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November 25, 2020

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Revolution-themed tourism lifts rural residents out of poverty

Excitement was well visible as Zhu Xiaohong, a rural resident in central China’s Hunan Province, recalled seeing President Xi Jinping in September.

“He visited my home and asked about my income and life. Thanks to the policy of targeted poverty alleviation, we live a good life now,” Zhu said.

Xi visited a revolution-themed exhibition hall in Shazhou Village, Rucheng County, during his inspection tour in Hunan.

The exhibition chronicles the story of an impoverished villager named Xu Jiexiu, who offered shelter to three female Red Army soldiers during the Long March in the 1930s. Upon the soldiers’ departure, they cut their only quilt into two pieces, leaving one part with Xu as a gesture of compassion.

Zhu is Xu’s grandson.

Like many residents in the remote village located amidst deep mountains, Zhu once endured a hard life due to lack of skills and a heavy family burden from his elderly and sick parents and two children.

Since the country waged a war against poverty nationwide, Zhu has been receiving assistance from village officials, who helped him join a technical training course and supported his children’s education.

In 2017, Zhu completed vocational training and became a chef. With the support of the local government, he opened a restaurant, the first of its kind in the village.

As the county has developed a key tourist area featuring revolutionary history, Zhu’s business has been booming.

To date, Shazhou has welcomed more than 2 million visitors, said Huang Fei, a local official, adding that revolution-themed tourism has created many opportunities for the village.

Huang said more and more enterprises settled down in the once impoverished village to participate in the development of local agriculture and tourism, while hundreds of villagers found jobs consequently.

“I can earn nearly 10,000 yuan (US$1,410) every month in the peak tourist season through my restaurant, and during the off season, I work as a security guard at the tourist attraction for a monthly payment of 2,000 yuan,” said 52-year-old Zhu.

In 2018, Shazhou Village with 529 residents was completely lifted out of poverty.

In 2019, the per capita disposable income of the villagers reached 13,840 yuan, up 164 percent from 2014.

Zhu Lizhi is another villager who found his way out of poverty with hard work and government aid.

Zhu Lizhi’s life was marred by hardships as his mother and wife suffered from serious illnesses. Then he was registered as a poor household in 2015, which meant more than 90 percent of the medical expenses of his family could be reimbursed, and the tuition fee for his daughter was waived.

Moreover, the local poverty-alleviation working team offered him a job as a forest ranger in the village, with an annual income of 10,000 yuan.

By the end of 2016, Zhu Lizhi had shaken off poverty according to the official standards. He set up a stall, selling fruits, snacks and drinks to tourists.

“There are many tourists, and I can earn around 20,000 yuan every year from the business,” the 38-year-old villager said.

The local poverty-alleviation working team encouraged him to plant loquat and join a training program so he could learn online marketing and start his own business.

With these new skills, Zhu Lizhi started selling the fruit online and helped local villagers promote their agricultural products. Last year, he earned more than 90,000 yuan.

“My life has changed significantly,” said Zhu Lizhi.

The village also offers dividends from the income of collective businesses, such as the photovoltaic electricity and agritourism projects, to poverty-stricken households with no income, Huang said.

China is in the home stretch to eradicate absolute poverty by the end of 2020, after slashing its rural poor population from 98.99 million at the end of 2012 to 5.51 million at the end of 2019.

China first promoted “targeted poverty alleviation,” in the once-impoverished Shibadong Village in Hunan in 2013. This concept of designing relief policies to suit different local situations later became a guiding principle in China’s fight against poverty.

At the beginning of this year, the 51 registered poverty-stricken villages in the province all shook off the label, with the poverty headcount ratio slashed to 0.36 percent from as high as 13.43 percent.

Zhu Xiaohong is more confident about his future. “I will continue to run the restaurant well and strive for an even better life.”


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