Progress made, but no quick fixes to poverty in China

China 24

How to ease poverty in places like China’s northwestern Shaanxi Province is one of the most pressing issues as China’s Two Sessions winds down.

CGTN’s Sean Callebs takes us through a day in the region, detailing the joys and struggles of daily life.

In a residential area of the rural Shaanxi Province, the day starts with the sun peeking over the countryside. Primary school students, with their whole lives ahead of them, pour into Wen’anyi school.

“They have no pressure,” explained principal Feng Yingwei. “And are happy and optimistic all day long.”

But what kind of life will they lead?

Many come from very poor families, leading the type of lifestyle Chinese President Xi Jinping is vowing to eliminate by 2020. Feng has been in education for more than 30 years, and has already seen some of the changes, such as free school uniforms, that have stemmed from this vow.

“Our students don’t have to worry about clothing or food anymore. They have three meals a day at school for free,” she said.

Nearby, Liu Haiyang owns a bit of land, and has a contract with the local town. Lunchtime provides a welcome break from his difficult and at times backbreaking job.

People in the region make about ¥20,000 a year, or the equivalent of about $3,500. It may not sound like much, but it’s far more than the ¥3,000 even poorer people in some autonomous regions make.

“I own this orchard. Ten acres,” Liu explained. “My job is farming the land, applying pesticides, and collecting firewood.”

The United Nations has praised China’s efforts to lift nearly 68 million people out of poverty over the past five years… roughly 37,000 a day.

In the last generation, China has improved the quality of life for hundreds of millions of people, lifting them out of extreme poverty. Today, the poverty rate is around three to four percent, but in a nation of 1.4 billion, that three to four percent is a whole lot of people.

Many get by in the simplest of homes. With no land to grow crops, fruit, or raise livestock, neighbors share what they can. To alleviate this poverty, Beijing is vowing to spend billions more in the coming years.

Eliminating poverty in China, however, won’t be easy.

“We can feel the heavy burden on our shoulders, as headmaster and teacher,” according to Feng.

Nonetheless, a sense of hope that her students will have better lives than their parents, persists.