From To Flour­ish­ing

A county in north China shakes off poverty by tap­ping into its po­ten­tial By Yu Lin­tao & Lu Yan

Beijing Review - - Nation Five Years’ Progress -

There’s a well-known say­ing in Fup­ing County in Baod­ing, north China’s He­bei Prov­ince, “Ninety per­cent of Fup­ing’s land is moun­tains, 5 per­cent wa­ter and 5 per­cent arable land.” It is an apt way of de­scrib­ing the moun­tain­ous re­gion. The to­tal amount of arable land in the county is 219,000 mu (14,600 hectares), far from enough for the county’s pop­u­la­tion of 230,400.

Mainly due to its geo­graphic con­di­tions, the re­gion is still on the list of the poor­est coun­ties in China. Among the 209 ad­min­is­tra­tive vil­lages in Fup­ing, 164 were clas­si­fied as poor. In 2012, the county’s reg­is­tered poverty-stricken pop­u­la­tion stands at around 110,000, or 48 per­cent of its to­tal.

Nev­er­the­less, the county has un­der­gone pro­found change in the past five years. “The change is re­ally re­mark­able for our town and the whole county in terms of in­fra­struc­ture and peo­ple’s life,” a young taxi driver sur­named Li told Bei­jing Re­view.

Li is from the town of Fup­ing, which hosts the county gov­ern­ment. Ac­cord­ing to Li, though his home­town still looks a lit­tle shabby, its in­fra­struc­ture has im­proved a lot, and more peo­ple are com­ing to the county for leisure or busi­ness.

The changes started around five years ago when Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping, who at the time was the newly-elected Gen­eral Sec­re­tary of the Com­mu­nist Party of China Cen­tral Com­mit­tee, made an in­spec­tion tour of the county in late 2012. When meet­ing the vil­lagers, Xi said that “the most ar­du­ous task fac­ing China in com­plet­ing the build­ing of a mod­er­ately pros­per­ous so­ci­ety is in ru­ral ar­eas, es­pe­cially poverty-stricken re­gions.” Xi also stressed on many oc­ca­sions that a welloff so­ci­ety can­not be achieved if peo­ple in old rev­o­lu­tion­ary base ar­eas can­not shake off poverty. Fup­ing County is one such area.

“Pres­i­dent Xi’s tour in­jected new vi­tal­ity into the de­vel­op­ment of the county and its poverty al­le­vi­a­tion ef­forts,” said Zhao Min­tao, Vice Mayor of Fup­ing County.

Since Xi’s in­spec­tion, find­ing in­ter­nal growth driv­ers has been a ma­jor re­search topic and key fo­cus of the county, Zhao said.

As a moun­tain­ous county that had mainly re­lied on agri­cul­ture be­fore, there are very few in­dus­trial bases and no suit­able space for in­dus­trial de­vel­op­ment. As a re­sult, the lo­cal gov­ern­ment has turned to the re­gion’s vast moun­tain­ous land­scape.

What the moun­tains of­fer

Baiya Vil­lage in the town of Datai is lo­cated in a val­ley in cen­tral Fup­ing. The vil­lage has a pop­u­la­tion of around 2,400 and only 1,138 mu (76 hectares) of arable land. In con­trast, the moun­tain­ous vil­lage spans a bar­ren area of as much as 20,000 mu (1,333 hectares). Sta­tis­tics show that more than half of the lo­cal vil­lagers were liv­ing un­der the na­tional poverty line in 2014.

“The only source of in­come for lo­cal vil­lagers is farm­ing,” Jia Baosheng, an of­fi­cial from Datai, told Bei­jing Re­view.

Jia said that in or­der to change these con­di­tions, the lo­cal gov­ern­ment de­cided to make full use of the moun­tain­ous ar­eas af­ter a sci­en­tific in­ves­ti­ga­tion in 2015.

“Agri­cul­tural ex­perts said these ar­eas can be used for agri­cul­ture af­ter some de­vel­op­ment. We were very ex­cited and set about im­ple­ment­ing the land recla­ma­tion project,” said Jia.

Lo­cal vil­lagers then be­came share­hold­ers of the land recla­ma­tion project by trans­fer­ring their land-use right to its in­vestors.

Based on the lo­cal cli­mate and land con­di­tions, the pre­vi­ously bar­ren land was trans­formed into ar­eas suit­able for mod­ern agri­cul­ture, equipped with wa­ter-sav­ing irrigation fa­cil­i­ties. By the end of 2016, 3,000 mu (200 hectares) of moun­tain­ous area in the vil­lage had been turned into arable land, where ap­ple trees, peach trees, cas­sia trees, peanuts and sweet pota­toes were planted.

Vil­lagers who par­tic­i­pated in this project ben­e­fit the most from the scheme. Each year they earn a ba­sic in­come of 1,000 yuan ($150) per house­hold. Those who work for the ven­ture, such as by plant­ing seeds or dig­ging, can have an ex­tra in­come of 3,000 yuan ($450) or more. More­over, when the project be­gins to pay off, the profit will be

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