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China Daily (USA) - - CHINA -

t was 5:30 am on a sum­mer morn­ing when Qian Zheng­cang, 51, climbed a moun­tain slope to sur­vey his 0.13 hectares of corn­fields in Dongsi vil­lage, Yunxi county, Hubei prov­ince. His heart sank when he saw patches of dried corn straws and re­al­ized the sum­mer drought had de­stroyed most of his crops.

Qian’s par­ents, both in their mid-70s, have chronic ill­nesses, and he has lost some of his mo­tor skills af­ter a stroke so he can no longer un­der­take heavy farm work.

The big­gest blow to the fam­ily came last year when Qian Dayan, 30, Qian Zheng­cang’s son and the fam­ily’s sole provider, quit his job as a se­cu­rity guard in the Xin­jiang Uygur au­ton­o­mous re­gion be­cause of health is­sues. The fam­ily’s sta­tus fell from “strug­gling” to “ab­ject poverty” in a heart­beat.

“All is not well,” said Qian Zheng­cang, with a sigh. “There’s lit­tle I can do.”

Qian’s story is ju­s­tonea­mong the142,000Yunxires­i­dentsclas­si­fied as “im­pov­er­ished”, and who live be­low the prov­ince’s poverty­line of 4,100yuan($613) a year. Ill­ness, lack of em­ploy­ment skills and low fund­ing are the main causes of poverty in the­county, ac­cord­ing toare­port pub­lished last year by Yunxi’s poverty al­le­vi­a­tion of­fice.

The elim­i­na­tion of ru­ral poverty is one of the top pri­or­i­ties in China’s 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20), and at this year’s Busi­ness 20 Summit in Hangzhou, Zhe­jiang prov­ince, Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping pledged to lift 57 mil­lion peo­ple out of poverty, as de­fined by cur­rent stan­dards, by 2020.

Yunxi is the home of The Cowherd and the Weav­ing Maid, a fa­mous folk­tale in which ill-starred lovers were ban­ished to op­po­site sides of the heav­ens, meet­ing just once a year across theMilkyWay via a bridge of spar­rows. The tale has be­come the sym­bol of the pi­lot pro­gram.

“The gov­ern­ment is the ‘Spar­row Bridge’ con­nect­ing ru­ral work­ers and com­pa­nies,” said Cha Fangzheng, Yunxi’s

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