Today, we are holding an interprovincial symposium on the fight against poverty. This is the sixth such meeting that I have presided over since the 18th National Congress of the CPC in 2012. Before this, I presided over symposiums on the same subject in Yan’an, Guiyang, Yinchuan, Taiyuan, and Chengdu, and our fight against poverty has obtained remarkable results. This symposium is being held in consideration of the fact that we have less than two years left to reach our poverty alleviation objectives, with the year 2019 being particularly crucial. If we perform our tasks effectively this year, we will be able to lay solid foundations for bringing our poverty alleviation initiatives to a satisfactory conclusion next year.
After getting off the plane at noon yesterday, I first went to Shizhu Tujia Autonomous County where I visited Zhongyi Township Primary School as well as poor households and veteran CPC members in Huaxi Village. In the process, I had discussions with village representatives, local officials, poverty alleviation officials, and rural doctors. Through these discussions, I gained an up-close and personal understanding of the progress of poverty alleviation work in Chongqing and efforts that have been made to resolve the prominent problems in assuring the rural poor population that their food and clothing needs will be met and guaranteeing that they have access to compulsory education, basic medical services, and safe housing (referred to below as the “two assurances and three guarantees”), and I now feel at ease about the state of poverty alleviation in Chongqing. The tasks of this meeting are to analyze the current state of poverty alleviation efforts and to study and resolve outstanding problems relating to the “two assurances and three guarantees.” Attending the symposium are provincial-level Party committee secretaries from Guangxi, Chongqing, Sichuan, Guizhou, Yunnan, Shaanxi, Gansu, and Xinjiang, local representatives of counties, townships, and villages within Chongqing, and officials of relevant central government departments.
Those of you who have spoken just now have presented situations in your respective places, analyzed problems, and put forward ideas and proposals. This is very good. I would now like to add a few suggestions of my own.
I. We must have an accurate grasp of the state of poverty alleviation efforts.
Since the 18th National Congress, the CPC Central Committee has made eradicating poverty the basic mission and symbolic benchmark of our efforts to build a moderately prosperous society in all respects, and put forward a series of major plans in this regard. After the 19th National Congress in 2017, the Central Committee designated eliminating poverty in a targeted manner as one of the three critical battles for building a moderately prosperous society in all respects. In recent years, our poverty eradication efforts have reached unprecedented levels in terms of their intensity, scale, and impact, and we have made progress in line with anticipated targets.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, also General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee and Chairman of the CPC Central Military Commission, chairs and delivers an important speech at a symposium on resolving prominent problems in poverty alleviation on April 16, 2019. The symposium was held during Xi Jinping’s visit to Chongqing from April 15 to 17.
PHOTO BY XINHUA REPORTER XIE HUANCHI
In November 2015, at the Central Conference on Poverty Alleviation and Development, we made it clear that by 2020, we must “ensure that all rural residents falling below China’s current poverty line are lifted out of poverty, that all poor counties leave poverty behind, and that regional poverty is eliminated on the whole.” At that meeting, I said that poverty alleviation should focus on four issues – who exactly needs help, who should implement poverty alleviation initiatives, how poverty alleviation should be carried out, and what standards and procedures should be adopted for exiting poverty. As it stands, it seems that these issues have been resolved quite effectively.
To identify who exactly needs help, we have remained committed to alleviating and eradicating poverty in a targeted manner. We have carried out poverty screening at the level of individual villages and individual households, and registered cases of poverty identified through this process. We have also consistently made screening more accurate by adjusting our methods and criteria and by conducting follow-up examinations.
To identify who should implement poverty alleviation initiatives, we have selected more than three million officials from government departments at or above the county level and from state-owned enterprises and government-affiliated institutions to serve as village-stationed providers of support. Currently, there are 206,000 first secretaries of CPC village committees and 700,000 village-stationed officials, in addition to 1,974,000 town-level poverty alleviation officials and millions of village officials. We have thus significantly bolstered our forces on the front lines of poverty alleviation, and ensured that our efforts in this regard overcome final key hurdles.
To identify how poverty alleviation should be carried out, we have put forward five key measures to lift people out of poverty: some by increasing production; some through relocation; some through ecological compensation; some through education; and some by providing allowances to assist them in meeting their basic needs. We have also alleviated poverty by boosting employment, improving medical services, and helping people earn returns on assets, etc. Overall, we have tailored initiatives to the needs of different localities and individuals, providing people with what they are missing and allowing them to do what they are capable of doing, thus alleviating poverty by getting to the root of the problem.
Xi Jinping meets people of Yingxiu Town, Wenchuan County, Aba Tibetan-Qiang Autonomous Prefecture on February 12, 2018. As the Spring Festival approached, Xi visited Sichuan, where he met with officials and citizens and offered his New Year greetings to people of different ethnic groups across the country.
PHOTO BY XINHUA REPORTER JU PENG
To identify standards and procedures for exiting poverty, I mentioned four points at the meeting in 2015: setting a timetable, giving a grace period, evaluating the results of our work against strict criteria, and identifying exits from poverty on a per-household basis. We have clearly defined the standards and procedures for poor counties, villages, and people to exit poverty, guided localities in rationally formulating rolling programs and annual plans for poverty alleviation, and organized strict third-party assessments of poor counties that are prepared to exit poverty, with relevant policies remaining stable. According to feedback from various sources, concrete results have been secured in counties that have declared their exit from poverty. Generally speaking, we have achieved clear results in our fight against poverty.
First, we have promoted exits from poverty in an orderly manner. The number of rural residents living below the current poverty line decreased from 98.99 million in 2012 to 16.6 million in 2018, a total reduction of 82.39 million. An average of more than ten million people have been lifted out of poverty each year for six years running, and poverty rate has dropped from 10.2% to 1.7%. We have changed the former trend toward a year-on-year decrease in the number of people being lifted out of poverty after adopting new standards for exiting poverty, and broken the bottleneck that existed in the past two rounds of poverty alleviation in which we were unable to further reduce the poor population when it dropped to about 30 million. Among the country’s 832 poor counties, 153 have declared that they have left poverty behind, and 284 are undergoing relevant evaluation. The number of poor counties, which used to increase despite our poverty alleviation efforts, is now decreasing. It is estimated that after fulfilling this year’s task of lifting ten million people and 330 counties out of poverty, there will be only six million poor people and 60-plus poor counties across the country at the beginning of 2020.
Second, we have achieved overall success with regard to the “two assurances.” We have ensured that essentially all of our poor citizens have adequate food and clothing, and that people in most areas have access to roads, drinking water, electricity, communication, education, medical services, and safe housing.
Third, construction tasks in alleviating poverty through relocation are nearing completion. During the 13th Five-Year Plan period (2016-2020), we planned to relocate about ten million people registered as living in poverty from inhospitable areas. By the end of last year, construction tasks related to the relocation of 8.7 million people had been completed, and most relocated people have been lifted out of poverty. We expect that the remaining construction tasks will be fully completed this year.
Fourth, the CPC’s governing foundations in rural areas have been further consolidated. A large number of officials have been tempered in the fight against poverty, local CPC organizations in rural areas have seen their cohesiveness and effectiveness significantly enhanced, rural governance and management capacity at the local level has improved markedly, and the relationship between the Party and the public and between officials and the public has continued to improve.
The success and experience that we have gained in poverty alleviation have contributed Chinese wisdom and solutions to the cause of global poverty reduction, demonstrating the political strength of the CPC’s leadership and China’s socialist system and winning praise from the international community. Many countries and international organizations have expressed their hope to benefit from China’s experience in poverty reduction. China is the only developing country that has simultaneously brought about rapid development and large-scale poverty reduction and enabled the poor population to share the fruits of reform and development. This is a miraculous achievement.
While acknowledging our achievements, we must also be clearly aware of the difficulties and problems that we face as we push toward an overall victory in the fight against poverty. These fall into three main categories.
The first includes problems that directly impact our efforts to realize our objectives in fighting poverty. For example, there are regions failing to accurately apply poverty alleviation standards. Some have lowered standards and claimed that they have exited poverty without seeing that the “two assurances and three guarantees” are fully in place. Even more have raised standards by pursuing free medical services, free education, or relocation with excessive living space. Such actions are not sustainable since they give no consideration to our national conditions. Another problem is that deeply impoverished areas are still facing daunting poverty alleviation tasks. There are still 1.72 million people registered as living in poverty in the “three regions” (Tibet, the four prefectures of Hotan, Aksu, Kashgar, and Kizilsu in southern Xinjiang, and the ethnic Tibetan areas in Sichuan, Yunnan, Gansu, and Qinghai) and the “three prefectures” (Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan, Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan, and Linxia Hui Autonomous Prefecture in Gansu). With a poverty rate of 8.2%, these areas make up 12.5% of the country’s poor population. There are still 98 counties across the country where the poverty rate is above 10%. In these counties, there are 3.596 million people registered as living in poverty, accounting for 26% of the country’s poor population, and the poverty rate is 13.3 percentage points higher than the national rate. These areas represent the most stubborn challenge in our fight against poverty. Furthermore, we have yet to secure the “three guarantees,” since weak links still exist in guaranteeing access to compulsory education, basic medical services, safe housing, and safe drinking water. At present, issues covered in the “three guarantees” have yet to be resolved for 14% of the country’s poor population. Finally, we have seen efforts slacken after exits from poverty, with some counties abandoning poverty alleviation projects, shirking their responsibilities, or choosing to take a break, while others have wasted energy and resources on celebrations instead of building on their achievements.
The second includes further improvements that need to be made to our work. For example, numerous problems have emerged in poverty alleviation such as failure to assume responsibilities, implement policies, and carry out initiatives, going through formalities for formality sake and bureaucratic practices, deception and manipulation of figures, and misappropriation of poverty alleviation funds.
The third includes problems that need to be resolved gradually over the long term. For example, the foundations for industrial development are weak, follow-up assistance measures for poor people that have been relocated are insufficient, and long-term mechanisms for people to steadily make their way out of poverty have yet to be established. Among poor population, there is a lack of endogenous drive as well as outmoded customs and habits are difficult to break away from. We must properly resolve these problems by setting clear priorities. For problems that must and can be resolved, we should work quickly to find solutions so that they do not hinder us from completing our objectives in the fight against poverty. For certain protracted problems that cannot be solved overnight, we should make overall arrangements and lay the groundwork for them to be resolved in a step-by-step manner.
II. We must focus on resolving outstanding problems concerning the “two assurances and three guarantees.”
The basic requirements and core criteria for poverty alleviation are assuring the rural poor population that they have enough to eat and to wear and guaranteeing them access to compulsory education, basic medical services, and safe housing by 2020. These goals have a direct bearing on the quality of our fight against poverty. On the whole, the “two assurances” have essentially been settled, but there are still many areas of weakness in the “three guarantees.”
With regard to guaranteeing access to compulsory education, there are more than 600,000 children that have discontinued their studies in the compulsory stage. Boarding schools in towns and townships are insufficiently developed, and it is difficult for some children left behind in rural areas to receive education. With regard to guaranteeing access to basic medical services, some poor people are not covered by basic medical insurance, and some do not receive prompt treatment for common illnesses and chronic conditions. Medical facilities in poor counties, townships, and villages are insufficient, and some poor villages have no clinics or qualified doctors. With regard to guaranteeing access to safe housing, throughout the country there are about 1.6 million households in four key groups (namely households eligible for subsistence allowances, individuals living in extreme poverty on basic assistance in rural areas, families of people with disabilities affected by poverty, and households registered as living in poverty) that require renovation of their dilapidated housing, of which 800,000 households are registered as living in poverty. Some rural areas have not carried out assessments of such housing or have failed to ensure the accuracy of these assessments. With regard to guaranteeing access to safe drinking water, the problem has yet to be resolved for about 1.04 million poor people, while water safety needs to be further consolidated and enhanced for 60 million rural residents. If not effectively resolved by 2020, these problems will greatly detract from our success in fighting against poverty.
Authorities and departments at all levels must take the above problems seriously, get on the same page, and carry out relevant initiatives effectively. To resolve outstanding problems concerning the “three guarantees,” we must adhere to systems and mechanisms under which the central government formulates overarching plans, provincial governments assume overall responsibility, and city and county governments take charge of implementation. The central leading group on poverty alleviation should enhance overall coordination, oversight, and guidance, and make relevant arrangements in a timely manner. The Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, the Ministry of Water Resources, the National Health Commission, and the National Healthcare Security Administration are not only part of the leading group on poverty alleviation, but also responsible for managing work related to the “three guarantees.” Principal leaders of these departments must personally take the initiative, while officials in charge of specific tasks must make concrete efforts. These departments must define clear standards for their work and establish supporting policies in line with their respective functions, and guide local authorities in analyzing and resolving problems. Relevant provincial-level governments should organize local units to conduct checks, feel out the situation on the ground, organize resources in a coordinated manner, formulate and implement plans, and work out targeted measures. City and county governments should take responsibility for the implementation of specific initiatives and verify exits from poverty on a case-by-case and household-by-household basis to ensure that no blind spots exist.
Xi Jinping talks with teachers and students of Zhongyi Township Primary School in Shizhu Tujia Autonomous County on April 15, 2019 to learn about the situation with regard to guaranteeing access to compulsory education during his visit to Chongqing from April 15 to 17.
PHOTO BY XINHUA REPORTER XIE HUANCHI
I have emphasized on many occasions that we must adhere to current poverty alleviation standards and refrain from raising or lowering them. Guaranteeing access to compulsory education mainly entails ensuring that the school-age children of poor families complete their education. Guaranteeing access to basic medical services mainly entails ensuring that all poor people are covered by the medical insurance system, that there are facilities where they can access affordable treatment for common illnesses and chronic conditions, and that they can maintain a basic standard of living in the event that they become seriously ill. Guaranteeing access to safe housing mainly entails ensuring that poor people do not live in dilapidated housing. Guaranteeing access to safe drinking water mainly entails ensuring that rural citizens feel at ease about the water they drink and that we make coordinated efforts to analyze and resolve safety issues in this regard. These are the country’s unified, basic standards, but conditions vary from region to region. For example, with regard to ensuring housing safety, the southern region should focus on ventilation, while the northern region should focus on heating and insulation. With regard to ensuring the safety of drinking water, the northwestern region should focus on finding adequate sources of water, while the southwestern region should focus on the storage and delivery of water as well as on bringing water quality up to required standards. Therefore, different localities should act in line with actual conditions rather than trying to use “one-size-fits-all” solutions. Extensive inquiries have been made by various localities into how to resolve outstanding problems concerning the “three guarantees,” with some either wittingly or unwittingly raising standards. Such practices should be rectified if they markedly exceed standards. If standards are only exceeded by a small margin, however, then the stability and continuity of policies should be maintained in order to prevent too much chopping and changing.
To resolve outstanding problems concerning the “two assurances and three guarantees,” it is essential to acquire a clear sense of basic conditions. Some localities have still failed to do so, and this is unacceptable. Relevant departments must guide all localities in getting a clear sense of basic conditions to ensure that they are working toward definite goals. Relevant departments should also enhance verification and connection of data in order to avoid inconsistencies between different departments. Supervisory departments for relevant industries should take the lead in formulating work plans, while provincial-level governments should formulate implementation plans, set timetables and roadmaps, and come up with effective measures and methods to ensure that tasks are completed on schedule. Our policies and funds for resolving outstanding problems concerning the “three guarantees” are sufficient; the key is ensuring that they are applied effectively. We need to intensify our efforts, focus on outstanding problems, and rectify deficiencies on a per-village, per-household, and per-case basis. We also need to publicize our policies and standards to ensure that we are all on the same page, and guide all sectors of society in accurately understanding these policies so as to prevent the emergence of varying interpretations.
III. We must make solid efforts this year and next in the fight against poverty.
Taking everything into account, China has already essentially achieved the goal of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects. However, there remain some shortcomings, the greatest of which is in our fight against poverty. The fight against poverty has now entered a crucial stage for us to secure a decisive victory. Our approach in this stage should differ from the overall planning of the initial stage and the overall advancement of the intermediate stage since now the most urgent task is to prevent our efforts from slackening or slipping. All localities and departments must press on without respite, not letting up until a complete victory has been secured.
First, we must strengthen accountability. As a Chinese saying goes, “Capable people attach greater importance to conscientiousness than to resourcefulness.” Winning the fight against poverty is a task that must be fulfilled if we are to build a moderately prosperous society in all respects. Principal leaders of provincial-level Party committees and governments must boost awareness of the need to maintain political integrity, think in big-picture terms, follow the CPC central leadership core, and keep in alignment; strengthen their confidence in the path, theory, system, and culture of socialism with Chinese characteristics; resolutely uphold the General Secretary’s core position on the CPC Central Committee and in the Party as a whole, and resolutely uphold the CPC Central Committee’s authority and its centralized, unified leadership; and heighten their political responsibility as they take action in the fight against poverty. Provincial-level officials in charge of poverty alleviation must, on account of their special position, ensure that they are well acquainted with relevant circumstances and build expertise so that they can effectively advise and assist in the implementation of initiatives. Each province should select and appoint capable officials to take charge of poverty alleviation efforts. Leadership should remain stable in principle, but adjustments should be made where officials are found to be unsuited to their post or incapable of performing their duties. All industries and government departments must put their utmost effort toward our poverty alleviation objectives, working together and ensuring that they perform their duties. Those who hinder the fulfillment of our goals due to their failure to assume responsibilities, implement policies, and carry out initiatives must be held to account.
Xi Jinping converses with local officials and representatives of the public at the home of Zhang Guoli, a resident of Maanshan Village in Chifeng, on July 15, 2019, during a visit he made to Inner Mongolia from July 15 to 16, where he provided guidance for the “staying true to our original aspirations and founding mission” education campaign.
PHOTO BY XINHUA REPORTER XIE HUANCHI
Second, we must overcome the most difficult challenges in poverty alleviation. Our efforts to address problems in areas with extreme poverty, poor basic conditions, complex causes of poverty, and overlapping ethnic, religious, and stability issues are the key in determining whether we can win the battle against poverty. In June 2017 in Shanxi, I presided over a symposium on poverty alleviation in deeply impoverished areas, calling for concentrated efforts to lift deeply impoverished areas such as the “three regions and three prefectures” out of poverty. After the meeting, the CPC Central Committee formulated guidelines for supporting poverty alleviation in these areas. Though various sectors have intensified their efforts in this regard, we must make sure that efforts do not slacken. There are certain deeply impoverished counties aside from the “three regions and three prefectures” where we need to redouble our efforts and work out specific and pragmatic measures through a step-by-step approach so that we may overcome difficult obstacles and ensure that poverty alleviation tasks are completed.
Third, we must work earnestly to rectify problems. The most recent round of special inspections and impact assessments of poverty alleviation has discovered numerous outstanding and endemic problems, which mainly exist in the following areas. The first is failure to regard poverty alleviation as a major political task. This results in inadequate assumption of responsibility, discordant thinking, and lackluster implementation. The second is deviation from the principle of targeted poverty alleviation. Some have reduced poverty alleviation to mere distribution of money and supplies, dividends from community businesses, or subsistence allowances instead of focusing their energy on doing precise work. The third is excessive formalism and bureaucratic practices. For instance, some have spent money on whitewashing walls, which brings no benefit at all to the public and only constitutes a pointless waste of the country’s money. In addition, local officials have been brought to the point of exhaustion by the large numbers of meetings to attend, inspections to conduct, and forms to fill out. Authorities of all regions and departments should take a full inventory of problems and ensure that problems in every category are properly rectified, so that we may lay sound foundations for next year’s work.
Fourth, we must raise the quality of poverty alleviation. Poverty alleviation must give consideration to both quantity and quality, but put greater focus on the latter. We cannot allow a scenario in which all localities claim that they have completed their poverty alleviation tasks on schedule but then slip back into poverty en masse a year or two down the line. Adopting a multi-layered approach, we must raise the quality of poverty alleviation and consolidate the results of our efforts in this regard. We must strictly control exits from poverty by rigorously enforcing relevant standards and procedures to ensure that poverty alleviation initiatives are genuinely effective and reach those who truly need help. We should prioritize the prevention of relapse into poverty, conduct timely follow-up checks on people lifted out of poverty, and offer prompt assistance to those relapsing into poverty as well as new cases of poverty. We should look into forming long-term mechanisms for people to steadily make their way out of poverty, including strengthening poverty alleviation by developing industries in poor areas and channeling consumer spending to these areas, enhancing relevant training, and promoting nonagricultural employment opportunities for the surplus rural workforce so that poor people can find stable jobs. We need to provide adequate follow-up support to people that have been relocated, and ensure that our poverty alleviation efforts help people build the confidence and capacity to pull themselves out of poverty so that the campaign is equipped with sustainable internal drive.
Fifth, we must keep our poverty alleviation policies stable. As an old Chinese saying goes, “The most difficult part of a victory is not winning it, but rather sustaining it.” In the first half of this year, more than 430 poor counties will bid farewell to poverty. During the assessment process, it was found that some counties that had shaken off the designation of being poor have grown sluggish in their efforts since last year. Some have put their feet up and abandoned poverty alleviation projects, and some have shifted their focus elsewhere. Party committee secretaries and administrators in some counties have shown eagerness to be transferred to other posts, and some people that have been lifted out of poverty have seen their incomes stagnate or even decrease. After shaking off the designation of being poor, counties must continue to complete the task of lifting their remaining poor out of poverty, and keep those who have already been lifted out of poverty from falling back in. In these counties, Party and government leadership should remain stable with officials aware that they still bear responsibility, major poverty alleviation policies should remain in force so that they are followed through with, poverty alleviation teams should remain in place so that they continue to provide assistance, and oversight should be prioritized to prevent people from slipping back into poverty. Relevant departments must work quickly to propose specific ways of satisfying these requirements.
Sixth, we must improve our conduct. We need to incorporate the requirement of comprehensively governing the Party with strict discipline throughout the entire process of our fight to eradicate poverty, and improve our conduct in order to ensure that concrete efforts are made to alleviate poverty, that channels to exit from poverty are sound, and that poverty alleviation leads to genuine results. We need to implement and improve systems and mechanisms for promoting poverty alleviation through Party building, effectively train poverty alleviation officials, and enhance the abilities of officials at all levels while instilling within them a stronger sense of mission and responsibility. We need to exert the crucial role of local Party organizations in leading the general public out of poverty and toward prosperity, push deeper with efforts to combat corruption and misconduct in poverty alleviation, and implement policy decisions designed to ease the burdens on localities.
The vast majority of officials working on the front lines of poverty alleviation have kept their mission firmly in mind, and worked hard for the wellbeing of the poor. Some have long been overloaded in their work, some have had no time to take care of their families and children, some have exhausted themselves to the point that they are unable to go on for health reasons, and some have even sacrificed their lives. We must show great care for the lives, health, and safety of those serving on the front lines of the fight against poverty, and immediately provide subsidies and long-term support for the families of deceased officials. We must see that officials who have performed well and won public approval at the local level are effectively trained and put to good use. We must also enhance publicity and commend outstanding officials so that the public is aware of stories of heroism from the fight against poverty. Finally, with regard to poverty alleviation officials who flinch in the face of difficulty, muddle through their work, or stoop to deception, we must enhance education and supervision, replacing those who should be replaced and holding to account those who should be held accountable.
Winning the fight against poverty is a historic mission that is both glorious and immensely challenging. If we are to attain complete success in this mission, we must continue putting in arduous efforts. We must press on with courage and resolve, making new and greater contributions so that we may realize our goals of winning the fight against poverty and building a moderately prosperous society on schedule.
(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No. 16, 2019)