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Rural affairs top priority of document

Xu Wei
Updated: Feb 07,2020 09:10 AM    China Daily

China's first policy document of the year contains scaled-up measures to ensure that the country can win the battle against poverty across the board and to strengthen weak links in rural areas, officials and experts said.

This is the 17th consecutive year in which the document, issued annually by the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council, has focused on rural issues.

The document, made public on Feb 5, said more forceful steps and meticulous measures will be adopted to resolve issues including compulsory education, healthcare, housing and drinking water in rural areas.

Han Changfu, minister of agriculture and rural affairs, said the policy document makes clear that the government's top objective for agriculture and rural affairs this year is to lift all rural residents living below the current poverty line out of poverty and to strengthen weak links in rural areas.

"It will be of paramount importance to stabilize the agricultural sector and harness the role of agriculture, rural areas and farmers' issues in the face of mounting risks and challenges at home and abroad and growing downward pressure on the economy," Han said in a statement after the release of the document.

There are still about 3 million people in rural areas living below the poverty line this year and over 50 counties are still stuck in poverty. The country has already lifted over 95 million people out of poverty between the end of 2012 and the end of 2019.

This year is the last in the country's campaign to lift all rural residents who live below the current poverty line out of poverty and to ensure that poverty is eliminated in all poor counties and regions.

Another priority is to consolidate the outcomes from poverty alleviation efforts and to prevent people from once again falling below the poverty line, he said.

"We need to guard the ground we have already conquered and conduct comprehensive troubleshooting to seal all the gaps. For those still near the poverty line, we need to adopt aid measures in time," Han said.

The policy document came up with measures in eight aspects to strengthen weaknesses in infrastructure and public services in rural areas.

The government will continue to prioritize efforts to lift the quality of education, improve healthcare services and bolster the level of social security in rural areas. The treatment of prominent problems in ecology and the environment in rural areas will also be prioritized.

Han stressed that the government must respect the will of farmers during the process and avoid oversimplified and sweeping policies.

The policy document also highlighted the importance of stabilizing grain production and restoring the country's hog herds.

In ensuring food security, the country will diversify import channels, increase imports of agricultural products that meet domestic demand and adjust and improve a minimum-purchase-price system for rice and wheat, the document said.

It called for local authorities to carry out various policies supporting hog production and cancel unreasonable curbs on pig farms. Zheng Fengtian, a professor of rural development at Renmin University of China, said the policy document showcased the government's intensified measures this year to eliminate poverty in rural areas.

Local authorities must balance their ongoing efforts in curbing the novel coronavirus outbreak while encouraging farmers to stabilize agricultural production this farming season, he said.