We are all brothers in the mission to eliminate poverty
Editor's Note: China is set to realize its target of eliminating absolute poverty by the end of this year. What are the factors behind China's imminent success? In the seventh of a series of commentaries, a senior journalist of China Daily tries to find the answers:
Good policies and strategies are important to the anti-poverty campaign, but more important is the devotion of thousands of officials and professionals who have worked to make the poverty-elimination drive successful.
Since 2012, when the central government decided to end absolute poverty by the end of 2020, nearly 3 million officials and professionals of different ranks from the central, provincial and city governments have been sent to rural areas on a two-year basis to help end poverty. At present, about 1 million such officials are working shoulder to shoulder with villagers in impoverished rural areas.
These officials and professionals stay in the poor, remote villages far removed from their loved ones and their relatively comfortable lives in cities. But most of them volunteered for the job, because they wanted to be part of the historic mission of ending poverty in China.
Many have even lost their lives. Official data show more than 770 such officials died in floods, landslides, or due to diseases or overwork.
Huang Wenxiu, a postgraduate degree holder from Beijing Normal University, died in a flood while driving back to her village in Baise, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, last June. For one year before her death, she had been working as the first Party secretary of the village during which she drew up a plan to help the villagers emerge out of poverty and sought the help of officials and experts to implement it.
In that one year, she drove 12,500 kilometers－the length of the Long March－on the mountainous roads to make her plan successful. But unlike the Red Army that eventually reached its destination in Yan'an, Shaanxi province, Huang died before her village was declared poverty-free.
Li Baoguo, too, did not live to see his dream fulfilled. A professor at Hebei Agriculture University, Li worked for 34 years to lift the villagers in the Taihang Mountain areas out of poverty. He spent more than 200 days in a year in the mountainous areas of Hebei province helping poor villagers to plant fruit trees which, after they grew, earned the villagers handsome incomes. Thanks to his efforts, more than 100,000 farmers have emerged out of poverty.
In 2016, on getting the news of Li's death, about 10,000 farmers who benefitted from Li's contribution attended his funeral.
Huang and Li are just two of the about 3 million officials and professionals who have worked to lift villagers out of poverty. And each of them has his/her story to tell.
As for China Daily, it has sent five of its staff members to work for the poverty-elimination campaign since 2012－with three working as deputy directors of poor counties and two as first Party secretary of poor villages. The deputy directors' main job is to coordinate China Daily's poverty-alleviation work with those of the counties while also inviting donations and investments from outside.
The first Party secretary's work is more complicated. In China, every village has a Party branch which is the top administrative body of the village. Under special arrangement, the "external" first Party secretary has to work with the formally appointed Party secretary for the welfare of the village, especially to eliminate poverty.
Volunteers need a bachelor's or a postgraduate degree and a few years' experience of working in a government organization to become a first Party secretary. About 20,000 of such first Party secretaries are working in China's poor villages today.
China Daily's two first Party secretaries have fulfilled their tasks. By making good use of government and special poverty-alleviation funds, and attracting donations from China Daily and other sources, they have helped the poor families to build new houses and improve their living standards.
I visited one such village and was impressed by the paved roads with solar-powered lights, a new three-story school building, greenhouses growing mini-pumpkins, and lotus ponds. And although all the residents of the two villages have been lifted out of poverty, China Daily's two first Party secretaries are still working there, as required by the central government, to make sure no family slips back into poverty.
"Hello, brother, have you eaten your lunch?" a villager we met on the way asked the first Party secretary.
Yes, we are all brothers in the drive to eliminate poverty.
The author is former deputy editor-in-chief of China Daily.