Jiyuan Village, China-When the Chinese government provided free dairy cows to farmers in Jieyuan, villagers in remote mountainous communities expressed suspicion. They worry that officials will ask them to return the cattle and any calves they manage to raise later.
But the farmers raised cattle and raised the money they brought. Others received small flocks of sheep. Government workers also paved the roads in the town, built new houses for the poorest residents of the village, and converted an old school into a community center.
Jia Huanwen is a 58-year-old farmer in this village in Gansu province. He got a big cow three years ago and produced two healthy calves. He sold the cow in April for $2,900, which is as much as his income from growing potatoes, wheat and corn on nearby terraces, yellow clay hillsides for two years. Now, he regularly buys food for his family’s table and medicine for his arthritic knee.
Jieyuan Village is one of President Xi Jinping’s ambitious pledges to eliminate extreme poverty in rural areas by the end of 2020. In just five years, China stated that due to its extremely rapid economic growth, China has escaped the extreme poverty of more than 50 million farmers. city.
However, this village is one of the six villages in Gansu by The New York Times without government supervision, which also proves the huge cost of the ruling Communist Party’s methods of reducing poverty. This approach relies on massive and possibly unsustainable subsidies to create jobs and build better housing.
Local cadres scattered to find poor families, who are defined as living on less than $1.70 a day. They issued loans, grants, and even provided livestock to poor villagers. Officials visit residents every week to check their progress.
Martin Reiser, the World Bank’s regional director in China, said: “We are pretty sure that China’s approach to eradicating absolute rural poverty is successful-given the resources raised, we are not sure whether it is sustainable or cost-effective.”
In the past five years, Beijing has invested nearly US$700 billion in loans and grants to alleviate poverty, accounting for approximately 1% of annual economic output. This does not include large donations from state-owned companies such as the transmission giant State Grid, which has invested $120 billion in rural power upgrades and assigned more than 7,000 employees to poverty alleviation projects.
As the country is facing severe damage from the coronavirus pandemic and severe floods, this year’s election campaign has a new urgency. Each province announced that it had achieved its goals. Xi Jinping announced in early December that China “has achieved an impressive and major victory.”
But Xi Jinping acknowledged that greater efforts are needed to share wealth more widely. The money that migrant workers in a coastal factory city can earn in one month is equivalent to the income of farmers in Gansu in one year.
Xi Jinping also called on officials to ensure that the newly created jobs and aid to the poor in the next few years will not disappear.
Gansu, China’s poorest province, announced in late November that it had lifted the last county out of poverty. Just ten years ago, poverty was widespread in the province.
Hu Jintao, the Chinese leader before Xi Jinping, visited people living in shabby homes with little furniture. The cable disclosed by WikiLeaks showed that the villagers ate too many potatoes. When a young girl initially refused to eat another potato with Mr. Hu in front of the TV cameras, the local officials felt embarrassed because she was tired of these cameras.
Although there are still only single lanes to reach many villages, they are lined with street lights powered by solar panels. New industrial-scale pig farms, nurseries and small factories have sprung up, creating job opportunities. Workers are building new houses for farmers.
Three years ago, when the muddy brick walls flooded by rain in Zhang Yulu’s home gave way, he woke up in horror. Half of the roof timber was knocked down by a large piece of mud, making him and his mother almost missing.
Officials in Youfang Village built a spacious new cement room with new furniture for them. Mr. Zhang, 69, now receives a monthly allowance of US$82 through the poverty plan. His original house was a warehouse shed rebuilt for him.
Mr. Zhang said: “This house was once dilapidated, and it leaked when it rained.”
If private factories hire workers who are considered poor, the government will help them buy equipment and pay salaries.
In Tanyue Tongwei Clothing Co., Ltd. in southeastern Gansu, about 170 workers (most of whom are women) sew school uniforms, T-shirts, down jackets and masks. Workers said that in addition to receiving wages, dozens of employees also received additional compensation from poverty alleviation programs.
The company’s legal representative, Lu Yaming, said Tanyue receives at least US$26,000 in subsidies from the poverty alleviation program every year-of which US$500 is used to pay each of the 17 villagers deemed poor.
However, without sustained assistance, the viability of these factories is far from enough. Mr. Lu said that before the subsidies are in place, factories often struggle to pay wages on time.
Questions inevitably arise as to whether some families use their personal contacts with local officials to qualify for grants. According to official statistics, corruption investigators punished 99,000 people across the country last year. In local restaurants in communities like Maying, a plate of seasoned donkey meat costs $7, talking about who received what and whether they are truly eligible.
Although the poverty reduction plan has helped millions of poor people, critics have pointed to the strict definition of the movement. The program can help people classified as extremely poor sometime from 2014 to 2016, without adding others who have been in trouble since then. In large cities where wages are higher but workers have to pay much higher food and rents, it does not help the poor.
According to the government’s complex criteria for determining eligibility for assistance, anyone who owns a car, has assets of more than $4,600, or owns a new house or has recently rebuilt a house will be excluded. People hovering above the government’s poverty line continue to struggle to make ends meet, but are often deprived of housing or other welfare assistance.
Zhang Sumei is 53 years old and is a farmer with an annual income of US$1,500 from growing and selling potatoes. She has to use her savings to build a house in concrete. She said she should be eligible to provide assistance to the extremely poor. Cultivating Gansu’s notorious soil is very difficult.
“In this society, poor families are designated by cadres, and we have nothing.” She said painfully.
The party’s campaign method also failed to address deep-seated problems that severely hurt the poor, including health care costs and other loopholes in China’s emerging social safety net. The village provides limited medical insurance. For example, Mr. Jia only paid 17% of the cost of arthritis medicine. Huge medical expenses can destroy families.
Yang Xiaoling, a 48-year-old worker working in another government-subsidized factory in Gansu, cried out of control as she described the severe debt she faced after paying medical expenses for her husband who suffered from kidney failure.
Three years ago, she borrowed $7,700 from a bank affiliated with a poverty alleviation program at zero interest rate, and planned to use the money to buy livestock. But instead, she borrowed more money from relatives and then spent all the money on kidney transplants and medicines for her husband.
Now that the entire loan is due, she has no money to repay it. Her husband’s follow-up medical treatment consumed all her salary. Therefore, the couple, their three children and the invalid parents of the husband depend on government poverty relief funds of less than US$50 per person per month.
“I can’t pay it back. I can’t help it anymore,” Ms. Yang sobbed. “I have borrowed a lot of money, and no one lends me money now.”
Despite the challenges, poverty reduction plans may have long-term political benefits, helping to ensure the survival of some of them. The gratitude for the plan seems to be strengthening the party’s political power in rural areas.
In Youfang, Mr. Zhang soon praised not only the poverty plan, but also Xi Jinping.
He said: “Having Xi Jinping is a good thing for the country, and national policies are good.”
Chris Buckley provided a report from Sydney. Liu Yi, Wang Humber and Yang Shanhu conducted research.