Speech at a Symposium on Resolving Prominent Problems in Poverty Alleviation
16 April 2019
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.
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.
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.