East-west poverty cooperation paying dividends
Well-off and poorer regions join hands to increase social welfare
Growers of Sichuan peppers in Northwest China's Gansu province are now able to sell their produce at a higher price on their doorstep thanks to a buyer who has come to the province all the way from the eastern province of Shandong.
The buyer, a producer of Sichuan peppercorn oil based in Shandong's Qingdao, has set up a production base in the city of Longnan of Gansu in response to the Qingdao government's call to help the pepper growers in Longnan.
This is part of a national program called the "East-West Pairing-off Cooperation for Poverty Reduction", whereby a more developed region in East China assists a less developed one in West China to shake off poverty.
"The peppers grown by Longnan farmers are of good quality but could only be sold at a low price because they were not processed as a result of the city's lack of accessibility and lack of information from the outside world," said Dou Zongjun, head of the Qingdao office for poverty alleviation cooperation, at a news conference held on March 29. He added that the Qingdao peppercorn oil producer has also benefited from the arrangement by gaining access to quality raw materials.
"Qingdao did the same in the Guizhou city of Anshun and Shandong's Heze city to help the locals find a job in their own hometown," Dou said. "These efforts put Qingdao among the country's top performers in combating poverty by developing industries."
Longnan, Anshun and Heze are the three cities Qingdao has paired up with in the poverty alleviation cooperation program.
Since 2016, Qingdao has helped lift 545,800 poor people in Anshun, more than 440,000 poor people in Longnan and 914,000 poor people in Heze out of poverty.
"The cooperation is built on sincerity and also strong financial backing,"Dou said. "Qingdao has set aside an assistance package of more than 3.4 billion yuan ($52 million) for the three cities－1.1 billion yuan for Anshun, 1.57 billion yuan for Longnan and 744 million for Heze."
Since 2016, Qingdao has helped bring 145 projects to Anshun, Longnan and Heze.
These projects involved a total investment of more than 9.3 billion yuan. In August last year, Qingdao launched a monthlong campaign named "Reducing Poverty by Promoting Consumption".
As part of the campaign, trade shows were held to promote the products from the three cities. Dedicated sales areas were set up in chain supermarkets and shopping malls in Qingdao to help the products reach a larger market.
Qingdao-born actor Huang Xiaoming and athlete Chen Meng were invited to be the spokespeople for the campaign, according to local officials.
Since 2016, the city has been sending specialists in education, medical care, technology, agriculture and other fields to the three cities, bringing with them the latest know-how, said Hao Shuguang, deputy head of the Qingdao office for poverty alleviation cooperation.
Doctors from Qingdao hospitals, such as the Affiliated Hospital of Qingdao University and the Qingdao Municipal Hospital, have visited the three cities to help local hospitals set up new departments and perform operations that local doctors haven't performed before.
In addition to providing long-term-oriented assistance, Qingdao last year helped the three cities meet their immediate needs during the outbreak of COVID-19 and when they were hit by natural disasters.
"The sudden outbreak of COVID-19 last year did upset many of our arrangements," Hao recalled. But he said they managed to come through by working closely with the three cities.
After learning that there was a shortage of medical supplies in the three cities, Qingdao sent them face masks, goggles, disinfectant and other medical supplies when the city itself was undersupplied, Hao said.
When a major flood hit Longnan in August last year, Qingdao offered the city a relief fund of more than 17 million yuan, according to Hao. It also provided the city with supplies such as tents and emergency lighting.
Longnan was grateful for the help and expressed its gratitude by sending a medical team of 50 to Qingdao in October last year when it learned that Qingdao needed help with COVID-19 tests, Hao noted.
Qingdao has also done a good job pulling its own poor residents out of poverty. All of the 63,887 registered poor residents of Qingdao were lifted out of poverty in 2016, according to city officials.
It has helped 5,152 poor people who can work and who want to work find a job, with 2,961 of them working in the public welfare sector.
The old downtown area of Qingdao is juxtaposed with its vibrant modern city center. YANG XUEMEI/WANG BO/FOR CHINA DAILY
Visitors pick strawberries at a culture park built for poverty alleviation in Nanxinzhuang village in the West Coast New Area of Qingdao. CHINA DAILY
Tea leaves are picked at the Guanling tea industrial park in Anshun, Guizhou province. CHINA DAILY