Guizhou Makes Tremendous Contribution to China's Miracle of Poverty Reduction

Source:MFA 2019-08-12

  Sun Zhigang

  Honorable Executive Secretary Lahjomri,

  Ladies and gentlemen, friends,

  Good afternoon! Today, it gives me great pleasure to visit the prestigious Academy of the Kingdom of Morocco and share my ideas with you. As the most authoritative research institution in this country, your academy has assembled a large group of outstanding personalities and achieved fruitful results in a number of domains. I profoundly admire the great mission and remarkable achievements of your academy and offer my sincere congratulations.

  Morocco is one of the first African and Arab countries to establish diplomatic ties with China. Chinese President Xi Jinping attaches great importance to the relations between China and Morocco. In May 2016, President Xi and His Majesty King Mohammed VI decided to establish a strategic partnership between the two countries. In November 2017, Morocco joined the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). In November 2018, President Xi and His Majesty King Mohammed VI exchanged messages of congratulations on the 60th anniversary of China-Morocco diplomatic relations. Now we have come precisely to implement the consensus reached by the state leaders of both sides and boost pragmatic exchanges and cooperation in relevant areas.

  Located in the southwest of China, Guizhou has an area of 176,000 square kilometers and a population of more than 40 million. Wherever you go in Guizhou, you will see beautiful lakes, forests, canyons, waterfalls, karst caves and hot springs. It is hailed as a "province of parks" and boasts the largest number of world natural heritage sites among Chinese provinces, the best known of them being the Huangguoshu Waterfall. Guizhou is endowed with excellent ecosystems. It has a forest coverage rate of 57 percent, and it reports fairly good air quality for 97 percent of days ina year. Guizhou has diverse cultures. It has been home to 17 ethnic groups such as Miao, Buyi and Dong. The Kam Grand Choirs and the HXak Yangt are famous at home and abroad, the Xijiang Qianhu Miao Village is a fascinating tourist destination, and the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) is the world's largest single-aperture radio telescope. Guizhou abounds in natural resources and energy. Its green agricultural products are popular around the world, and China's national liquor Moutai is the best in the world. Guizhou is highly accessible. It is the first province in western China to extend expressways to every county. Civil aviation and high-speed rail cover 100 percent and more than 80 percent of its cities and prefectures, respectively.

  Ladies and gentlemen, friends,

  To eliminate poverty is a long-cherished dream of mankind as well as a common mission for all developing countries. China is the largest developing country. It is a fundamental task of socialism with Chinese characteristics and a vital mission of the Communist Party of China to eradicate poverty, improve people's wellbeing and ultimately achieve common prosperity for everyone. Since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, the CPC Central Committee with President Xi Jinping as its core has been giving top priority to poverty alleviation in governing China. To win the battle against poverty, one of the three critical battles to build a moderately prosperous society in all respects, President Xi has taken command in person. He has visited all contiguous poor areas in China and led the entire Party and the Chinese people of all ethnic groups in the battle against absolute poverty. It is the most intensive, largest-scale and farthest-reaching battle ever.

  I would like to focus on five points in my introduction:

  First, we have set clear our goal of poverty alleviation. We are to ensure that by the year 2020, all rural residents living below the current poverty line have been lifted out of poverty, and poverty is eliminated in all poor counties and regions. This is an iconic indicator of China completing the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects and delivering on our first centenary goal. This is a solemn commitment of the Communist Party of China!

  Second, we have established a basic strategy for targeted poverty alleviation. Appropriate projects have been planned and carried out for the benefit of specific impoverished groups and even individual impoverished households. Aid workers have been assigned to villages according to specific conditions, and funds have been used effectively to achieve concrete results. We promote poverty alleviation through agricultural production, relocation from inhospitable areas, ecological compensation, education and social security.

  Third, we have developed a system of institutions with Chinese characteristics for poverty alleviation. We strengthen overall Party leadership in the battle against poverty. We implement a well-defined accountability system, formulate sound working procedures for identifying the poor and lifting them out of poverty, adopt policies for unified coordination at different levels, ensure funding and personnel, help different villages, households and residents according to actual situations, mobilize social participation and concerted efforts, carry out supervision through multiple channels and conduct the strictest possible evaluation of poverty alleviation results. At the core of this system of institutions is a working mechanism whereby the central government makes overall plans, provincial-level governments take overall responsibility, and city and county governments ensure implementation. The governments at all levels sign letters of responsibilities to clarify the objectives, enhance the sense of responsibility and guarantee implementation.

  Fourth, we have advanced poverty reduction drawing on the joint efforts of government, society and the market to highlight the strengths of the socialist system. We combine special poverty reduction actions with industrial and social efforts, and mobilize the energies of our whole Party and our whole society in the process. Our Party and government organs, state-owned enterprises and public service institutions hold specific aid activities in poor counties, townships and villages. The more developed eastern regions pair up with the less developed western regions. Private enterprises, social organizations and individuals join hands in the campaign against poverty.

  Fifth, we have amassed valuable experience in poverty alleviation. As President Xi Jinping pointed out, "We must strengthen Party leadership, carry out targeted poverty alleviation, increase funding and personnel, involve all parties and engage the public." Such valuable experience has contributed Chinese wisdom to the global cause of poverty reduction.

  Since the 18th CPC National Congress, China's poverty-stricken population has dropped from 98.99 million to 16.6 million, down by more than 13 million a year, and our poverty headcount ratio has fallen from 10.2 percent to 1.7 percent. China has lifted more people out of poverty than any other country in the world, and is the first to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals for poverty reduction. We have provided a China solution for the global cause of poverty reduction, sped up global efforts to eliminate poverty, and written a new chapter in the history of mankind's fight against poverty. By 2020, China will have lifted all its rural residents living below the current poverty line out of poverty, and have achieved the goal of poverty reduction prescribed in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development 10 years ahead of the schedule.

  Ladies and gentlemen, friends,

  Guizhou is one of China's main battlefields of poverty alleviation. In 2015, Guizhou had a poverty-stricken population of 6.23 million, which was the largest among all provinces and accounted for 8.9 percent of the national total, and we had a poverty headcount ratio of 18 percent, higher than the national average by 10.8 percent. The outcome of Guizhou's poverty alleviation efforts will directly affect the fulfillment of China's goal of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects.

  President Xi Jinping, deeply concerned about Guizhou's poverty alleviation, gave important instructions on many occasions. During the 19th CPC National Congress in October 2017, President Xi Jinping joined in the panel discussion of Guizhou delegation and required us to stick to the dual bottom line of economic development and ecological protection to create a better future for the colorful Guizhou so that people are rich and ecosystems are beautiful. He stressed that "we must win the battle against poverty to achieve our first centenary goal. We have entered a countdown and can't afford to hesitate or slacken. It's time to launch a general offensive". Last July, President Xi Jinping once again required that we should strive to the best of our capabilities and implement targeted measures to win the battle against poverty. We have conscientiously studied and carried out these important instructions. We give priority to poverty alleviation and consider it as the paramount public welfare project. We guide our overall economic and social development with poverty alleviation and mobilize all walks of life to win the battle against poverty. In 2018, Guizhou recorded an economic growth of 9.1 percent, ranking first among all provinces for two consecutive years and holding a place among top 3 provinces for eight years on end. Guizhou's poverty-stricken population dropped from 6.23 million in 2015 to 1.55 million in 2018, an annual decrease of more than 1 million. In 2018 alone, 1.48 million people shook off poverty, marking a record high in recent years and bringing the poverty headcount ratio to 4.3 percent. This has laid a solid, decisive foundation for our winning the battle against poverty as scheduled. And President Xi Jinping described Guizhou's economic and social development as "an epitome of major strides forward in the cause undertaken by our Party and state."

  Guizhou's practice of poverty alleviation shows the following five features:

  I. Giving priority to infrastructure construction to lay a solid foundation for sustainable poverty alleviation in rural areas

  Improving infrastructure in rural areas is the key to lifting local residents out of poverty. Guizhou is typical of karst formations, with mountains and hills accounting for 92.5 percent of its land. The broken landforms, high mountains and deep valleys pose great difficulties for infrastructure construction and led to longstanding arrears, greatly hampering the pace of poverty alleviation in rural areas.

  Transportation infrastructure is fundamental for a region's development. In the past, poor transportation seriously restricted Guizhou's development, and people ached to change the situation. In 2015, Guizhou became the first province in western China to extend expressways to every county. And now the province has built 6,450 kilometers of expressways. With these expressways acting as the "main arteries", we went on to make every household in rural areas accessible by the capillary-like country roads. In 2017, we completed the construction of roads connecting all incorporated villages. Then we proposed to expand the roads to unincorporated villages and villagers' groups in three years. By the first half of 2019, we will have completed the construction of 80,000 kilometers of roads, making all the rural areas accessible by road and directly benefiting 12 million rural residents.

  Water conservancy is the lifeline of agriculture, and access to safe drinking water is a fundamental requirement for poverty alleviation. We have built 2,634 reservoirs of all sizes, implemented more than 200 key water source projects and laid more than 5,100 kilometers of water pipelines, with tap water available to 88.3 percent of rural areas and central water supply available to 91.5 percent of rural areas by late 2018. Currently we are focusing on the implementation of safe drinking water projects in the most underdeveloped areas, so that the remaining 2.79 million rural residents in Guizhou can also have access to safe drinking water.

  The power grid construction is also a major step to speeding up rural modernization. Since 2016, we have carried out a fresh round of upgrading of rural power grids to accommodate the fast-growing need for electrical power in rural, poor areas and remote areas inhabited by ethnic minority groups. In 2018, the rural residents' electricity consumption for their living rose by 15.9 percent, and the reliability of rural power grids reached 99.7 percent, with the three-phase power supply available to all incorporated villages. These efforts have better guaranteed power supply for the rural people's living and production.

  Speeding up the broadband network construction is another crucial step to rural modernization. We have vigorously implemented the "rural broadband" project and the "smart cable TV" project and accelerated the construction of telecommunication networks. The fiber-optic network and the 4G network have covered all incorporated villages, informationizing rural areas at a growing pace. Now, not just urban residents, rural residents in Guizhou can also enjoy a massive allotment of data at home and use the ride-hailing services on their phones.

  II. Relocating people from inhospitable areas to permanently improve their living conditions

  In areas of adverse living conditions, frequent natural disasters and high costs of water supply, road construction and power supply, people can hardly shake off poverty locally and must be relocated. Such a complicated, challenging project requires a large amount of funds and patient persuasion of local people. In 2016, we decided to spend three years relocating 1.88 million residents, nearly one-fifth of the 10 million people to be relocated across the country. This could be the largest relocation with the shortest time in the history. In the process, we adhered to united financing for location at the provincial level, relocation of unincorporated villages as a whole, centralized urbanization and resettlement of relocatees, centralized construction at the county level, relocation without indebtedness for poor households, and relocation according to local production and employment situation. To date, we have relocated 1.32 million residents and will complete relocating the remaining 560,000 residents by the first half of 2019.

  Relocation is the means, while poverty alleviation is the end. We must make sure the relocatees live a better life in the new houses. After relocation, we shift our focus to establishing "five systems", namely the basic public service system, the training and employment service system, the cultural service system, the community governance system and the community-level Party building system. These systems effectively address the relocatees' problems in living and production, and ensure that at least one member of each household has stable employment. In this way, people are willing to move out and settle down, and can gradually become rich. A random household survey shows that 99.5 percent of the relocatees are satisfied with the relocation policy, 99 percent of them are satisfied with the supporting infrastructure and public service facilities, 98.3 percent of them are satisfied with the new houses, and 97.9 percent of them are happy with the employment and poverty alleviation measures. Some relocatees put up the photos of their old and new houses side by side at home to express their gratitude to the Party and government.

  III. Promoting industrial revolution in rural areas to support sustainable poverty alleviation

  Developing industries based on local conditions is part and parcel of advancing rural economic restructuring, transforming and upgrading and implementing the rural vitalization strategy. It is a long-term, fundamental strategy for sustainable industry-based poverty alleviation.

  In Guizhou, where it is mountainous, conventional planting and breeding brings in low benefits, but the diverse weather conditions offer unique advantages. Given these characteristics, we have launched a profound industrial revolution to revitalize the rural economy. We have taken unconventional measures in eight aspects to promote industrial selection, farmer training, technical service, fund raising, organizing modes, production and marketing connection, benefit connection, and community-level Party building. We have significantly reduced the acreage of maize and other low-efficiency crops and vigorously developed high-efficiency featured produces such as tea, vegetables, edible fungi, Chinese medicinal herbs and high-end fruits, as well as ecologically-friendly breeding industry projects. Last year, we launched a series of programs such as the Spring Wind Action, the Summer/Autumn Operation, the Autumn Harvest Interviews and the Winter Training. We recorded remarkable achievements in the rural industrial revolution. with the agricultural added value growing by 6.8 percent and the per-capita disposable income of farmers rising by 9.6 percent, both hitting record highs in recent years.

  The development of e-commerce is another marked feature of the rural industrial revolution in Guizhou. We provide farmers with information on market demand on the Internet and help them sell agricultural products across China and the world through e-commerce platforms. Last year, our online sales soared by 30 percent. The former World Bank president Jim Yong Kim highly praised our practice of developing e-commerce and facilitating production-marketing connection in rural area, saying that "the case of Guizhou provides great inspiration and useful reference for other developing countries."

  Poverty alleviation through tourism is a major source of income for farmers in Guizhou. We are making a big push to foster rural tourism and turn lucid waters and lush mountains into invaluable assets. Both the number of tourists and the tourism revenue of Guizhou grew by more than 30 percent for three years on end, greatly helping farmers to shake off poverty and become better off. "Guizhou is leading the global rural tourism and other places in the world can learn from its experience", said the former UNWTO Secretary General Francesco Frangialli.

  IV. Ensuring education, medical service and housing to support sustainable poverty alleviation

  Education, medical service and housing are fundamental for people's livelihood. Developing countries must strive to address these issues in the anti-poverty process.

  We must address poverty reduction by enhancing the skills of the impoverished population. We can prevent the transfer of poverty across generations only by developing education and improving quality of the population in rural areas. We cut down on the administrative expenditures of Party and government departments by 6 percent every year to increase investment in education in rural areas. We implement the nine-year compulsory education system and make sure that not a single student drops out of school because of poverty. Guizhou has achieved a rational geographical distribution of primary and secondary schools in rural areas, and it is the first province in China's western region to realize balanced development of compulsory education in rural and urban areas of counties. In rural areas of Guizhou, the best buildings are in schools. Also, we implement the Better Nutrition Plan for rural students receiving preschool and compulsory education and provide them with free meals at school. Our free three-year secondary vocational education produces nearly 300,000 graduates each year to lift their families out of poverty. Additionally, we run night schools, training centers and training sessions, which have cumulatively benefited 16 million farmers. After learning cultural knowledge and specialized skills, the farmers are better capable of making a living and getting employed.

  Developing rural medical and health services, improving medical care level and implementing poverty reduction through healthcare programs are important measures to prevent poverty caused by excessive medical expenses. We have increased investment in county-, township- and village-level clinics, implemented a three-year plan to encourage provincial and municipal hospital doctors to work in county and township hospitals, and guided the introduction of quality medical resources in rural areas. In the end, Guizhou first established a public hospital remote medical service system at provincial, municipal, county and township levels to control endemic diseases, common diseases, infectious diseases, chronic diseases and improve basic public health services. We have implemented basic medical insurance, serious illness insurance and medical aid to considerably improve compensation ratio of poverty-stricken people's medical expenses and greatly reduce the rate of poverty due to excessive medical expenses.

  Housing is a major matter of the people's livelihood. Comfortable housing is a prerequisite for people's steady work and business. We have taken rural housing support measures and enacted localized criteria of dangerous houses. Specifically, we renovated nearly 500,000 rural dangerous houses to ensure the residents could take safe and comfortable shelter.

  Besides, we are promoting ecological compensation. We have provided jobs for 40,000 people as a forest ranger and helped nearly 120,000 poverty-stricken people get out of poverty steadily. We have provided basic social welfare for those people who lose their physical ability to work.

  V. Focusing on areas of extreme poverty to capture the last fortresses of poverty

  In the later stage of poverty alleviation, the challenges get tougher. Guizhou has 16 counties, 20 townships and 2,760 villages of extreme poverty. We must focus fire on these toughest fortresses of poverty to win a complete victory.

  First, we shift poverty alleviation funds allotted by government finance departments at all levels to areas of extreme poverty. Second, we strengthen collaboration on poverty alleviation between the eastern and western regions, and focus funds, projects, talents and other resources from the more developed eastern regions on areas of extreme poverty. Third, we give priority to locating major infrastructure construction projects in areas of extreme poverty. Fourth, we implement the poverty alleviation responsibility system for government officials at all levels, send officials with outstanding performance to villages and poverty alleviation stations in areas of extreme poverty, and divert more enterprises and social aid to these areas.

  The story of Guizhou's poverty alleviation has drawn intense attention from all over the country and the world. Last year, the delegations of two royal families, political heavyweights of seven countries, ministers of 28 countries, and six international organizations visited Guizhou. Moreover, the participants in a conference on poverty reduction and development under the 2018 Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, including representatives from Botswana, Mauritius, Liberia, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Ethiopia, agreed that our practices are worth learning on their visit to Guizhou.

  Ladies and gentlemen, friends,

  In 2018, we secured a decisive victory in the battle against poverty, laying a solid foundation for winning the battle as scheduled. In 2019, we will focus efforts, personnel and resources on the toughest stage of the battle against poverty. We will launch a fierce offensive at areas of extreme poverty to win a fundamental victory. We will fight for the final victory in 2020. We consider it as our historical mission to uproot poverty and make people rich. We will never cease to fight until we complete building a moderately prosperous society in all aspects. We resolve to win a complete victory in the last battle, putting a historical end to poverty that has been haunting Guizhou for several thousand years.

  Ladies and gentlemen, friends,

  In 2019, as we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, Guizhou has made glorious achievements alongside the rest of the country. Following Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era and President Xi's instructions for work in Guizhou, we will conscientiously implement the requirements for high-quality development and stick to the dual bottom line of economic development and ecological protection. We will take tough steps to forestall and defuse major risks, carry out targeted poverty alleviation, and prevent and control pollution. We will advance the three strategic actions of joint poverty alleviation, big data and big ecology. We will speed up the building of the National Big Data (Guizhou) Comprehensive Pilot Zone, the National Ecological Civilization Experimental Zone and the National Inland Opening-up Pilot Economic Zone. We will write a new chapter of Guizhou's development in the new era, and strive to create a better future for the colorful Guizhou, so that people are rich and ecosystems are beautiful.

  Ladies and gentlemen, friends,

  More than 600 years ago, the Chinese traveler Wang Dayuan and the Moroccan traveler Ibn Batutah sailed across the billowy ocean to arrive in Tangier and Quanzhou, respectively, leaving behind a fabulous episode of the friendly exchanges between China and Morocco. Today, the Chinese and Moroccan peoples are carrying forward the Silk Road spirit, writing a new chapter of mutual learning, win-win cooperation and common prosperity, and building a community of shared future for mankind. Starting in 2005, Morocco has implemented the National Initiative for Human Development. You have made remarkable achievements and accumulated valuable experience in poverty reduction. We are going to learn from your successful anti-poverty practices. And we sincerely invite Moroccan friends to Guizhou for a look! Let's join hands in creating a brighter future of less poverty!

  Thank you!

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