Poverty Alleviation in Liangshan Prefecture

By: Peng QinghuaFrom:English Edition of Qiushi Journal October-December 2019|Vol.11,No.4,Issue No.41 | Updated: 2020-Jan-13 09:45
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Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture is one of the main battlegrounds in China’s fight against poverty. Since taking up office in Sichuan Province last year, I have visited Liangshan six times to check up on the state of poverty alleviation work there. On this trip, I decided to conduct in-depth investigations of Butuo and Jinyang counties, which have the highest poverty rates in the province. This experience has given me some new thoughts regarding our efforts to win the fight against poverty on schedule and according to high standards of quality.

I. Profound changes are underway in Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture.

Butuo and Jinyang counties are located in the southeast of Liangshan Prefecture, and more than 80% of their residents are of the Yi ethnic group. Thanks to poverty alleviation efforts in recent years, the poverty rates in these two counties fell from 35.6% to 26% and 38.1% to 23.6% respectively, between late 2013 and late 2018. Despite this, they remain the poorest counties in the province, and therefore pose the most difficult challenge. My goal for this research trip was to visit the most remote towns, the poorest villages, and the households in greatest need. Over three days, I visited 29 poor households in 7 villages spread out in 6 townships. I held three meetings with poor villagers, veteran Party members, officials of village-level organizations, and poverty alleviation officials in local homes, and used the nighttime hours to conduct three discussions with county and township officials. In advance of the trip, I also dispatched two small research teams that visited 84 poor households in 26 villages across 18 townships in the two counties to get a feel of the general situation.

A panorama of the newly built houses for Yi people in Buluo Village, Liangshan Prefecture shows how residents live adjacent to beautiful forests. Housing safety is the most visible yardstick for measuring the effects of our poverty alleviation initiatives, but while building safe houses, we must also focus on protecting the environment.

PHOTO BY LONG BUHA

The seven villages that I visited all have poverty rates over 40%, but the poverty rate in Kuijiu Village in Butuo County is particularly high at 95.6%, making it one of the poorest villages in the province. The village is located in a cold, mountainous area with an average elevation of over 2,900 meters. Surrounded by tall mountains and steep cliffs, it can only sustain a few scattered plots of farmland that produce a tiny yield despite extensive cultivation. Of the village’s 591 residents coming from 166 households, 565 live below the poverty line, making it a typical example of an extremely impoverished village. I reached Kuijiu Village via a rugged footpath. When I arrived, I saw dilapidated mud brick shelters everywhere with roofs made out of wooden planks, sheets of stone, or straw. With no windows and limited space, the houses were dark and stifling. The doorways were so low and narrow that one had to stoop to get inside. In the past, most Yi families shared their houses with their livestock. As a result of poverty alleviation efforts over recent years, all households now have corrals in their yards and livestock have been moved out, but whole families still have to live together under one roof. During my visits to the homes of Jishi Jire, Jishi Muri, and Nailai Hayao, I learned that the three households all receive subsistence allowances and old-age insurance, and that Nailai Hayao receives additional disability subsidies. Their children go to school free of charge, and most of their medical fees are reimbursable. Their biggest problem at present is housing. The new houses to which they will be relocated are still being built, and will be ready for them to move in before the Spring Festival in 2020. I could see that all of them are eager for a better life.

A road winding through the landscape to Juepu Village, Liangshan Prefecture, which functions as a lifeline connecting it to the outside world. Roads such as this make it possible for villages to prosper.

PHOTO BY YANG SHU

I found conditions to be a little better in the other villages that we visited. The roads leading into the villages were newly paved with cement or asphalt, and they were lined with numerous construction sites where houses for resettling villagers were being built. The villages had their own kindergartens and clinics, and the lives of their residents had improved significantly. Ahniu Weiri and Jike Caimu were relocated to Yida Village in Jinyang County from their previous homes high in the mountains. Before, their families had been poor for generations, living in mud brick houses and surviving by herding livestock and planting potatoes and corn. Thanks to poverty alleviation policies, they were able to move into bright, spacious, clean, and tidy new houses by the highway in 2018. With their new homes even equipped with televisions and electric rice cookers, their living conditions have improved dramatically. Although many Yi villagers cannot speak Mandarin, when we met with them they all held up their thumbs while repeatedly praising the poverty alleviation campaign and thanking General Secretary Xi in their dialect. Their gratitude toward the CPC and General Secretary Xi Jinping comes from the heart.

According to our colleagues in the prefecture, in Liangshan today over 99% of all villages and towns are reachable by road, the system providing 15 years of free education (including 3 years of preschool education) has been implemented across the board, and most villages have established learning centers for preschool-age Yi children to learn Mandarin. A total of 659,000 poor people in Liangshan Prefecture have embraced brand new lives and no longer have to scrape by like their ancestors did for thousands of years. The poor population of Liangshan fell from 881,000 in late 2013 to 317,000 in late 2018, while the poverty rate dropped from 19.8% to 7.1%. The profound changes that the fight against poverty has brought to Liangshan fully demonstrate the strengths of the socialist system. Officials at the community level and people of different ethnic groups have full confidence that we will win the fight against poverty by 2020.

II. Basic food and clothing needs have been met, but further improvements need to be made in providing access to education, healthcare, and housing.

Assuring the people that their food and clothing needs will be met and guaranteeing that they have access to compulsory education, basic medical care, and housing are key criteria for measuring our success in the fight against poverty. Taking the poor households that I visited as an example, I saw that having enough food to eat and clothes to wear are no longer concerns. Every family has stores of grain and cured meat. They can grow potatoes, maize, and buckwheat themselves, but need to purchase rice elsewhere. While in the past the Yi people living in Liangshan did not have enough clothing, nowadays everyone has multiple sets of clothes that they change and wash regularly. When celebrating festivals or greeting guests, they wear colorful traditional clothing that they mostly make themselves. Having a stable income is the key to ensuring that food and clothing needs are met. Incomes in Liangshan mainly come from three sources. The first is plant- and animal-based agriculture. Rural households in Liangshan usually have between a third and a half hectare of land, with some possessing as much as two-thirds of a hectare (including land cleared for agriculture). In addition to food crops, they also grow cash crops such as Sichuan pepper to increase income. They eat most of the livestock that they raise, but may also sell a few. The second source of income is working outside the village. In 2018, there were 61,000 migrant workers from registered poor households in Liangshan each earning an average of 20,000 yuan per year. Having a family member that has gone to work elsewhere is a reliable way for families to get out of poverty. For those who haven’t left to find work, villages have arranged public service jobs in areas such as forest protection and sanitation. The third source of income is welfare policies. Poor households that have no members able to work can apply for subsistence allowances based on their specific circumstances. The elderly can claim old-age pensions and subsidies, and there are additional special subsidies for the disabled. Some households also receive subsidies for planting trees and converting farmland to forest. Added together, these subsidies can meet the minimum level of income required to escape poverty. The most pressing task is ensuring that subsistence allowances reach the poor households that need them.

According to our information, there are still 45,533 households with annual per capita net income below 4,000 yuan in Liangshan Prefecture (5,516 of these households are in Butuo County, and 3,107 are in Jinyang County). There are three main factors upsetting the stable growth of their incomes. First, farming is not very profitable. Transportation remains the greatest constraint for farmers, with high shipping costs and limited channels for selling goods to other areas. Second, the share of people going out to look for work is relatively low. Due to the language barrier and a lack of skills, the prefecture sent out just 1,295,600 workers in 2018 with a transfer rate of 52%, 18 percentage points lower than the provincial average. Third, some policies have not yet been fully implemented. For instance, according to regulations villagers over 60 are entitled to claim a monthly pension of 100 to 117 yuan, while those over 80 should receive an additional old-age subsidy of 50 to 100 yuan. However, some elderly people do not benefit from the policy because they did not meet the age requirements when centralized surveys were conducted and they were not given timely assistance in applying once they were old enough at the time. Furthermore, there are some households that have not received prompt policy support because they did not qualify as poor households during initial assessments but subsequently became poor due to circumstances such as natural disaster or illness.

Housing safety is the most visible yardstick for measuring the effects of our poverty alleviation initiatives, and ensuring access to safe housing is currently the most urgent task in Liangshan. Yi people in Liangshan have an intense desire to live in better housing. In recent years, the provincial government has launched projects to build new Yi villages and relocate poor people from inhospitable areas. As a result, 2.67 million of the prefecture’s rural residents have moved from their mud brick houses into safe and bright new homes. At present, we still need to build 43,388 safe homes for families throughout the prefecture, of which 23,700 are for relocating poor families. Most of these homes are currently under construction. Winter conditions make it essentially impossible to build after November in high altitude, low temperature areas, and thus the short time window for construction causes increased costs and puts strain on supplies of building materials. For example, 3 million bricks are needed each day in Butuo County during the construction season, but all of the brick factories in the county can only produce 500,000 per day. The rest of the required bricks must therefore be brought in from outside the county, with transportation costs pushing up the price from 30 cents to 70 cents per brick. I have repeatedly reminded those overseeing construction that while they should meet their respective deadlines, they should make quality their top priority. These houses are being built for people to live in, and therefore if quality is not up to snuff it will cause problems for residents and even bring potential safety hazards. We must not, under any circumstances, overlook quality for the sake of speed.

Education is key for breaking the intergenerational cycle of poverty. During my visit to the central primary school in Wadu Village, Butuo County, I learned that students who live nearby go home when they finish classes for the day, while those who live further away board at the school. Not only is their tuition free, the government also pays for their room and board. They are provided with school uniforms, and live in a very well kept dormitory. As a result, sending children to school is actually less of a burden on families than keeping them at home. This is therefore an effective means of ensuring that children are not deprived of education because their families are unable to pay for it.

Nevertheless, it is still quite common for school-age children in Liangshan Prefecture to miss out on schooling or to drop out. Statistics show that the number of these children in the prefecture peaked at 61,872. Thanks to the efforts of various parties, 39,271 of them have resumed their studies in recent years, but 22,601 remain out of school (5,541 of which are from registered poor households). This is due to both outdated thinking and insufficient educational resources. Some children think studying is a waste of time, choosing to leave their villages to find jobs with their parents instead, some children grow tired of school because they can’t keep up, and some children in Yi areas lose the motivation to study because they do not understand Mandarin. Meanwhile, although conditions at schools have greatly improved in recent years, large class sizes and crowded dormitories are still quite common. At present, the prefectural government has established files on all school-age children who have been unable to go to school or dropped out, and designated personnel responsible for contacting them and conducting follow-up work in an effort to bring these children back to school via measures tailored to their specific circumstances.

Access to basic medical care is one of the greatest concerns among the poor population. In the poor villages that I visited, I learned that all inhabitants are covered by medical insurance systems, and that township and village medical centers have been built in even the most remote areas. People can thus see a doctor nearby and at little expense. To be specific, for outpatient treatment at township hospitals, patients only need to pay the amount between 30 and 100 yuan, while the first 30 yuan is free and any amount over 100 yuan can be reimbursed according to fixed percentages. Furthermore, poor people receiving inpatient treatment at county-level hospitals only need to pay about 5% of their total costs. Why, then, are there still people that have lapsed into poverty because of medical expenses? The first reason is that many Yi people neglect their health. When they come down with a minor illness, they prefer to wait it out rather than going to see a doctor, and over time their minor illness can become serious. The second reason is that related policies still have not been fully publicized and implemented. As a result, some people worry about taking on the burden of medical costs because they do not know whether expenses can be reimbursed or how much can be reimbursed. The third reason is that the professional competency of medical staff in these areas remains rather limited, while getting referred to a different hospital is difficult and recovery rates are low.

In addition, there are still gaps in access to safe drinking water, electricity, and radio and television programming in the home. According to our investigation, there are still 20,003 households that do not have access to safe drinking water, 4,420 households that do not have access to electricity, and 21,604 households that do not have access to radio and television programming. These are all issues that have a direct bearing on the quality of people’s lives, and therefore they must be resolved on a per-household basis.

A wind farm in the Anning River Valley, Liangshan Prefecture. The region is rich in wind and solar energy resources, and related industries have helped local people shake off poverty and increase their income.

PHOTO BY LENG WENHAO

III. Problems in need of attention

During this research trip, I also found that there are some deep-seated problems in our work. We must take earnest steps to look into these problems, with the aim of making poverty alleviation policies more targeted and effective and ensuring that the fight against poverty is conducted to high standards of quality.

First, resource allocation should be more empirical and rational.

In the course of our research, we discovered a paradox: on the one hand, both medical resources and the capacity to ensure access to these resources in Liangshan Prefecture are lacking, with frequent complaints about shortages of medical personnel and equipment at the community level. On the other hand, there also exists a certain degree of waste of medical resources. Though township medical centers and village clinics have been established, they treat a low proportion of patients. Furthermore, some pieces of medical equipment have not been put to use since they were purchased, with many still in their packaging. Taking the clinic in Wadu Village, Butuo County as an example, the clinic has only eight medical workers and four rural doctors who take turns being on duty. Since 2019, apart from a small number of inpatients, the clinic has treated an average of just 20 patients per month. From a broader perspective, Butuo County has 30 township clinics with 372 workers on the payroll out of 390 total authorized staff positions, meaning there are on average 12.4 medical workers at each clinic. While the number of medical institutions has increased, the number of people seeking treatment has declined year by year. Between 2016 and 2018, the total number of visits to community-level medical institutions in Butuo County fell by almost half from 61,000 to 33,000. This is correlated with annually increasing population outflows, the small populations covered by community-level medical institutions, and lacking competence in the provision of medical services. There are also similar paradoxes in the field of education. Some areas are still struggling with large class sizes and overcrowded dormitories. In Jinyang County, out of a total of 699 classes for students in the compulsory education stage, 355 have 55 students or more, with a maximum of 135 students in a single class. At boarding schools, students often have to sleep two or even three to a bed. Meanwhile, some schools in remote areas have relatively small student bodies. For example, there are only 95 students enrolled at Zhaizi Village Primary School in Jinyang County. The largest class there accommodates 32 students, and the smallest class has only two.

A local resident makes a decorative plant pressing in the e-commerce product showroom of Deyu Village, Liangshan Prefecture, on June 27, 2019. The development of cultural and creative industries helps consolidate the results of poverty alleviation.

PHOTO BY HE HAIYANG

Nowadays, people have strong demands for high-quality education and medical services. With increased numbers of people leaving to find work, improvements in transportation, and growth of incomes, it has become increasingly common for people to go to better hospitals when they are sick and to send their children to better schools further away from their homes. Therefore, while we should expand access to public services and resources at the primary level according to actual needs, we should also take steps to ensure that resources are further consolidated and effectively utilized in a bid to break the current pattern of allocating resources on the basis of administrative divisions. More specifically, where conditions permit, we should focus resources on setting up high-quality schools and hospitals in villages and towns that serve as local hubs. We should also organize regular visits by medical workers from township hospitals to certain remote and poverty-stricken villages as a means of addressing the problem of not having enough rural doctors in these areas. These efforts will enable people to benefit from better education and medical services. In light of the fact that the people of Liangshan live in small, spread-out villages and towns, higher level government departments should think realistically and stress practical results in assessing the performance of village and township clinics and schools, and refrain from adopting “one size fits all” solutions.

Second, poverty alleviation policies should be more coordinated and balanced.

At present, our poverty alleviation policies are putting the greatest amount of focus on registered poor households. Although this is absolutely necessary, we must also be aware of the discrepancy between the help afforded to these households and others that are on the edge of slipping into poverty. Taking efforts to ensure housing safety as an example, while registered poor households only pay 10,000 yuan for relocation and have all other expenses covered by the government, households that do not satisfy the standards for being registered as poor normally receive 30,000 to 50,000 yuan in subsidies for relocation and have to pay the remaining expenses themselves. As such, the gap between the subsidies that different households receive is in the tens of thousands, and may even be as high as 100,000 yuan. Of the 53 households in the second villager group of Kuijiu Village in Butuo County, 45 are registered poor households that will soon be relocated to new homes. However, the remaining 8 households, which are not registered poor households, will have to stay in their old homes since they do not qualify for an equivalent level of policy support. When poor households were originally identified and registered, priority was given to those living in adverse conditions, and the county government stipulated the general rule that the households of officials of village-level organizations should not be registered as poor. This stipulation has played a positive role in preventing the abuse of power for personal gain by rural officials and maintaining close ties between these officials and the people, but it has also made it so that the families of some officials of village-level organizations cannot enjoy the benefits of relevant policies despite the fact that they are in need. Of the 33 households that belonged to a villager group in Wawu Village, Jinyang County, 28 registered poor households have already moved off the mountain and into new homes, and 3 households composed of children, the elderly or the disabled without family to support them are also preparing to move so that they can get centralized care. The remaining two households, which are those of a group leader and a village doctor, have been left to live on the mountain in relative isolation. Our information shows that this is not an exceptional case. In Jinyang County, there are 119 villages that have relocated 80% of their villagers, while the vast majority of the 175 households of officials of village-level organizations in these villages have not been relocated as a result of the disparate benefits afforded to them by relevant policies.

When poverty assessments were conducted in 2013, the main yard stick for judging whether or not a villager was poor was his income. Sometimes, the difference between a household that was registered as poor and one that was not registered as poor was a single sheep or pig. As soon as they were labeled, however, the difference between them became night and day because of the different levels of policy support they were afforded. In some places, all registered poor households moved into new homes while other households remained in their old homes. This discouraged some members of the public and negatively impacted their level of satisfaction toward poverty alleviation efforts. That being said, it is impossible for policies to treat everyone the same. At the present stage, our key mission is to lift registered poor households out of poverty, while other issues can be given thorough consideration through implementation of the rural vitalization strategy. With regard to the small number of households in urgent need of safe housing, we can utilize funds raised through other channels to help resolve their problems. Regarding poor villages in inhospitable areas where the relocation rate is 80% or more, we should implement special preferential policies so that all possible steps are taken to relocate whole villages, because if some households are left behind, it will not only be difficult to guarantee their access to public services, but the costs of providing water and electricity and maintaining roads will also increase sharply. In this scenario, households that are currently not registered as being poor could slip into poverty in the future.

Third, comprehensive measures should be adopted to tackle particular social problems impeding Liangshan’s exit from poverty.

Before the founding of the PRC in 1949, Liangshan was an area where the opium poppy was cultivated. After the 1980s, Liangshan gradually became an important corridor and distribution center for moving drugs produced in other countries from Yunnan Province to Sichuan Province. As a result, drug abuse and AIDS have become serious causes of lapses and relapses into poverty, as well as stubborn obstacles holding up the development of Liangshan. Stories of whole families being destroyed by one member’s drug addiction, or of whole families falling into poverty because someone in the family contracts HIV are quite prevalent. In recent years, through the concerted efforts of the provincial, prefectural, and county governments and cooperation between relevant departments, we have scored significant success in cracking down on illegal drugs and preventing the spread of HIV throughout the prefecture. The number of new drug users in Liangshan Prefecture and the number of drug traffickers from the prefecture have dropped markedly, the use of antiretroviral therapy to treat HIV has expanded significantly, and new cases of HIV have fallen year by year. These are deep-seated problems that may take the efforts of a whole generation to overcome, but they are problems that bear on the lives and health of the people and the prosperity and development of Yi-inhabited areas, and therefore we must spare no effort in meeting the challenge.

Another social problem in Liangshan Prefecture is the spontaneous relocation of the Yi people. In ancient times, the Yi people were accustomed to nomadic pastoralism and shifting cultivation as means of surviving through war and famine, with some having no fixed place of residence. Until just a few years ago, the practice of spontaneously deciding to pack up and move away was still popular in some areas. While this may grant people a temporary respite from the problems they face in their lives, it causes separation between their registered place of residence and their actual place of residence. Without registration in the places that they have moved to, they can neither join in collective economic entities nor receive support from relevant policies. Meanwhile, since they have moved away, they are disregarded in the places where they were originally registered, and thus they slip through the cracks in both their original and current places of residence. According to statistics, there are 150,800 people that have relocated to different counties within Liangshan Prefecture in this manner (as well as an additional 34,300 that have moved to other cities or prefectures). In order to make sure that no needy family is falling behind, the CPC committee and the government of Liangshan Prefecture have increased support to people that belong to this particular group in recent years, registering 6,652 households with 25,424 members that meet the threshold of being poor, and providing assistance to them with local authorities in their former and current places of residence dividing responsibilities. A number of households have already been lifted out of poverty through these efforts, while poverty alleviation duties have been fulfilled and measures have been implemented for the 4,362 households and 18,090 people that have not yet exited poverty. By adopting comprehensive measures, we are working hard to overcome this long-standing historical challenge within the next few years.

IV. To win a decisive battle in the fight against poverty, we must adopt more targeted and practical measures.

We have already entered the decisive stage of our fight against poverty. Most of the remaining poor residents of Liangshan Prefecture are concentrated in mountain and canyon areas with the harshest conditions, and thus bringing them out of the poverty will be the most difficult challenge of the whole campaign. It will be an achievement of great historical significance when we finally see that the Daliang Mountains, an area that has long been synonymous with poverty, bid farewell forever to the destitute conditions that have persisted there for thousands of years, and that the Yi people reach moderate prosperity in step with people throughout the province and the country. Remaining true to the original aspiration and historic mission of the CPC, Party committees and governments at all levels in Sichuan Province must give poverty alleviation paramount importance as a political responsibility, public welfare project, and opportunity for development. We must keep pushing forward and ensure that we secure a complete victory in the fight against poverty on schedule.

1. We must be totally focused and precise in our poverty alleviation initiatives.

In the final stage of our battle against poverty, our energy must be even more focused and our actions must be even more precise. For Sichuan Province, this means focusing on deeply impoverished areas such as those inhabited by the Yi and Tibetan peoples, with priority given to the former. Since 2018, the provincial CPC committee and government of Sichuan have formulated 34 substantive policies and measures in 12 categories, and dispatched 11 working teams comprised of over 5,700 people to 11 deeply impoverished counties in Liangshan Prefecture, where they have taken up long-term posts in poverty-stricken villages and towns and provided assistance in the fight against poverty. In addition, we have received strong support from relevant central government departments as well as the provinces of Guangdong and Zhejiang through paired assistance programs and collaboration on poverty alleviation between the eastern and western regions. The provincial government organized survey teams composed of over 260,000 that conducted follow-up inspections regarding the campaign to assure rural people that their food and clothing needs will be met and guarantee that they have access to education, medical care over a period of roughly two months beginning in June 2019. Over the course of the survey, team members went from door to door and worked meticulously to record information. On this basis, we have broken down tasks, followed through with responsibilities, and shored up areas of weakness, making patient and precise efforts to ensure that we see solid progress in poverty alleviation work and genuine success in bringing people out of poverty.

2. We must see to it that leading officials perform their responsibilities, and keep them from losing focus.

The tasks of poverty alleviation in Liangshan are arduous, and must be performed under trying conditions. Community-level officials have long been overloaded as they have fought battle after battle against poverty over the years. Working under immense strain, they have devoted great effort and made great sacrifices. Many community-level officials and members of poverty alleviation work teams have selflessly put the wellbeing of the larger community before that of their own families, working together with impoverished communities through hardship and exhaustion. Their dedication is extraordinary. Nevertheless, after a prolonged period of time, they can begin to develop feelings of apathy. Some officials lean toward unrealistic optimism, which causes them to underestimate the problems and challenges that they face, while others become negative and pessimistic, which causes them to lose focus and slack off in their work. With this in mind, while ensuring that officials perform their responsibilities and strengthening accountability, we should also offer them care and encouragement so that they can effectively shoulder responsibility and take action. This is the most strenuous stage of our poverty alleviation campaign, and though we are nearing the finish line, we must redouble our determination and not let up until we accomplish our objectives.

3. We must build the people’s capacity to lift themselves out of poverty.

In recent years, governments from the central to local levels and all sectors of society have given poverty-stricken areas large amounts of support in terms of manpower and financial and material resources. As a result, impoverished areas have transformed and the people living in them have benefitted as never before in history. However, some people have developed excessive reliance on external support. In some areas, it has become commonplace for officials to do the work while the public stands by and watches, and some people have become unwilling to lose the designation of being poor because they have grown used to laying back and enjoying the benefits of assistance. High-quality poverty alleviation should not be based solely on external assistance, and poverty alleviation initiatives should not encourage idleness. Impoverished people are not only the targets of poverty alleviation initiatives, but also the main actors in the campaign to eradicate poverty, and therefore we must stimulate their enthusiasm and foster their own capacity to shake off the yoke of poverty. We should put greater emphasis on teaching people to be grateful for the support they have received and to put this support to good use, encouraging them to create better lives for themselves through their own efforts rather than waiting around for handouts. Outdated customs and habits such as spending more money on elaborate funerals than on care for the elderly and giving expensive betrothal gifts before marriage are one of the major causes of lapses and relapses into poverty among the Yi people. We should therefore help them break with old customs and develop good habits so that they can integrate into modern culture as quickly as possible.

4. We should strengthen community-level organizations and build contingents of dedicated rural officials.

At present, there are a total of 11,276 officials and specialists engaged in poverty alleviation at all levels in Liangshan Prefecture. In some priority counties, the number of officials assigned to poverty alleviation work is greater than the number of local officials. Though this team of officials and specialists has played a tremendous role in the fight against poverty, from a long-term perspective it is clear that offering financial and material support is less effective than building quality local Party branches. Therefore, providing assistance in building strong and capable village Party branches and village committees is one of the most important tasks for those working on poverty alleviation. Nowadays, most young people in rural areas have chosen to leave their homes and work elsewhere, which accentuates the problem of village Party branches and village committees being composed of elderly and less educated villagers. With that being the case, where should we look to find the officials and talented people we need to steadily eradicate poverty and drive forward rural vitalization? The answer is to seek out and foster outstanding rural migrant workers and demobilized military personnel. After years of hard work far from their homes, they have acquired new knowledge, been exposed to new things, broadened their perspectives, and strengthened their abilities. But even more importantly, they have an intense desire to build their communities and bring prosperity to the places where they grew up. Therefore, we should encourage such people to return to their hometowns to start businesses, and select from among them candidates to apply for Party membership and serve as officials of village-level organizations. This is a key initiative for building high-quality contingents of rural Party members and community-level officials, and we must treat it as a strategically important project.

(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No. 16, 2019)