After decades of poverty alleviation, Xiadang has taken on a new look and is easily accessible from the outside. (Picture taken in July 2020.)
BEIJING, Nov. 1 (Xinhua) — Wang Guangchao, a 73-year-old farmer in a mountainous, remote town of eastern China, has always marveled at how his life has taken such a drastic turn.
From being poorly fed and clad to having his own teahouse, Wang has seen his family rising above the poverty line and enjoying a decent life at Xiadang Township in Fujian Province.
He owes the great changes in his hometown to Xi Jinping, who is now the general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee.
GREAT CHANGES IN SMALL TOWN
Xiadang, nestled deep in the mountains, used to be one of the poorest townships in Fujian.
Wang, a native of Xiadang, can still recall their destitute lives several decades ago, due to the forbidding mountain peaks and a lack of decent road leading outside.
“We would have mixed feelings even when raising a pig. On the one hand, we hoped that it could gain more weight as our entire family depended on it for a living. However, if it did gain weight, we would worry about how to carry it out for selling,” said Wang.
Over the past 30 years, thanks to poverty alleviation efforts, tremendous changes have occurred in the township. Residents’ per capita annual income increased from a mere 200 yuan (29.8 USD) to 13,000 yuan (about 2,000 USD).
In 2017, Wang revamped his old shabby house, and, helped by the development of local tourism and hospitality industry, opened his own teahouse, which attracts at least thousands of tourists each year.
He also sells his tea products online, which generates solid revenue.
“We develop tourism in Xiadang. When tourists arrive here, they would take a look around. And we offer a place where they can sit down for a cup of tea. I also bring them my homemade tea. Now I can earn an average net income of over 40,000 yuan (about 6,000 USD) a year,” said Wang.
Wang named his teahouse “Happiness.”
“We are living a good life now,” he said, “It all started 30 years ago, when Secretary Xi Jinping came to the village.”
XI’S VISITS TO XIADANG
On July 19, 1989, Xi Jinping, then secretary of the Ningde committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), braving the scorching summer heat, visited Xiadang to help locals explore ways of development.
It took Xi about three hours by vehicle and two hours on foot along the rugged mountain paths to reach the township.
“Our place is craggy. It is not easy for local people to come in and go out. When Secretary Xi came to the village that year, it was very hot, making the trip even more difficult. I saw that Secretary Xi was wearing a straw hat under the scorching sun and his clothes were soaked to the skin,” Wang recalled.
After a very short break, Xi held a meeting with local officials at a classroom of a school.
“Some people said that Xiadang needed a factory. But Xi said Xiadang had to rely on its lush mountains and lucid waters (as resources for development). Xi suggested building roads and a hydropower station as a first step to get out of poverty. At his request, we completed the construction of a highway and a hydropower station in 1991,” said Liu Minghua, former vice Party chief of Xiadang Township.
During the period when Xi was working in Fujian, he visited Xiadang three times. The second visit came on July 26, 1989, after the county was hit by its worst floods in a century.
Xi visited Xiadang for a third time on August 7, 1996, to investigate and direct poverty alleviation work.
More than two decades later, in 2019, Xiadang villagers wrote a letter to Xi, telling him that the county had bid farewell to poverty, and expressed their gratitude.
In his reply letter, Xi expressed delight over Xiadang villagers being lifted out of poverty and living a better life, and extended his congratulations.
Xi shared the farmers’ happiness as he himself once was a farmer in a remote area in Shaanxi Province in northwest China.
From 1969 to 1975, Xi worked as a peasant in Liangjiahe Village in Shaanxi.
As a teenager and young adult, he spent seven years with peasants on the Loess Plateau where he lived in cave-like adobe houses and slept on flea-infested bed-stove made of clay.
Xi once said his biggest wish back then was to make it possible for the villagers to have meat on their plates.
He led the villagers in digging wells, building terraces and sediment storage dams, and setting up the province’s first methane-generating pit.
The first-hand experiences with poverty encouraged him to spare no efforts in eradicating it in China.
“For over 40 years, I have worked with China’s county, city, provincial and central governments successively. Poverty alleviation has always been an important part of my job. It’s the most energy-consuming for me,” said Xi Jinping at the Global Poverty Reduction and Development Forum in Beijing in 2015.
Over the past eight years, poverty alleviation was a priority in his roughly 80 domestic inspections.
NEW STARTING POINT
Wang’s story is just one among the hundreds of millions of others in China’s poverty-stricken areas as the country is set to eliminate absolute poverty by the end of this year.
China has decided to lift all rural residents living below the current poverty line out of poverty by 2020.
Official data show that China has lifted over 800 million people out of poverty over the past several decades, representing more than 70 percent of global poverty reduction.
It is making a final sprint in securing a full victory over its anti-poverty war.
In March 2020, Xi convened a large televised symposium on poverty alleviation. He reiterated the deadline and vowed to lift the remaining 5 million-plus people out of poverty by the end of the year, despite the sudden strike of COVID-19.
In late September, Xi said China has “every confidence” of achieving the goal within the set time frame.
He has also reminded people that “Being lifted out of poverty is not an end in itself but the starting point of a new life and a new pursuit.”