Mr. Liu Yongfu, director of State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development
Ms. Su Guoxia, head of the Comprehensive Department of the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development, as well as the office’s spokesperson
Xi Yanchun, vice director-general of the Press Bureau, State Council Information Office
Oct. 10, 2017
Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. Welcome to this press conference. The Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) has always attached great importance to poverty reduction. To help you better understand China's progress in this regard, we have invited Mr. Liu Yongfu, director of the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development, to introduce developments since the 18th CPC National Congress was held. He will also answer some of your questions. We have also invited Ms. Su Guoxia, head of the Comprehensive Department of the office, as well as its spokesperson, to attend this press conference.
Now, let's welcome Mr. Liu Yongfu to give his briefing.
Xi Yanchun, vice director-general of the Press Bureau, State Council Information Office. [Photo/China SCIO]
Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. Welcome to this press conference. Thank you for your long-term support and close attention to our work of poverty reduction.
Oct. 17 will mark the fourth National Poverty Relief Day of China, as well as the 25th International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Two days ago, Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, issued important instructions related to the poverty reduction work. While recognizing the achievements and efforts made in this field so far, he urged all Party members, and indeed the whole society, to keep moving forward and win the battle against poverty. Premier Li Keqiang has also urged all-out efforts to be undertaken in this regard, so as to ensure the overall poverty reduction goals can be fulfilled according to plan.
Liu Yongfu, director of State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development. [Photo/China SCIO]
On Oct. 9, the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development held a seminar in Beijing to share some outstanding examples and experiences of poverty alleviation. The seminar conveyed and learned the significant instructions from the Party General Secretary and the premier, and presented awards to some excellent individuals for their efforts in poverty alleviation. Also yesterday, the Poverty Relief Office of the State Council and the United Nations' China branches co-organized the 2017 Global Poverty Reduction and Development Forum, which was attended by delegations from 15 countries, envoys to China from 20 countries and representatives from 16 international organizations. Chinese and foreign representatives praised China's poverty alleviation achievements and targeted poverty alleviation plans. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres asserted his belief that targeted poverty alleviation is the only way to help the poorest people and achieve the major goals set for the U.N.'s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
In a few days, the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) will be held in Beijing. China will begin a historic new chapter in its journey to carry out the great struggle, pursue the great undertaking, push forward the great cause and realize the great dream. We will work in full force to push forward poverty alleviation with the guidance of the spirit of the 19th CPC National Congress.
Since the 18th CPC National Congress, the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core has taken poverty elimination as the bottom-line, goal and landmark indicator for building a moderately prosperous society in all aspects. Poverty elimination forms part of the country's "five-in-one overall strategy" of promoting balanced economic, political, cultural, social, and ecological progress, and the country's "four-pronged comprehensive strategy" of building a moderately prosperous society in all aspects, deepening reform, exercising law-based governance, and practicing strict Party self-governance. The central government has established the goal of nationwide poverty elimination by 2020, when the entire impoverished rural population living below current poverty standards will be lifted out of poverty and there will not be a single "poverty county."
The Chinese government is pushing ahead with the work of poverty elimination with unprecedented vigor. President Xi Jinping has assumed personal command of the work, and has inspected all the contiguous areas of extreme poverty in the country. Among his more than 50 domestic inspection tours, more than 30 have been related to poverty alleviation. During the five inter-provincial poverty elimination meetings in Fuping of Hebei Province, Yan'an of Shaanxi Province, Guiyang of Guizhou Province, Yinchuan of Ningxia Autonomous Region, and Taiyuan of Shanxi Province, President Xi repeatedly stressed poverty elimination and issued a series of important instructions.
All the members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee as well as comrades of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee attach great importance to the work of tackling poverty and continually give strong guidance on the issue. Governments at all levels have conscientiously implemented the central government's decisions and arrangements. People from all walks of life have actively participated in and made joint efforts in tackling poverty. Thus, it can be said that the work of poverty elimination has made some remarkable achievements.
First, we have established a series of systems of poverty elimination. The systems involve responsibilities, policies, funding, mobilization, supervision and assessment, providing a solid institutional guarantee for the work of poverty elimination.
Second, we have promoted the key work in tackling poverty. The work includes targeted poverty reduction, funds management and targeted policies tailored to local conditions.
Through joint efforts of governments at all levels and people from all walks of life, the number of people living in poverty has dropped by a great margin and the living conditions in the poverty-stricken areas has obviously improved.
During the last four years, the number of people living in poverty was accumulatively reduced by 55.64 million, an average of 13.91 million a year; this year the number is expected to stand at least 10 million. Therefore, during the past five years, a yearly average of more than 13 million people have escaped from poverty.
An immense poverty reduction program running from 1986 to 2000 lifted 6.39 million people out of poverty on average each year. And during the ensuing decade, the figure rose to 6.73 million. Since the 18th CPC National Congress, the government has reduced the number of people living in poverty by more than 13 million each year, signaling an unprecedented achievement in our history.
Second, poor counties were defined throughout the country from 1986. This year, Jinggangshan in Jiangxi Province and Lankao in Henan Province took the lead in poverty alleviation. Another group of poverty-stricken counties will also announce their poverty elimination by the end of this year, signifying that the number of poor counties has been reduced for the first time in history. This is a remarkable achievement.
The poverty reduction drive has not only lifted people out of poverty, but also improved governance and management competency of rural grass-roots units, inspiring community-level officials to change their way of administration. A great number of young grass-roots workers and Party officials came to the fore in the drive. With the change in their work style, and the experiences gained from dealing with actual situations, they will become a treasure trove for the new great causes that will follow in due course.
Despite the remarkable achievements in the poverty reduction drive, there are still difficulties and problems that we cannot afford to underestimate or ignore.
The major difficulties at present are: the task of poverty elimination in the deeply impoverished areas is arduous and the problem of the people who become poor or sink back into poverty due to illness is very striking. The problems related to these areas and these people can only be solved at higher expense and with greater efforts.
At the same time, we also have some problems in our work, such as impractical approaches, superficial work style, inaccurate assistance, formalism and bureaucracy. Besides, the lack of motivation of the affected people is also a hindrance.
Guided by General Secretary Xi Jinping's strategic thinking on poverty relief and development, we should be fully aware of our problems, and keep to a problem-oriented approach to continue to implement the policies and instructions of the central government, making an all-out effort to win the battle against poverty. That's all I want to share with you. Ms. Su Guoxia and I are ready to take your questions. Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Liu. Now let's move to the question session. Please identify your media outlet before stating your question.
You just now mentioned some places with high incidence of poverty such as the Tibet Autonomous Region, the Tibetan area in Sichuan Province, and four prefectures in the south of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Do you have any poverty-relief measures focusing on those deeply impoverished areas? Thank you.
As I just said, the goal for alleviating poverty by 2020 will be definitely achieved. However, the difficulty lies in the deeply-impoverished areas in ethnic minority-dominated areas on China's borders, such as Tibet and south Xinjiang. Due to longstanding historical problems, those areas, with less desirable conditions, are more likely to be poor and distressed. Six provinces and provincial-level regions are home to over 3 million poor people, and five provinces or provincial-level regions have an incidence of poverty over 10 percent. According to the progress made in poverty alleviation in past years, without reinforced efforts, those areas will find it hard to achieve the expected goal. Therefore, the CPC Central Committee has hosted a seminar on poverty alleviation for deeply-impoverished areas and drawn up corresponding documents and measures to deal with the issue.
First, the CPC Central Committee will give top priority to those areas in poverty alleviation efforts and enhance various financing and policy measures.
Second, various departments and agencies are expected to play their specific roles in poverty alleviation. For example, the transport department needs to build more roads and the department responsible for water resources needs to solve problems with the supply of safe drinking water.
Third, provincial-level governments must take full responsibility in solving the specific problems facing the deeply-impoverished areas.
Each area has its own special conditions. Besides those poor areas I mentioned just now, each province and provincial-level region also have relatively serious impoverished areas. With provincial governments taking full responsibility, they can identify their own impoverished counties, towns and villages and work out new policy measures to deal with specific problems there. Thank you.
Last year, I visited some impoverished areas in southwest China to produce a special report about their poverty alleviation efforts. I've seen that people in those areas are now enjoying better housing, medical and education services, and have a stronger sense of achievement. However, I wonder how we can establish a long-term mechanism to avoid the people in those areas from sinking back into poverty again. Is there any mechanism in place to help those people become self-dependent and self-sufficient?
As you have said, remarkable progress has been made in education, medicine, housing, transportation and drinking water thanks to targeted poverty alleviation efforts. While committed to our current work, we should also consider establishing a long-term mechanism to meet any future problems that might occur. First, there should be firm leadership at the grass-roots level to lead poverty reduction and promote prosperity. Second, we need to bring into full play the role of the first Party chief and the task forces assigned to those areas for poverty alleviation, build a group of front-runners and attract local talents back to contribute to poverty reduction and sustainable development. Third, we should develop featured industries in accordance with local conditions to ensure sustainable development. Fourth, there has to be a long-term mechanism covering education and public health. For example, those areas should constantly improve medical security, advance pre-school education, compulsory education and higher education to nurture talents and skills. All these measures should be carried out simultaneously. Thank you.
During an interview in Tibet Autonomous Region, I heard that local people who used to live in Nagqu - a high altitude area- had been relocated this July to new houses with a hot spring courtyard. It's a new method of poverty alleviation to relocate people from inhospitable areas. Mr. Liu Yongfu, could you share more about other innovative measures which will be adopted in the future to help people shake off poverty and become prosperous?
The place you mentioned is Yambajan, which has hot springs. The local government of Tibet has made preparation to move residents living above 4,200 meters in altitude to areas of lower altitude. In the next step we will increase policy support to deeply impoverished areas.
For instance, in Tibet, combined with the development of urbanization and the improvement of the ecosystems and the environment, we can continue to relocate groups of people to low-altitude and river valley areas. While in deeply impoverished villages, where the poverty rate is above 20 percent, we will carry forward specific projects to promote their development, covering infrastructure, industrial development and grass-roots organizational construction. We will also implement new measures to lead local people to change their old ideas and outdated conventions. Thank you.
The poverty relief program seems quite narrowly focused on a certain population of the rural poor. Is there any room or need to expand the definition to maybe urban migrant workers who also struggle a lot with living in the big cities, or people who do not fit into that narrow definition; or maybe people who are slightly above the definition. There may be several hundred million people who are still struggling but not the most extreme poor. I know in Tibet and Sichuan there are some very difficult areas, but even a few hours from Beijing and Hebei, there are people who do not have good access to education and healthcare. Is there any need to expand the focus, maybe after 2020, after the goal is met? Will there be any expansion of the program? Are there any other ways that the government is looking at to help other impoverished people who are also struggling?
You know well about China. You are right that our poverty relief program does largely target the rural poor. It is true that there are also people living in poverty in urban areas. But as you may also know, we have different policies for urban areas. We rely on subsistence allowances and employment guarantees to relieve poverty in urban areas.
We will see to it that each family has at least one member in stable employment and therefore a stable income. Meanwhile, we will aid those entitled to subsistence allowances in a timely fashion. And the subsistence allowances granted to urban residents are higher than those for rural residents. Regarding migrant workers, this group is covered by the poverty relief program for rural areas.
Right now, we are focusing on wining the poverty reduction war before 2020. How to further address poverty after that? Do we need to come up with a holistic plan that coordinates efforts in urban and rural areas? How to resolve relative poverty after absolute poverty is eliminated? These are all questions we are now studying. You have raised a very good question. Thank you.
The reporter from Reuters not only focuses on the current progress of poverty reduction, but also its future.
The Beijing News:
My question is in relation to when people become poorer or return to poverty because of illness. I have previously reported on middle-class families becoming poor because their children were diagnosed with a tumor. They had to sell their cars and houses in order to seek care in Beijing since there is no medical care system to cover their basic needs under special cases. For these people, is there any policy or measures to meet their needs?
Su Guoxia will answer this question.
Thank you very much. We will communicate and coordinate with relevant government departments about incorporating the medical treatment of some major diseases into medical security. Actually, you have raised a question concerning a deeply impoverished group of people. Among the remaining poor at the present time, the percentage of family members caught in or set back to poverty due to illness is on the rise, up from 42 percent two years ago to 44 percent now. So, the government is paying special attention to this problem, and also regards it as one of our next priorities. Together with the National Health and Family Planning Commission and other government departments, we have carried out poverty alleviation projects to help increase health standards in poor areas, and also established systems like basic medical insurance, major disease insurance and medical assistance, complemented by some commercial insurance, to address basic problems. Now, local governments are carrying out many policies as well. We believe that the current healthcare system for the poor in rural areas has been basically sound.
A specific issue you mentioned just now is some rare diseases. Diseases like pediatric congenital heart disease and leukemia have been incorporated into the special medical treatment of critical diseases. For the congenital heart disease relatively common in the Tibetan region, the government has not only offered assistance with national policies and systems, but also mobilized the community to help. Only a small number of certain individuals are afflicted by rare diseases, who need help from society, including NGOs. Next, we will cooperate with other departments including the National Health and Family Planning Commission to work on additional measures for helping with the treatment of major pediatric diseases.
I would like to further address the question raised by Reuters. As Mr. Liu just explained, our main strategies for helping the poor in cities are minimum living allowances and employment assistance policies. In fact, another major policy that was developed in recent years is to guarantee the housing security of the poor in urban areas. The government has invested a lot in transforming shantytowns and providing support for basic housing over the past few years, and addressed the housing of 80 million poor people in cities. Thank you.
I'd like to add more. In addition to what she had just talked about, the National Health and Family Planning Commission has jointly launched with us an action plan on serious disease treatment, the contracted treatment of chronic diseases and medical assistance for special and serious diseases. Now the work gets underway nationwide. Thank you.
China National Radio (CNR):
China has made huge achievements in poverty alleviation since the 18th CPC National Congress. What policy mix has been introduced during the period? How do different departments and regions collaborate in this regard? Are there any specific measures for tackling some long-standing problems of poverty alleviation? Thank you.
There are a lot of measures. In my view, current poverty alleviation measures share certain characteristics:
First, the goal of this campaign is to eradicate poverty. The former massive campaigns against poverty left a large number of impoverished people afterwards. The number stands at more than 20 million or even more than 30 million, who live in absolute poverty. Our aim is to get rid of absolute poverty and leave no poverty-stricken population behind. We have formulated many policies and formed a policy mix on the target populations by comprehensively deepening reform and in accordance with the strategy of taking targeted measures in poverty alleviation and the requirements of implementing classified policies.
The central government is responsible for making overall plan, the provincial governments taking the overall responsibility and the cities and counties carrying it out. The principal leaders of the Party and governments in 22 central and west provinces have signed with the central government letters of responsibility on poverty alleviation with stricter performance evaluations. Irregular change of positions of the Party leaders and magistrates of 832 counties should be avoided from 2015 to 2020. The major secretary and other staff working in villages are transferred from the Party and government offices and state-owned enterprises and institutions at the levels of the central government, provinces, cities and counties respectively. Nearly one million people are on duty, with nearly three million people transferred accumulatively. All these measures are unprecedented.
With regard to financial investment, the central government requires that investment be adapted for the poverty alleviation task. The special funds for poverty alleviation from the central finance were very poor before. Poverty alleviation tasks are reliant on this fund even though it only amounted to 40 billion yuan. The poverty-stricken regions can hardly receive the money. Since the campaign against poverty was launched, the funds have seen a year-on-year growth of more than 30 percent. The funds allocated by provinces, cities and counties have also substantially increased accordingly. Now, more than 80 billion yuan is allocated by the central government, more than 60 billion yuan allocated by the provincial government and more than 60 billion yuan allocated by the governments of city and county level, which are unprecedented.
In terms of financial input, in the past there was only fiscal input - the financial sector didn't participate much. Now the financial sector is involved and provides poverty alleviation microloans for registered poor households. The financial product (microloans) has reached 380 billion yuan, and can be characterized as "under 50,000 yuan, repaid within three years, with no need for guarantees and mortgages to get loan, only requiring the benchmark interest rate, while the poverty alleviation fund would fully pay the interest, and the rural counties will set up risk funds." For the leading poverty alleviation enterprises which provide jobs for registered poor individuals, the central bank will issue poverty alleviation reloans with a very low interest rate -- 2 percent for local governments and 5 percent for enterprises. For example, if they need to relocate 10 million people with a budget of 600 billion yuan, then 250 billion yuan will be capital funds provided by the government, and the remaining 350 billion yuan will be financial bonds.
Local debts will be partially used for poverty alleviation. In the past two years, the local governments were required to allocate 60 billion yuan every year. And we also integrated social funds into it. In the last year, we integrated more than 200 billion yuan. This year, the amount will increase further.
For land policies, impoverished areas will be guaranteed land for poverty alleviation projects. And the surplus quotas of linking the amount of urban and rural land granted for construction purposes to that of land returned to cultivation are allowed to be traded within the provincial scope. Recently, the policies regarding this issue have been expanded, such as the policy for building village-level photovoltaic power stations.
Land-use policies deal with tough problems, many of which have existed for a long time. We have so many challenges to address.
China Business News:
I have three questions, first for Mr. Liu and then for Ms. Su.
Mr. Liu, just now you talked about the deeply impoverished areas that pose difficulties and problems of poverty elimination, with the task of tackling poverty being very arduous from now on. So, what specific measures will be taken to complete the task of poverty elimination in these areas? Moreover, you also said that, while helping poor counties and poor villages to escape from poverty, we should also pay great attention to poverty elimination in non-poor counties and non-poor villages. Precisely, how should this be dealt with?
Ms. Su, regarding your answer to the previous question, could you please add one point, that is, concerning the people living in poverty, the proportion of the people who have become poor or have sunk back into poverty due to illness rose from 42 percent in 2014 to 44 percent in 2016. So, what is the reason for this? Moreover, during the National Poverty Relief Day in 2016, you said that a phenomenon of "undue haste" in the work of poverty relief had spread to some areas of the country. As the fourth National Poverty Relief Day is drawing near, is there any improvement in this phenomenon?
Actually, I have already mentioned some issues involving the deeply impoverished areas, but I can elaborate here. The deeply impoverished areas designated by the central government include Tibet, the four southern Xinjiang prefectures (Hotan, Aksu and Kashi prefectures, and Kizilsu Kirgiz autonomous prefecture), ethnic Tibetan areas in the provinces of Sichuan, Yunnan, Gansu and Qinghai, Linxia Hui Autonomous Prefecture in Gansu Province, Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture in Yunan Province and Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan Province. Now we are formulating a special plan for poverty alleviation in these deeply impoverished areas and also trying to work out more relevant policies and measures. As I mentioned earlier, the central government will increase its support for these deeply impoverished areas, and so should the various departments directly involved. All provinces are also required to develop their destitute areas that are not included in the deeply impoverished areas designated by the central government.
The second question is about villages and counties that are not on the country's list of impoverished villages and counties. There are certain prerequisites for counties or villages to be included in the list. Life there is indeed very hard, featured with an enormous poverty-stricken population, high poverty incidence and harsh living conditions. These impoverished villages and counties have been the focus of our work, and so are those deeply impoverished areas. This is one of the approaches of our work. However, now, when the poverty alleviation endeavor has reached a critical stage, we will never allow any counties or individuals to be left behind. Therefore, while alleviating poverty in the designated areas, we should in no way neglect the development of counties and villages that are not on the country's list of impoverished villages and counties. These counties and villages have a relatively stronger economy, better industrial facilities, improved governance, and lesser number of poor people. Hence, it is possible for them to alleviate poverty with their own efforts.
There might be some differentiated regional policies, but when considering impoverished villages and households, the policies are consistent. For example, there can be a poor village in a non-designated county or a poor individual in a non-designated village. The national policies adopted for them are no different. We have taken those issues into consideration while formulating policies. Of course, we'll continue to enhance our supervision to avoid any blind spots in our work.
I will answer the question about "undue haste" in the work of poverty alleviation first. It is the result of officials' view on their political record -- Is it to be responsible for the people and the verdict of history or just their own political achievements? As the country recently stepped up efforts on examination and assessment, another tendency has emerged. Some places worried about failing to pass this process, so they slowed down the pace of the work on poverty alleviation. To settle the problem, we should guide cadres to adopt a correct view of political achievements -- our duty is to serve the people and our efforts on poverty alleviation should be responsible for a good historical judgement. At the same time, we will strengthen our efforts on examination and assessment, supervision and inspection to ensure full adherence.
Another question from you is about alleviating poverty by improving health. With the development of the rural economy and the increasing efforts for poverty alleviation, the economy in impoverished areas has been generally improved and the people's incomes have risen. Families with members capable and being willing to work have got rid of poverty with their own efforts along with government help. The proportion of these people is on the decline, yet the proportion of people whose poverty is due to illness is rising. We will increase our efforts to help them. Thank you.
I would like to add that, as for the progress and quality of poverty alleviation, we should adopt a practical and realistic way. Neither "undue haste" nor a slow pace is acceptable. Therefore, a reasonable and ordered timetable is needed. As General Secretary Xi Jinping has said, we should roll up our sleeves to work harder. So, we need to stick to the agreed standards and seek truth from facts on the issue of poverty alleviation. The pace could be faster or slower according to conditions in different areas; however falsification, bureaucracy and formalism are totally unacceptable. Thank you.
It is known that poverty reduction is a great issue in China. However, I have noticed that some local governments are sensitive about being interviewed by foreign media. What's the reason for that? That's maybe why some Western media is skeptical about the programs. We also want to go to these locations and report on the actual situation, but it's very difficult to get permission to go to these places and see these programs. Have you heard of this issue and know the reason for that? Another question is could you recommend some places that would be good to go visit? Thank you.
China remains committed to the policy of opening-up. The poverty reduction program will undoubtedly improve people's livelihood. We expect there will be more oversight from all sides. I have never heard about the situation you have mentioned. However, there are some places I would like to recommend to you for study. You could apply to the SCIO according to the regulations, and we will do our best to help.
Some local governments are afraid of its being exposed publicly that there are problems in their work. We sometimes have difficulties in inspecting their work, too. Of course, we have our own ways to resolve these difficulties, for example making unannounced visits. So, my suggestion will be that: firstly, we welcome media monitoring, including that from foreign countries; secondly, we will help the media contact the news and information departments of the local governments, if there is a need.
I would like to add a few more words on this point. It is a very important duty of the State Council Information Office to organize press conferences, briefings and collective interviews related to aspects of poverty alleviation, and that is what we have been doing. Previously, we organized press conferences and interviews related to poverty alleviation work with the strong support of the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development. We organized a fact-finding trip to Guizhou in September, in which the interviews that occurred about poverty relief received support from the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development. We have also organized foreign journalists to conduct interviews in Inner Mongolia and Sichuan Province. If you have any requirements regarding any interviews, please feel free to mention it, and we can coordinate the arrangements. If you encounter any problem during the interview process, you are welcome to contact our local colleagues as well.
Lastly, I agree with Mr. Liu that poverty relief as an ongoing cause that can hardly be fulfilled without the support and help of our media friends, so we encourage you to continue following its progress.
Our press conference will end here. Thanks again to Mr. Liu and Ms. Su. Thank you all.