Bumpy road out of poverty for isolated corner of Yunnan

Publish time: 13th March, 2017      Source: China Daily
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Updated: 2017-03-11 10:01:33


Feng Weixiang spent two days traveling to Beijing from his home in a remote corner of southwest China's Yunnan province. The journey was one of the longest for the more than 2,000 members of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee, who have gathered in Beijing for the political advisory body's annual session.


Feng said the trip could have taken ten times longer.


The 45-year-old is a Nu ethnic, whose small community lives in the far-flung Gongshan Drung-Nu Autonomous County in Yunnan. There, between lofty mountains and deep valleys, dwell some of China's smallest ethnic groups.


The only road out of Gongshan, snaking between cliffs and valleys, was built in 1973.


Before that, Gongshan residents had to climb snow-capped mountains and crossing raging rivers to catch a train from Kunming to Beijing. A single trip took about 20 days.


"Transportation is the biggest obstacle to my hometown's development," Feng said.


Even today, the road out of Gongshan is often hit by landslides during rainy days.


At his fifth CPPCC annual session, Feng said he planned to submit two proposals for more roads linking Yunnan with neighboring regions and beyond the borders to Myanmar and India.


Feng said his personal experience taught him that the journey out of poverty started from road construction. Barred from the outside world by tough terrain, the Nus had lived in extreme poverty.


In his childhood memory, Feng never knew what pork or beef tasted like. His family lived on subsistence farming by growing corn and wheat. Craving animal protein, they would hunt birds in the woods.


Only after a road was built, the Nus were able to have a taste of market economy as they began selling crops to outside communities and bought new stuff. The young and ambitious also got the chance to see the world beyond the mountains.


In 1988, 16-year-old Feng decided to get some vocational training. He got enrolled in a school in Kunming.


Feng then started his career as a vocational schoolteacher in 1992 teaching farming and aquaculture techniques. He remembered he had to trek a whole day in mountains to reach the school, just 40 kilometers away.


Five years later, he quit teaching and became a government worker.


In 2013, he became a member of the CPPCC National Committee.


With such a background, Feng made poverty reduction the focal point of his work. Many of his proposals were centered around infrastructure construction in poor regions.


In 2014, he submitted a proposal urging the construction of a tunnel on a road connecting Gongshan to Shangri-La city.


In 2015, he urged the building of a road connecting Gongshan to Liuku township. The work is to begin by the end of this year.


"Last year, 3,000 people in our county got rid of poverty," he said, adding that about one third of the county's 350,000 residents are still struggling below the poverty line.


"In the country's poverty reduction campaign, Gongshan is by all means a hard nut to crack," Feng said.


The county has set a goal to remove poverty by 2018.


China is aiming to eradicate rural poverty by 2020 and the state is spending heavily to achieve that goal. A remaining 43 million rural poor people mainly dwell in areas without roads, clean drinking water or power.


The government promised that over half of the vehicle purchase taxes, around 840 billion yuan ($125 billion), will be earmarked for rural road construction during the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020), a substantial increase on the 550 billion yuan spent during the previous five years.