New Year wish to end poverty
Party chief Xi Jinping chats with farmer Tang Rongbin as they sit on a kang, a heatable brick bed, at Tang’s village home in Hebei province, on Saturday.[Lan Hongguang / Xinhua]
Top leaders urged greater efforts to combat poverty during visits to impoverished areas, in a move that analysts said reflects the leadership's resolve to achieve more balanced regional development.
Local authorities should place more emphasis on helping people out of poverty, Party chief Xi Jinping said during a weekend visit to Fuping county in Hebei province.
Policies designed to support agriculture, rural areas and alleviate poverty must be fully implemented, Xi said.
Xi also called the embezzlement of poverty-alleviation funds an "intolerable crime".
Xi arrived in Fuping after a journey of more than three hours from Beijing on Saturday afternoon in freezing weather.
Nestled in steep mountains, Fuping is among China's most impoverished counties. It has an annual net per capita income of 2,400 yuan ($390). Most of the people who live there are farmers.
Xi discussed incomes, food, education, and medical care as he visited the villages of Luotuowan and Gujiatai.
Sitting on the kang, a heatable brick bed, of Tang Rongbin, Xi said the farmer should pay more attention to his grandson's schooling as education will help the next generation lead a better life.
Xi also visited clinics and shops and talked with village officials.
"The most arduous task facing China in completing the building of a moderately prosperous society is in rural areas, especially poverty-stricken regions," Xi said.
Vice-Premier Li Keqiang visited rural areas in the Enshi Tujia and Miao autonomous prefecture, Hubei province, on Saturday.
Li made it to the mountainous villages after traveling on narrow and snowbound roads and talked to farmers about their immediate concerns.
Impoverished areas are concentrated in the central and western regions, with a total population of 200 million, he said.
"If we are to build a moderately prosperous society, getting the 200 million people out of poverty will be a major task. But we have the resolve and tenacity to accomplish this," he told the villagers as he trudged on a muddy field.
Issues such as education, medical care and employment were also keenly discussed.
When a farmer told Li about his happiness over the area's medical insurance, Li interrupted him by saying that he wanted to hear more about what annoyed him.
Li called on the authorities of Enshi to develop local industries so that migrant workers will be able to find jobs in their hometowns.
The top leaders have a tradition of visiting families and experiencing issues at the grassroots before the start of the new year.
Their concern for people shows that the ruling Party is aiming to improve livelihoods in the less-developed regions, said Li Shi, a professor of wealth distribution at Beijing Normal University.
There are still lots of problems, including inefficiency in the use of poverty-alleviation funds and unfairness in their distribution, Li Shi said.
Authorities need to boost transparency, he said. "There are still lots of poor people and the income gap remains a tough problem for authorities."
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Xinhua contributed to this story.