Support for Rural Poor to Continue
China has mapped out priorities in its effort to continue policies that support low-income groups in rural areas and less-developed regions, a move officials and experts said will narrow the country's urban-rural divide and pave the way for common prosperity.
A policy document jointly unveiled by the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council, China's Cabinet, on March 22 proposes measures to consolidate the results of the nation's poverty alleviation efforts and ensure they are aligned with the rural vitalization strategy.
The release came on the heels of the nation's announcement in February that China has succeeded in its fight against absolute poverty in rural areas after its 98.99 million impoverished rural residents were lifted out of poverty and 832 counties and 128,000 villages were removed from the poverty-stricken list over the past eight years.
The document reiterated the importance of setting up a sound, long-term mechanism to consolidate poverty alleviation outcomes, saying that consistent support policies and dynamic monitoring will be provided to prevent a return to poverty.
Even though some areas have been removed from the poverty-stricken list, they still lag in terms of their level of development compared with developed regions, and thus preferential policies are still required, an official with the office of the central rural work leading group said in a statement.
The official said one of the major highlights of the document was its promotion of both the growth of industries in the once-poverty-stricken areas and the need for stable employment of formerly impoverished people.
The document adheres to the ideology of pursuing common prosperity and prioritized steps to bolster development of industries, talent and support for culture and the environment across the board, the official said.
The government will continuously work to improve infrastructure in less-developed areas, including building more highways, railways and airports and initiating water conservancy and power transmission projects, the document said.
Yu Xiaohua, a professor of agricultural economics at the University of Goettingen in Germany, said increasing the income of the rural poor is key both in poverty alleviation and rural vitalization in China.
With the disposable income of urban residents at least 2.6 times that of rural residents, the narrowing of the income gap should continue to be the priority for China's rural policies going forward, he said.
He noted that a key step in efforts to increase the income of rural residents is to encourage them to find jobs in urban areas and boost the development of rural industries.
"The bettering of the rural infrastructure and improving public services is also the pillar to enabling the increase of living standards," he said.
Liu Qi, a member of the academic committee with the China Institute for Rural Studies at Tsinghua University, said rural vitalization would require further integration between urban and rural areas, which would cover the whole rural population.
"The goal is to narrow the urban-rural divide, especially the income gap," he said.
During the process, the agricultural sector must be more efficient and environmentally friendly, farmers should have multiple skills and rural areas should be places that are suitable for living and working, he said.
The latest document highlighted the need to implement aid measures regularly for low-income groups, especially seniors and children, in rural areas.
A dynamic mechanism based on the social security system will be established to monitor low-income groups to enable authorities to respond to cases of poverty recurrence as early as possible. The social aid programs will be carried out on a tiered and by-category basis to make the policies more targeted and improve the quality of aid services.
To further improve the level of public services in such regions, the document pledged to keep improving the conditions of schools for children and to continue to offer favorable policies in terms of healthcare and housing security.
The government will continue to offer temporary aid to individuals who have seen a sharp decline in their living standards, and local authorities will be encouraged to provide services such as regular visits and care to seniors, juniors and the disabled people, the document said.
Yu highlighted challenges that could arise with China's increasingly aging society, which could become more prominent in rural areas with the outflow of young people.
"A rural society that is faced with a stark aging problem will not be vitalized. That is why the nation must beef up investments into elderly care and healthcare facilities in rural areas while ensuring that rural children can also be well taken care of," he said.