Xi pledges China will exorcise ghosts of poverty
China will banish the ghosts of poverty, Chinese President Xi Jinping told villagers in a poor southwestern part of the country during a traditional visit to outlying regions before the Chinese Lunar New Year.
Xi has made poverty alleviation one of his signature policy issues after pledging in 2015 that China will lift the 70 million people living under the poverty level at the time out of poverty by 2020.
He visited the homes of impoverished villagers of the Yi ethnic group in the Daliang Mountains of southwest China’s Sichuan Province on Sunday, days before the country celebrates Spring Festival, the most important holiday in the Chinese calendar.
The president was told by one villager that she used to believe ghosts were the cause of illness. After hearing her story, Xi told her they would exorcise the ghosts.
“In the past we did have ghosts — the ghosts of ignorance, backwardness and poverty,” he told her. “If we can resolve these problems then the ghosts will vanish. If there is culture, knowledge and hygiene, then our prosperous life can resolve these difficulties and then how can there be any ghosts?”
Xi, who is also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, asked villagers about their lives and discussed poverty alleviation with them and local officials.
For the sixth year in a row, Xi’s Lunar New Year inspection tour has taken him to the front lines of China’s war against poverty. He visited northwestern Gansu Province in 2013, northern Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region a year later, northwestern Shaanxi Province in 2015, eastern Jiangxi Province in 2016, and Hebei Province last year.
The poor have been Xi’s foremost concern. In his 2018 New Year speech, the word “people” appeared most frequently and he emphasized the “well-being” of Chinese citizens.
During one Spring Festival inspection, Xi bought gifts before visiting old acquaintances in the village where he worked as an “educated youth.”
On other trips, he went to farmers’ barns and kitchens, calculated revenues and expenses with villagers and offered advice on raising income.
While holding discussions with lawmakers from Sichuan during the annual session of the National People’s Congress last March, Xi said that it was a heartbreaking moment when he read about people from a village there who had to climb dangerous mountains every day.
Nearly a year later, he went to that mountainous area — Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture, home to China’s largest Yi community. With a distinct language and culture, the Yi minorities are among China’s poorest.
“To lead the people to a better life is our goal. Not a single ethnic group, family or person should be left behind in the process of finishing the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects,” Xi told villagers in Liangshan.
China is striving to become a “moderately prosperous society in all respects” by 2020, just before the centennial anniversary of the founding of the CPC.
That means all rural residents living below the current poverty line should be lifted out of poverty by 2020.
It will be the first time in China’s thousands of years of history that extreme poverty is eliminated. “It is our solemn promise,” Xi said in his 2018 New Year address.
The number of Chinese people living in poverty in rural areas was reduced by more than 10 million in 2017.