BEIJING — Five years ago, when Chinese President Xi Jinping made a speech in Seattle, the United States, he recalled his early days in Liangjiahe Village in Shaanxi Province, where he worked and lived with peasants on the Loess Plateau.
Back then, life was hard and there was no meat in their diet for months. “One thing I wished most at the time was to make it possible for the villagers to have meat and have it often,” said Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission.
Later on, as Xi became the village’s party secretary and over the decades worked his way up to the role of the country’s top leader, enabling the impoverished to get a decent and happy life was always a top priority on his work agenda.
As China makes a final sprint to eliminate absolute poverty, Xi’s earnest hope of bringing meat to the tables is about to come true for all.
The nation will meet the poverty-eradication target set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development 10 years ahead of schedule, Xi told the 75th session of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly last month.
For all those poor areas he visited and the struggling villagers he met, the relentless efforts are finally paying off.
SPRING FESTIVAL GREETINGS
The Chinese New Year is one of the most important festivals for Chinese people, who routinely beat all the odds to return home to their families and friends.
Every year, ahead of the festival, Xi would always visit impoverished areas to learn about poverty-alleviation efforts and extend his festival greetings.
In 2013, braving a journey across hills and bumpy roads in Gansu Province, Xi visited the home of old Party member Ma Gang in the village of Yuangudui, in Weiyuan County, in the city of Dingxi.
After extending his greetings, Xi observed the dilapidated state of the house and asked, “When was your house built? How long have you been living here?”
As Xi chatted with Ma, he noticed a water tank and scooped some water up to his mouth, but immediately frowned at the taste.
Droughts were a major issue haunting Weiyuan County. On the second day, Xi visited a major water supply project in the county, urging coordinated efforts to make clean water available for the villagers.
At the Spring Festival in 2015, Xi returned to the village of Liangjiahe where he spent seven years and where his understanding of poverty took root.
“I will never forget Liangjiahe, never forget the villagers here and never forget the people in the old revolutionary base,” Xi said.
Over the years, the festival routine took Xi to many of the country’s most remote and impoverished regions, including ethnic-minority villages in Sichuan Province and pastures and forest farms in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.
“Getting rid of poverty is just the first step towards a happy life, it is a starting point for a new life and new endeavor,” Xi noted when he visited the house of pig farmer Li Fashun in Sanjia Village in Yunnan Province.
LETTERS WITH CONCERN
On the evening of Jan. 20, 2015, Xi met with cadres from Gongshan Dulong-Nu Autonomous County, in southwest China’s Yunnan Province.
It was a long-awaited meeting.
A year before, cadres from the Gongshan County wrote to Xi and reported the news that the much-anticipated highway tunnel of Gaoligong Mountains-Dulongjiang River was about to be completed. Xi congratulated the opening of the tunnel and wished them early realization of “Xiaokang” — a moderately prosperous society.
One year on, out of deep concern for the Dulong people, Xi specifically asked to meet with the cadres who had written to him, hoping to learn about progress on the tunnel and the changes in people’s lives.
“How long would it take to tramp over the mountain in the past?” Xi asked.
Before the People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949, it took half a month for the locals to make a round-trip between the village and Gongshan County seat, according to Gao Derong, a former county magistrate. The time was reduced to six or seven days after a post trail was blazed, and it was further cut to seven to eight hours in 1999 after a road was built. Nowadays, since the tunnel has opened, it only takes three hours to arrive in the county seat.
Xi said he was there to encourage the Dulong people to keep up the good work, and to assure people of all ethnic groups that the Communist Party of China is concerned with people’s development.
In 2018, the Dulong people were all lifted out of poverty.
“Poverty eradication is only the first step, better days are yet to come,” Xi noted in another letter sent on April 10, 2019.
He also mentioned the Dulong people in his New Year speech on Dec. 31, 2019, and said that he would always keep in mind what people had said to him.
After Xi left Liangjiahe Village in 1975, he replied to people from the village four times.
In a letter dated on May 5, 2014, Xi said he was concerned about the villagers affected by the persistent torrential rains, and that it had always been his aspiration to ensure that the people of the village and farmers nationwide achieve a good standard of living as soon as possible.
Xi said it was heart-wrenching for him to know they were in trouble, and he was happy to see their lives improving.
President Xi has never forgotten any of the promises he made to the people living in poverty.
In July 2016, Xi visited northwest China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region for the third time, honoring a promise he made one spring.
Back in April 1997, when Xi first set foot in the Xihaigu region of Ningxia as deputy Party chief of Fujian Province, he was deeply struck by the level of poverty there. He later took charge of the pairing-up aid for Ningxia and helped foster cooperation between Ningxia and Fujian.
In April 2008, Xi, then a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and vice president of China, came to Ningxia on a research tour. He made his promise to the local people, saying: “I will come back here to see you when your lives are better.”
On July 18, 2016, Ma Ke, a poor local resident of Yangling Village, Guyuan City in Ningxia, received an unexpected visit from President Xi.
After learning about the local food, education and health care conditions, Xi advised Ma to ensure his children get a good education and to steadily increase his income by ratcheting up production.
“We should take measures in light of local conditions and nurture the development of industries as the fundamental way to lift people out of poverty,” Xi told poverty-alleviation officials.
Today, edible-fungus cultivation in Ningxia has become a money-making industry. The technology widely employed in Ningxia is among the projects in the Fujian-Ningxia poverty-relief cooperation approved by Xi when he was deputy Party chief of Fujian.
In July 2019, in response to an earlier invitation from Zhao Huijie, secretary of the Party branch of Xiaomiaozi Village in Chifeng of north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Xi met Zhao during his inspection tour there.
“Your invitation has always been on my mind, and I have come to see the conditions of living and production of the villagers here,” Xi told Zhao.
To President Xi, the heaviest promise of all is making sure that no one is left behind in the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects.
As Xi once said, the CPC always keeps its promises without fail.