We should strengthen supervision and reinforce accountability for fraud and falsification. We should supervise the use of poverty relief funds, and punish any case of misappropriation and embezzlement. Our work must be a down-to-earth practice – progress must be steady, and the results must be real. The results must also be accepted by the people and withstand the test of time.
I have repeatedly emphasized that we should be pragmatic in combating poverty, and all our work should focus on resolving practical problems for the impoverished. We should not go through the motions, take impractical measures, be encumbered by red tape, or pay lip service. For some time now, it has been reported that in order to identify the poor and implement targeted measures for poverty alleviation, some areas have issued reams of forms. Grassroots officials are so swamped by these forms that they have no time to actually visit rural households to go fact-finding, and the impoverished people cannot make head nor tail of the complex forms with so many sections to fill in, which, worse still, are full of incomprehensible terminology. Such practices must be corrected. To take targeted measures to identify and reduce poverty, we should set reasonable goals, adopt sound approaches and improve efficiency. We should collect information from all sources, establish a database, and share the data.
All provinces and equivalent administrative units should follow the instructions of the Central Committee to focus on problems, analyze their causes, and find solutions. We must enhance our support in areas where poverty alleviation is weak or input is insufficient. If our approaches do not work well, we must immediately study the problems and work out appropriate methods in accordance with the requirements of targeted poverty alleviation, and ensure that poverty in severely impoverished areas is eliminated by 2020.
* Part of the speech at a seminar on eliminating poverty in severely impoverished areas.
1 Sun Zi Annotated by Eleven Thinkers (Shi Yi Jia Zhu Sun Zi).
2 This refers to enhancing political integrity, developing a better understanding of the general picture, following the core leadership of the CPC Central Committee, and acting consistently with Central Committee policy.
(Not to be republished for any commercial or other purposes.)