Moderate Prosperity for the People
The term "moderate prosperity" is derived from a line in The Book of Songs dated over 2,000 years ago, which reads "The people are indeed heavily burdened, and now they deserve some degree of prosperity." For thousands of years, this has represented a link between the dreams of the nation and the desire for a better life of the ordinary people.
The moderate prosperity idealized in the hearts of the people, which includes thriving and happy lives, a pristine natural environment, and steady and reliable guarantees, has coalesced into the common goal of 1.4 billion Chinese citizens.
At this historic juncture where the timeframes of the Two Centenary Goals converge, we can see reflected in the moderate prosperity we have reached the happy and smiling faces of ordinary people, and the founding mission of our now 100-year-old Communist Party. This achievement has left a magnificent mark on the history of the Chinese nation's development and the history of human progress.
Smiling faces of people freed from poverty
Guizhou Province was once the poorest corner of China. In November 23, 2020, the last nine poor counties in the province exited poverty, which also marked the completion of the campaign to lift China's 832 poor counties out of poverty. This was like leaping forward in time by a thousand years. The ways in which the lives of local people were transformed served as a concentrated reflection of great contemporary changes.
In Jiming Sansheng Village, located at the intersection of the borders of Yunnan, Guizhou, and Sichuan provinces, a 55-yearold local named Shen Zhaoshi put up a stone tablet by the road leading to his home inscribed with the words "Thanks to the Communist Party." Mr. Shen smiles and says, "How could I not be happy? My disabled wife can now get around with her own wheelchair, and I can be away for work. Gone are the days when I had to stay at home to carry her around on my back."
In Mahuai Village in Luodian County, Qiannan Buyi and Miao Autonomous Prefecture, Guizhou Province, CPC branch secretary Deng Yingxiang, who served as a delegate to the 19th National Congress of the CPC, led the residents of this remote mountain village in using hammers and drill rods to carve out a 200-meter-long tunnel over a 12-year period. The tunnel has cut the time it takes for locals to travel out of the village from more than two hours down to just 15 minutes. This humble tunnel embodies the yearning of the people of Mahuai Village to reach moderate prosperity. Deng Yingxiang says, "People can now make 500 yuan more for each pig they sell." Before the tunnel was built, hog traders would only seldom come to the village and would pay lower prices, saying that the trip was too long and they couldn't even cover their transportation costs. As a result, locals were wary of raising pigs that were too big for fear that they would be difficult to sell. Once the new road was open, the engine of poverty alleviation also got pumping. Mahuai Village's old wooden houses were basically all replaced by brick and tile houses, more than 90% of families were able to buy a motorcycle, and the average age at which local children started school dropped from ten to six. The mountains that once kept villages like this isolated have finally been conquered by countless roads.
The seat of Huaping County in Yunnan Province is a small town located in a secluded spot along the Jinsha River. It is in this remote area that 63-year-old Zhang Guimei, principal of the Huaping Girls High School, has worked as an educator for more than 40 years. With the support of the Party, the government, and various sectors of society, she founded this high school which admits girls from poor families free of charge. So far, the school has helped more than 1,800 girls get into university and leave the rural mountains behind. Zhang Guimei has used her compassion and wisdom to ignite dreams for a better life among countless rural girls, and is referred to fondly by the children as "mother Zhang."
In the process of building a moderately prosperous society, nobody should be left behind. Over a span of five years, more than 50,000 people from Zhaojue County, located deep in the mountains of Liangshan Prefecture, have moved down from the mountains and into new homes. Whereas they previously had to climb up to their mountaintop homes on rattan and later steel ladders, they are now taking the stairs or the elevator up to their new urban apartments.
On April 9, 2021, a national photographic exhibition entitled "Field of Hope: Poverty Alleviation and Sharing a Moderately Prosperous Society" was unveiled at the National Museum of China. Hosted jointly by the China Federation of Literary and Art Circles, the National Museum of China, and the China Photographers Association, the exhibit employed the power of photography to portray the great accomplishments that have been made in building a moderately prosperous society in all respects. PHOTO PROVIDED BY THE CHINA FEDERATION OF LITERARY AND ART CIRCLES
Through the relocation from inhospitable areas, nearly ten million impoverished people across the country have had their basic food and clothing needs guaranteed and been ensured access to compulsory education, basic medical services, and safe housing. Meanwhile, efforts to weed out the roots of poverty by removing people from poverty-stricken areas and getting them out of hopeless occupations have broken the intergenerational cycle of poverty at the fundamental level.
Thanks to the assistance of the government, Kong Dangna, a 79-year-old woman of the Dulong ethnic group who is from Kongdang Village in Gongshan County, Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture, has moved with her family down from the mountains into a new house close to town and started a business growing cardamom. These days, there is a smile on her face more often.
As a result of limited means and relatively harsh natural conditions, certain ethnic groups with smaller populations have long been stuck in a state of slow development, with pronounced problems from poverty and lagging social advancement. After its 18th National Congress in 2012, the CPC Central Committee implemented the targeted poverty alleviation and eradication strategy, and launched the battle against poverty in earnest. Through measures such as collaboration on poverty alleviation between the eastern and western regions and provision of assistance for poor areas from central Party and government departments, offices of other political parties, as well as state-owned enterprises and public institutions, all sectors of society were mobilized to execute policies in a targeted manner and ensure that poverty alleviation efforts truly got to the root of the problem.
All over China, ethnic groups with smaller populations have marched toward moderate prosperity in great strides. Villages located in the canyons of the Pamir Plateau in Xinjiang are now lit up after being connected to the electric grid, people living deep in the mountains of Dulongjiang Township in Yunnan have 5G access, and members of the Oroqen minority, who in days past could only hope to drive away disease by praying to the spirits, now have healthcare thanks to the support of the Party and the government.
Those who have just been lifted out of poverty have only taken the first step of their journey—the best days are yet to come. He Guofu, a tea farmer in Zigu Village, Wuyi County, Zhejiang Province, says, "In the past, I was afraid to have all of the machines running at once because the electrical voltage wasn't stable, so the quality of the processed tea wasn't up to snuff. Then a team of Party members from the local power company came and worked continuously over a two-year period to boost our village's power supply capacity. Since then, we have had ample energy to power the tea production line, and the tea that comes out has a better flavor."
Looking through the data on the fight against poverty, one can see two trends running in completely opposite directions. The upward trend is central government funding for poverty alleviation. In 2020, central subsidies for local poverty alleviation programs increased by RMB 20 billion yuan for the fifth consecutive year. The downward trend is the number of people remaining in poverty, which has fallen by the tens of millions each year and finally reached zero.
Satellite imagery offers a unique vantage point on how the landscape of poverty in China has changed. For example, the area west to the Heihe-Tengchong Line, largely the western part of the country, has become brighter and brighter at night. Within an eight-year period, the surface area with nighttime lights has increased by more than 50% in this part of China. Meanwhile, in the Yarlung Tsangpo River Valley, there is one area that shows a rapidly growing community. This community's new residents come from the grasslands of northern Xizang, which span an area equivalent to 21 Beijings and sit at an elevation of 4,800 meters or more above sea level. When they moved in, many of them didn't know how to use electrical appliances, running water, or gas stoves. Finally, if you look around the 40th parallel north, you can see a string of yellow—the world famous desert belt. But close to the Taklamakan Desert, which is the second largest drifting desert on earth, satellite images clearly show 2,000 hectares of new farmland in Kalpin County, Xinjiang. The government also carried out a project to provide safe drinking water in the county, and fresh and clean water is now available in every home.
Weaving a dense and strong security net
At the end of 2020, Yuan Hongwei, a doctor of internal medicine at the People's Hospital of Chaoyang District, Changchun, Jilin Province, was preparing a prescription for a patient. The price that the hospital's system showed for the medication was so cheap that he couldn't believe it, but after asking a colleague he learned that this was because it is centrally procured by the government. The medication in question, metformin, is a frontline drug used to reduce blood sugar in the treatment of type 2 diabetes. As a result of fierce competition between 44 pharmaceutical companies, the price for a single 0.5g tablet is just six cents. Health is an essential benchmark for moderate prosperity. Pills like these may be small, but they have a big impact on public wellbeing.
Ensuring that ordinary people are able to access medical advice and medication is an important part of the efforts of the Party and the state to weave a dense and strong security net for public wellbeing. People no longer have to worry about lapsing or relapsing into poverty as a result of illness, while conditions in areas including education, housing, and drinking water have consistently improved. The warm light of wellbeing now reaches every corner of the country.
Located in close proximity to the Three Gorges Dam, Xujiachong Village, Yiling District, Yichang, Hubei Province, has a population of which over 90% are made up of people who were relocated during the dam's construction. One resident named Liang Zuochao, who is a new immigrant that moved in from the mountains and receives a subsistence allowance, feels a growing and sincere sense of security in recent years. His daughter suffers from epilepsy, and in years past her annual medical expenses would be in the tens of thousands, putting the family in straitened circumstances. But he says he isn't worried about the day-to-day expenses anymore. The government helped his family build a new house, while the village authorities arranged a job for his wife at which she earns 900 yuan per month. Mr. Liang has a clear picture of the family's accounts in his head. He says, "Our five-person household gets a 985 yuan subsistence allowance every month. That added to the money my son-in-law and me makes working odd jobs and the income from our small tea field, and we can easily make over 50,000 yuan per year." But the biggest relief is that his daughter's medical expenses are no longer an astronomical figure.
With a focus on problems that are of particular concern to ordinary people such as high drug prices and few items of drugs being covered under insurance, China has continued reform of the centralized drug procurement system. The government's commitment to volume-based procurement, linking volume and pricing, and unifying the bidding and procurement processes has helped push drug prices back to reasonable levels.
Education is the key to the future of millions of families, and the future of the nation's development. Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan Province has been working to ensure that no child is left behind in education. At the beginning of the fall semester last year, all 1,052 primary school-age children in Luo'eyigan Township, Meigu County, signed up for school, while all 22,000 children from poor households in the prefecture who had dropped out returned to school. These positive trends are not limited to Liangshan. As of September 15, 2020, the number of students who had dropped out of school in the compulsory stage had fallen from 600,000 to just 2,419, while the number of dropouts from registered poor families had dropped to zero. During the 13th Five-Year Plan period (2016-2020), the central government allocated a total of 931.6 billion yuan in funds to accelerate balanced development and urban-rural integration in compulsory education, striving toward the goal of ensuring that every child has equal access to a good education.
People of various ethnic groups sing and dance in Qoghan Township, Kashgar Prefecture, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, September 20, 2020, as they are bonded together closely like the seeds in a pomegranate. PHOTO BY LI GE
An extra egg or carton of milk carries with it the hope that children grow up healthy. After the lunch bell rings at 12 o'clock, students from grades one to six follow their teachers to the cafeteria in groups to collect and eat their meals at Xuefeng Primary School in Guangyuan, Sichuan Province. School principal Ma Jincui says, "In 2020, our school puts a 4-yuan per-pupil per-day subsidy into student breakfast and lunch expenditure. We design menus according to the nutritional needs and palate of primary school students in order to ensure that our students are able to eat tasty and nutritionally balanced food every day." For students that do not eat on campus, the school will use the state subsidy to purchase milk and other foods for them, thereby ensuring that the nutritional subsidy is used entirely on students.
Fields of flowers blossom in the town of Jingshan, Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, one of countless beautiful natural views that could be seen across China as spring turned to summer in 2021. PHOTO BY XINHUA REPORTER XU YU
Having a decent place to live is the simplest manifestation of the hopes and dreams of ordinary people. In recent years, China has consistently advanced the development of the housing support system, working hard to weave a web of housing guarantees for those in need featuring diversified supply and multiple channels of support. During the 13th Five-Year Plan period, renovations began on over 23 million units of housing in run-down areas nationwide, helping more than 50 million residents get into better homes. A local named Lhapa from Kejia Village in Burang County, Ngari Prefecture, Xizang, sits in his sunny home as he says, "We used to live with the animals in our old house, but since we moved into our new house in 2019, every person in our family has their own room. And we have running water, so we don't need to go out to collect water in the winter anymore." Across the more than 1.2 million squarekilometer expanse of Xizang, the roadsides are now dotted with countless eye-catching localstyle homes just like Lhapa's. In a continued effort to improve living environments, Xizang has launched a series of housing projects for farmers and herders in recent years. Through initiatives aimed at providing affordable housing for low-income families, improving rural living environments, developing prospering villages, renovating run-down urban areas, and building subsidized housing, people in both urban and rural areas of the region are now all able to live in safe and suitable housing. At the end of 2019, average living space per person in Xizang was 33.4 square meters for urban residents and 41.5 square meters for farmers and herders. The scale of this change is tremendous. Back at the time of the liberation in 1950, there was a total of 300,000 square meters of housing in Xizang according to archival records, which, divided by the population at the time, shows that each person had less than 3 square meters of living space on average.
The impact of the 13th Five-Year Plan on public wellbeing is shown in the data: more than 60 million new urban jobs, a compliance rate of 99.8% with conditions meeting standards among schools in the compulsory stage nationwide, more than 7.6 million beds at elderly care service facilities, 1.36 billion people covered under basic medical insurance, close to 1 billion people covered under basic old-age insurance, thanks to the most extensive social security system in the world.
The fundamental objective of China's endeavors to build a moderately prosperous society in all respects has been to constantly increase people's living standards and quality of life. The Chinese government has pursued every issue related to public wellbeing, such as ensuring access to childcare, education, employment, medical services, elderly care, housing, and social assistance, as a matter of major importance, and made these issues the focus of reform efforts.
Faraway but not alone
In Liangshan, Sichuan Province, the No. 5633 and 5634 trains run like clockwork. For more than half a century, these great green "slow trains" have kept rumbling along through the mountains. The trains run between Puxiong and Panzhihua stations in Liangshan Prefecture, through an area with China's largest community of people of the Yi ethnic group. Due to a lack of accessible transportation and other reasons, this area remained deeply impoverished until the battle against poverty began. The trains run at an average speed of less than 40 kilometers per hour, and stop at every one of the 26 stations along the route. In the luggage cars, there are railings on the floor that villagers can use to tie up their cattle and sheep. The price for the cheapest ticket— just two yuan—has remained at this level for 26 years. Across China, there are currently still 81 slow train routes like this one that operate as a public service to remote areas in 21 provinces. They run through a total of 35 ethnic minority areas and 530 stations, carrying 12 million passengers each year for a price of less than six cents per kilometer.
Just as a train can provide a path out of poverty, a bridge can bring new hope for reaching prosperity. Pu Youbo, a man belonging to the Lisu ethnic group, crosses the river using a zip-line. He has two ropes: one lets him hang from the cable, and the other is used to strap a pig weighing over 100 kilograms to his body. When he gets into town, he will sell the pig, then use the money to buy some rice and oil before making the return trip. This scene took place over 10 years ago in the depths of the Nujiang River Canyon. Just before the New Year in 2019, a 130 meter-long bridge across the river with a load capacity of 15 tons was completed in Majimi Village. The completion of this bridge surmounted the surrounding natural barriers and gave the village a new lease on life. Top-quality locally grown cardamom could now be sold far and wide, while tourists began arriving across the bridge in droves. In recent years, the Ministry of Transport has worked with relevant departments in seven provinces including Yunnan and Sichuan on implementing 311 projects to build bridges and roads where there were once zip-lines. Approximately 1,168 administrative villages and 4,000 naturally-formed villages have basically bid farewell to the era of zip-lines, benefitting more than 1.65 million people.
Located in Shimen County, Hunan Province, Yueliang Mountain stands at an elevation of 1,800 meters. It is home to a scattering of 12 families, most of which are made up of elderly people unwilling to move away. Without electricity, locals like Zhang Wenyao used to rely on candles and oil lamps for light. In 2007, the Huping Power Station was established with Tan Daozhou as its chief. Making it his mission to ensure that the elderly folks on Yueliang Mountain didn't have to live out their days in darkness, Mr. Tan got to work on getting them connected to electricity. This would require putting up 15 utility poles and 1,600 meters of power cable on the mountain and would cost at least 50,000 yuan, but he was determined to get the job done. On July 17, 2014, Tan and about a dozen colleagues hacked a passage through the bush and carried over 300 kilograms of cable split into more than ten sections up the mountain. Once the work was done, Zhang flicked a light switch in his home, and with a slight popping sound, the wooden house was instantly filled with warm light.
The recently released white paper Poverty Alleviation: China's Experience and Contribution shows that as of the end of 2020, all towns and villages meeting certain conditions within impoverished areas had access to paved roads, bus lines, and postal routes, almost all rural areas had a stable and reliable supply of power, and more than 98% of poor villages had access to fiber optic and 4G connections.
Moderate prosperity means moderate prosperity for everyone. Through countless roads, bridges, and cables like those described above, every person, even those in the most remote places, has been provided with basic public services to help them achieve a moderately prosperous life and push toward rural revitalization.
Recently, Yi brothers Chen Yuanfu and Chen Yuanyang have been busy renovating the yard in front of their house and cleaning up as part of their plan to become Internet celebrities. The elder Chen Yuanfu says, "Once we're finished and it looks nice, we're going to film short videos about food by the entrance to the house." The two brothers live in a village in the Baili Dujuan area of Bijie, Guizhou Province, that is surrounded by mountains and home to 91 families with around 340 people. One important reason why the brothers are willing to stay in the village is that it now has Internet access. Starting in 2018, the local government launched a campaign to address shortcomings in poverty alleviation efforts. An important part of this campaign was providing fiber optic and 4G network connections so that it was no longer difficult for local residents to make phone calls and access the Internet. These changes have also played a part in facilitating local medical services. According to Zhou Song, a doctor at the community clinic, locals can now consult with him on medical questions just by picking up the phone. Meanwhile, the clinic has also established a web portal that locals can use to conveniently check the reimbursement status of their outpatient medical expenses in real time.
Green and prospering
At nine o'clock in the morning, just as the warm spring sunlight shines into the Yunnan Snub-Nosed Monkey National Park in Xiangguqing Village, Diqing Xizang Autonomous Prefecture, Yunnan Province, Yu Xiaode, who is both a forest and animal warden, carries about 10 kilograms of beard lichen on his back that he is delivering to the monkeys for their breakfast. Found mainly around Baima Snow Mountain, Yunnan snub-nosed monkeys are a Class I protected species in China that are comparable in fame to giant pandas. After the 1980s, hunting and logging activities damaged the habitat of these animals, putting their survival in serious jeopardy.
In recent years, relevant departments of the Yunnan provincial government have carried out eco-conscious poverty alleviation in Diqing Prefecture, putting particular focus on hiring more locals as forest rangers. Putting down their axes and hunting rifles, many local residents have changed jobs, taking care of the forest and the monkeys instead. Yu Xiaode says, "I make 1,700 yuan every month, and also have time to help my family tend to our farmland." He says that with his family of four pulling in a total annual income of nearly 40,000 yuan and their lives getting better and better, he feels determined to protect the mountain forests. Today, there are dozens of rangers like Yu Xiaode in Xiangguqing Village alone. They tend to the forest and make money at the same time, thus providing a path out of poverty that starts right at their doorstep.
Yu Jinfu, a member of the Yao minority from Dazhai Village, Longsheng County, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, has similarly been able to earn a living from eco-friendly development. He says, "Everyone here used to be completely broke, but now we are on the path to prosperity." Dazhai is a typical example of a Yao village. Gazing out from the nearby mountaintop, one can see traditional Yao-style houses scattered beside the lush forests and rice terraces. Yu's home is located halfway up a mountain. The quaint four-story house blends perfectly with the surrounding scenery. In the living room, his wife Pan Guangying sits by the stove with a black scarf wrapped around her head, singing Yao folk songs while doing embroidery. They talk emotionally about how their lives used to be, when they were stuffed into a tiny room and had little else but stir-fried pumpkin to eat.
Dazhai Village is surrounded by mountains on all sides, and the locals have been farming here for generations. In days past, some would fell trees to support their families, which damaged the surrounding ecosystem. Hemmed in by the boundless mountains, how could the people here find a new path out of poverty and toward prosperity? After trying many different things, the village eventually began working with tourism companies in Guilin to turn the rice terraces into a tourist attraction. Meanwhile, local residents made vigorous efforts to put their culture and agrarian lifestyle on display and to rejuvenate the forests by planting trees. As the village began drawing in more and more tourists, young locals who had left for work elsewhere began to return home to start businesses, and the village's homestays and restaurants flourished.
The notion that lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets is driving tremendous change across the country. Dongshan County is the sixth largest island county in China and the second largest in Fujian Province. In the nearby village of Xiaxikeng, local residents have built upon the reputation of an eco-friendly fishing town and developed angling and leisure industries. The azure ocean waters are crisscrossed with floating platforms that have net pens in between and accommodation, angling clubs, and restaurants on top. For locals like Xu Boshan, work has transformed from just catching and farming fish to switching between aquaculture in the winter season and tourism in the summer season. In 2019, Xiaxikeng pulled in approximately 14 million yuan in revenue from tourism.
Meanwhile, in an effort to develop specialty farming, Dongshan County introduced fruit crops suited to the island microclimate such as green jujubes from Taiwan and wax apples from Thailand, thus helping local islanders benefit further from the natural bounty of their ecosystem.
As China has pushed forward with efforts to build an ecological civilization, one shortcoming after another in the environmental domain has been addressed. Deeper progress has been made on a series of major environmental projects including the Three-North Shelterbelt Program, the campaign to protect natural forests, and the campaign to return farmland to forest and grassland. Thanks to full-scale implementation of the river chief and lake chief systems, China's rivers and lakes now have people dedicated exclusively to their protection. And with continued advancements being made on the prevention and control of air pollution, blue skies dotted with white clouds are a common sight in the pictures people share with their friends online.
Green is the color tying together our efforts to ground ourselves in this new stage of development, implement the new development philosophy, and foster a new development dynamic. As noted in the outline of the 14th Five-Year Plan, we must stick to the notion that lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets, insist on respecting nature, protecting it, and following its ways, continue to prioritize resource conservation and environmental protection and put the restoration of nature first, implement our sustainable development strategy, refine mechanisms of coordination in the field of ecological advancement, build systems for an ecological civilization, promote a green transformation in every aspect of economic and social development, and build a beautiful China.
The article was written by Qi Zhongxi, Hou Xuejing, Shen Cheng, Liu Min, Wei Yukun and Gao Kang.
(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No. 12, 2021)