|Article by Ambassador LIU Yantao in Cyprus Mail entitled "Working on the frontline of poverty alleviation"|
On April 1, 2021,His Excellency Ambassador LIU Yantao published an article entitled "Working on the frontline of poverty alleviation" in Cyprus' largest English newspaper Cyprus Mail. The article represents a personal account of how China's arduous poverty alleviation efforts helped change the lives of people in Malipo, a small county in southwestern China and Xinjiang Autonomous Region, and valuable lessons learnt from China's own experience. The full text is as follows:
Working on the frontline of poverty alleviation
Chinese President Xi Jinping, in his 2021 New Year speech, said, "Through eight years, under the current standard, China has eradicated extreme poverty for the nearly 100 million rural people affected." China has won a decisive victory in the fight against poverty and created a miracle in the history of human poverty reduction.
For these 100 million, the changes are real – it is an unwell person being able to afford treatment, a mother having a job, a family moving out of a ramshackle shelter, or a student no longer having to climb a cliff to attend school. Improved lives give these people hope for an even better future.
I had been personally involved in poverty alleviation and assigned by China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) to some impoverished remote areas, including Yunnan Province and Xinjiang Autonomous Region. As a participant and witness, I wish to share some stories based on my own experiences
Malipo – a small county's transformation
I used to serve as Deputy Governor of Wenshan Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan Province. Under the Prefecture's administration, Malipo County was the focus of our special attention.
Malipo is inhabited by eight ethnic groups. It borders Vietnam, with mountainous areas accounting for 99.9% of its territory and leaving very little land for cultivation. Back in the 1990s, life there was extremely harsh, with no power, limited access to water, backward infrastructure, scarce medical facilities and obstacles to communication with the outside world. The turning point occurred in 1992, when it was listed as a county enjoying one-on-one assistance from China's MFA.
In order to solve the problem of drinking water for the locals, the MFA organized each year the "Love Without Borders" international charity sale and solicited contributions from foreign envoys and entrepreneurs. The contribution was used to improve the human and livestock drinking water project in Malipo. Water pipelines were constructed, water purification equipment and water pumps were installed, and all were put in use in 2015. The problem plaguing the local people for hundreds of years had been eventually solved.
Over the past 29 years, the MFA has utilised over US$ 30 million of external aid for Malipo to improve infrastructure. The implementation of over 1,400 poverty alleviation projects has benefited more than 300,000 people, and gradually addressed the backlog of problems such as education, medical treatment, transportation, etc.
In the field of education, the diplomats at MFA have respectively sponsored over 9,000 students in Malipo and rasied more than US$ 450,000 worth of funds to build a school, a playground, a sports stadium and campus gardens. My colleague spoke of a boy named Du Yuanxu from Malipo, who almost dropped out of school. He received funding from the MFA and managed to complete his studies. Now he is a teacher of a middle school in Malipo, passing on love and care to more kids in need.
For many years, the MFA has been part of China's poverty alleviation efforts. Every year, the MFA sends diplomats to serve as full-time poverty alleviation officials at the grassroot levels. I am so proud to be one of them. With special experiences as diplomats, we introduce new knowledge, new ideas, new ways of development and a broader vision to the locals. We also bring in external investment, technology and tourists. We try to utilize all resources possible and facilitate external cooperation channels for the local governments.
Xinjiang – a vast region free from penury
Xinjiang is China's frontier region where many ethnic groups live in harmony. How to develop Xinjiang's economy and improve people's living standards has been top priority on the Chinese government's agenda.
Before coming to Cyprus, I had worked in Xinjiang for over three years. I know so well the arduous struggle of the local people against poverty and the orchestrated efforts of the whole nation to alleviate poverty in Xinjiang.
Over the years, the central state agencies, enterprises, and 19 provinces across China have sent aid personnel to Xinjiang. Some people gave up high-profile posts and a comfortable life in big cities. Some people formed work teams with local officials and went deep into villages and towns to work on poverty alleviation. My friend Shao Xiangli was born in a farmer family in Southeast China. In 2017, Shao left his post as Division Director of China Insurance Regulatory Commission on his own initiative and went to a village of Xinjiang to join the campaign against poverty. On the eve of his departure, his father told him: "You are the son of a farmer. When working in the village of Xinjiang, you must remember to speak as farmers, eat with farmers, dress like farmers, and do farmers' labour."
Shao always remembered his father's words. In order to improve the housing conditions, he helped the locals to build new houses and move out of the dangerous old houses. In order to provide safe drinking water, he managed to connect the urban pipeline to the village. In order to build a road, he mapped the traffic drawings himself and handed them to the transportation department for reference. He mobilized all social resources and even paid out of his own pocket to build roads, renovate classrooms, buy school uniforms, furniture and computers. After two years, Shao has led 188 households and 1,098 people in the village out of extreme poverty, and won the hearts of the locals. Children there, love to call him "Papa Shao".
Shao set a shining example in Xinjiang's overall poverty alleviation efforts. With the strong support of the central government and the whole nation, Xinjiang insisted in carrying out precise and in-depth poverty alleviation policies. Some 96.4% of the poor population received industrial support, which ensured full employment and stable income for the labor force made up of poor families. At present, all 3.089 million rural poor people, all 3,666 poor villages and all 32 poor counties have been lifted out of penury under the current standards.
A Lesson for the World
Alleviating poverty is a common and enduring challenge to humanity. The world still has 700 million people living in extreme poverty with a yawning gap between the rich and the poor in many countries.
Based on the World Bank data, China contributed to 70 percent of worldwide poverty reduction in the last 40 years. China is the first developing country to achieve the poverty alleviation goal set in the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. As Administrator of the UNDP Achim Steiner said, China is one of the examples that give us hope and courage as leadership and poverty-focused designs in national development policy not only matter, but also deliver results.
While striving to tackle poverty at home, China has supported other developing countries to fight against poverty. It is committed to creating well-being and opportunities for people in other countries through development aid and initiatives like the Belt and Road. All roads lead to Rome. No country should blindly follow others' steps. But China's poverty alleviation has provided a valuable reference to the world, especially the developing and least developed countries, giving them confidence and hope to deliver a better life to their people and common prosperity for the world.