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Ambassador Talks: Angola’s Ambassador To China Lauds Beijing’s Role In His Nation’s Post-War Recovery, Development

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Continuing our special Ambassador Talks series.

This year marks the 45th anniversary of Angola’s independence. Our reporter Wang Hui sat down with its ambassador to China, Joao Neto, to talk about his nation’s history, its modernizing economy, and its deep ties with China.

Located in Southwest Africa, Angola borders Congo in the north, Zambia in the east, Namibia in the south, and the Atlantic Ocean lies to its west, with a coastline stretching 1,650 kilometers. For some Angolans, its geography means one thing, opportunity.

JOAO NETO Angolan Ambassador to China “We hope Angola can become a real regional hub, and we can fully use its natural resources and geographic advantage to benefit the entirety of Africa. So, we have devoted more to infrastructure building, especially in terms of our transportation facilities such as building large airports, ports, railway network, and highways. With help from China, we hope we can turn Angola into a genuine regional transportation hub to facilitate regional economic development and the flow of people.”

But it’s not been easy for Angola to reach its goals. It was once a colony of Portugal. After winning its independence in 1975, the civil war soon broke out and continued for 27 years. The war destroyed 90 percent of the country’s infrastructure.

JOAO NETO Angolan Ambassador to China “China has always been Angola’s good friend. China provided a lot of support during the independence war. After the civil war, China has been an important power in terms of supporting Angola. China provided loans, and many Chinese companies have been involved in the post-war reconstruction.”

Since 2002, when the civil war finally ended, Angola has looked to maintain peace and stability by focusing on development. The country has abundant natural resources and its economy is currently being modernised and transformed. But it still faces a number of challenges.

WANG HUI CGTN Reporter “Angola is the second-largest oil producer in Africa. Oil prices have been dropping since 2014. And the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated that trend. What measures are you taking to handle this situation?”

JOAO NETO Angolan Ambassador to China “For a long time, our economy has been over-reliant on oil. It inspires us that we need to develop a strategy to diversify our economy. In fact, besides oil, other resources in Angola are also abundant, including agriculture, water, the climate, arable land, fishing, and mining. We also have a long coastline. We will gradually get rid of our reliance on oil and change its dominant position.”

WANG HUI CGTN Reporter “Angola is also facing the problem of paying back heavy debt. And China is Angola’s biggest creditor.”

JOAO NETO Angolan Ambassador to China “About debt, we’ve maintained close contact with China and also gained China’s understanding. But we know all too well that the most practical and effective way to lessen the debt is to develop the nation’s economy. If our economic model is healthy and reasonable, our demand for loans will be less strong.”

Angola is now the third-largest economy, and one of the largest and most attractive investment environments in sub-Saharan Africa.

JOAO NETO Angolan Ambassador to China “The fundamental strategy of developing the economy is to open the door to attract foreign investments. We need to facilitate economic development, create a healthy market, and try to lessen the government’s interference in the market. The government plans to privatise more than 190 enterprises from 2019-2022.”

WANG HUI CGTN Reporter “Some investors may be concerned about corruption. How would you ease their concerns?”

JOAO NETO Angolan Ambassador to China “Corruption has been a problem for years, which is undeniable. Our president has been taking firm and strong measures to crack down on corruption, which is one of the focuses of his presidency. By far, the crackdown on corruption has gone deep into the judiciary, and we’ve seen some positive results. We want to retrieve public interests, reshape Angolans’ opinions about values, and improve social morals.”

This is a special year for Angola, as it marks the 45th anniversary of the nation’s independence.

WANG HUI CGTN Reporter “How do you see the future development of Angola? What role do you think China can play in that?”

JOAO NETO Angolan Ambassador to China “China has been Angola’s friend for a long time. China is a very important strategic partner for Angola. During the last discussion between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Angolan President Joao Lourenco, President Xi stressed that China will fully support Angola’s development and support Chinese companies to develop the country. Angola needs China, and the abundant natural resources of Angola will also reward China. The two countries’ cooperation complements each other. I believe the two countries’ political and economic relations will become closer.”

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Xi Jinping Announces China’s Eradication Of Extreme Poverty

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Chinese President Xi Jinping announced China’s eradication of extreme poverty at a national commendation conference held in Beijing on Thursday.

With such achievements, China has created another “miracle” that will “go down in history,” Xi said. “Shaking off poverty is not the finish line, but the starting point of a new life and new endeavor.”

Xi put forward the concept of “targeted poverty alleviation” in November 2013 during an inspection tour of central China’s Hunan Province.

Focus on poverty eradication in country’s governance 

The Communist Party of China (CPC) has been working to improve people’s livelihood since its foundation, and the CPC Central Committee has kept poverty eradication at a prominent position in the country’s governance over the past eight years, Xi said.

More than 10 million impoverished people were lifted out of poverty on average each year since the 18th National Congress of the CPC in 2012.

During these eight years, the final 98.99 million impoverished rural residents living under the current poverty line were lifted out of poverty. All the 832 impoverished counties and 128,000 impoverished villages have been removed from the poverty list.

In addition, 770 million rural residents have shaken off poverty since the beginning of reform and opening-up over 40 years ago, when calculated as per the current poverty line, Xi said.

Reviewing China’s effort over the past eight years, Xi said the country totally invested fiscal funds of nearly 1.6 trillion yuan (about $246 billion) into poverty alleviation and adopted a targeted poverty alleviation strategy, striving to eradicate poverty through development.

Meanwhile, over 1,800 workers lost lives for the country’s cause of poverty alleviation, Xi added.

‘China example’ of poverty reduction

“The country has created a ‘China example’ of poverty reduction and made great contributions to global poverty alleviation,” Xi said.

China met the poverty eradication target set in the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development 10 years ahead of schedule, and according to the World Bank’s international poverty line, the number of Chinese people lifted out of poverty over the past 40 years accounts for more than 70 percent of the global total, Xi noted.

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Targeted Poverty Alleviation – The Chinese Path To Fighting Poverty

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A total of 832 counties, 128,000 villages and nearly 100 million people were living in poverty. This was the reality that China had to face. The task of providing support to them all wasn’t easy, and making sure that everyone receives the exact help they needed was even harder.

“Who were these people and where were they located? If you are intent on leaving no one behind, then you have to locate each and every one of them and tailor relief measures accordingly,” said Lin Wanlong, professor of economics and management at China Agriculture University.

In November 2013, during an inspection tour of central China’s Hunan, Chinese President Xi Jinping first raised the concept of “targeted poverty alleviation.” To crystalize it, he said one should “seek truth from facts, tailor measures to suit local conditions, give targeted guidance, and be meticulous about the work.” These points have become the guiding principle in China’s fight against poverty.

Workers make brooms at a poverty alleviation workshop in Huade County of Ulanqab, north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, April 11, 2020. /Xinhua

The first step of the targeted poverty alleviation campaign is to locate poverty through accurate identification, which means specifying survey data by matching it with individuals and households. Are there any better-off families in impoverished counties? Are there any poor households in rich townships? How does one differentiate whether a family really needs help? These were the first challenges that the campaign had to overcome.

“When I was just assigned to the township, I was informed that there were over 2,300 households and about 8,000 people living in poverty. But nobody knew who exactly they were,” said Zhu Shengjiang, head of Yeping Town in Jiangxi Province’s Ruijin City.

In a township of over 70,000 people, a poor population of over 8,000 was scattered among 399 villager groups. Zhu and his colleagues had to go door-to-door and look meticulously into their respective family conditions. Once poverty is identified, they would set up file for the households and log their information onto system.

Screenshot shows the digitally-stored information of impoverished individuals. /CGTN

The ultimate aim of poverty alleviation is to ensure people don’t have to worry about food and clothing and have access to compulsory education, basic medical services and safe housing. Commonly known as the “two assurances and three guarantees,” these are the key indicators for poverty relief officials to identify who exactly needs help.

“In each household, we look at things like whether there is sufficient working capacity, whether the child is receiving education and whether all family members are healthy. If the answer is no in all these categories, then we have found a household that really needs help,” said Zeng Nenggui, director of poverty relief office in Ruijin City.

The launching of a national digital database has enabled data to cover each and every registered village, household and individual, which not only ensures the accuracy of poverty identification but helps nail down the causes of poverty for those who are in the system.

“These households are like a benchmark. What we do is to analyze their conditions and come up with tailor-made measures to lift them out of poverty,” said Lu Chunsheng, director of the Information Center of the National Bureau of Rural Development. “For example, if a family remains poor because they couldn’t receive proper education, our relief measures should include granting student loans and subsidies. If poverty is caused by a family member’s poor health conditions, we then should provide them with sufficient healthcare.”

Prescribing the right remedy is the key. Under President Xi’s guidance, the targeted poverty alleviation campaign has five key measures.

Development & Production

All 832 registered counties have formulated industrial plans to fight against poverty, with over 300,000 industrial bases in farming, planting and processing being constructed on site.

Relocation

More than 96 million registered people have moved into over 2.66 million newly constructed houses, all equipped with water, electricity, gas and internet. Transportation is convenient with better roads built.

Screenshot shows houses that were built to take in impoverished households. /CGTN

Ecological compensation

Over 1.1 million registered people have been employed as ecological forest rangers, directly lifting a total of 3 million out of poverty.

Education

About 200,000 students who dropped out of school due to poverty have now returned to school. More than 8 million students from poor families who failed to continue their studies or get employed after finishing high school have received vocational education for free.

Screenshot shows students at school. /CGTN

Social security

Since 2016, a total of 19.36 million registered people have been included in the subsistence allowance, support and relief system.

To ensure that poverty is truly lifted, the strictest assessment system has been put in place. For each county to declare it has officially left poverty behind, it has to be thoroughly assessed by a third-party inspection team.

“We have never encountered such rigorous measures,” said Zhang Shibin, former director of the poverty alleviation office of Yunnan Province’s Luquan Yi and Miao Autonomous County. ” During the third-party inspection, village officials are not even allowed to follow these teams into the village.”

The targeted poverty alleviation campaign has perfectly embodied China’s practical and down-to-earth approach in battling poverty, opening up a path that accommodates the country’s realities while reflecting unique Chinese characteristics.

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Poverty Alleviation, A Solemn Promise Fulfilled By Chinese Leadership

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With its fundamental purpose of serving the people heart and soul, the Communist Party of China (CPC) has been devoted to leading the nation towards building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, and has helped it achieve miraculous results in reducing poverty.

“Seeing that poor people and impoverished areas will enter the moderately prosperous society together with the rest of the country is a solemn promise made by our Party,” Chinese President Xi Jinping had said.

CMG recently released a feature television series “Poverty Alleviation”, recounting how China has lifted millions out of poverty. The first episode features an overview of how the Chinese leadership fulfilled its solemn promise of lifting all rural residents living below the current poverty line out of poverty by 2020.

Screenshot of the first episode of CMG Special “Poverty Alleviation”. /CGTN

‘Up and Out of Poverty’

China launched large-scale poverty relief programs in 1982. Xi Jinping was sent down to work in the county of Zhengding, Hebei Province at that point in time. From March 1982 to May 1985, Xi worked as deputy secretary and then secretary of the CPC Zhengding County Committee. Some of his speeches and articles from this period were published in his book “Up and Out of Poverty.”

As Xi wrote: “I worked hard during the two years in Ningde Prefecture, along with the people and Party members there. I always felt a sense of unease. Poverty alleviation is an immense undertaking that requires the efforts of several generations.”

He then brought his dream of poverty reduction to the center of China’s political life.

Screenshot of the first episode of CMG Special “Poverty Alleviation.” /CGTN

Targeted poverty alleviation, a new strategy

The number of poor people recognized by the Chinese government counted 99.89 million at the end of 2012 – a population larger than all but a few countries.

In November 2013, during an inspection tour of Hunan, President Xi first raised the concept of “targeted poverty alleviation.”

This concept of tailoring relief policies to different local conditions became a guiding principle in China’s fight against poverty.

In November 2015, at the Central Conference on Poverty Alleviation and Development, Xi further pointed out that poverty alleviation should focus on four issues – who exactly needs help, who should implement poverty alleviation initiatives, how poverty alleviation should be carried out, and what standards and procedures should be adopted for exiting poverty.

To address these issues while carrying out targeted poverty alleviation, about 800,000 officials were sent on frontline poverty-relief missions, working at local levels.

Screenshot of the first episode of CMG Special “Poverty Alleviation”. /CGTN

‘No one will be left behind’

By the end of 2016, there were more than 43 million people, or about 3 percent of China’s population, living in poverty. However, to lift up the remaining poor population, many of whom lived in areas without roads, clean drinking water or power, would be the toughest.

“Eradicating poverty has always been a tough battle, while eradicating poverty in extremely poor areas is the hardest fight of all,” Xi said.

The country in 2017 demarcated three regions and three prefectures, including the Tibet Autonomous Region and the Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan Province, as the poorest areas in the country. More resources were allocated to these areas.

“On the march towards common prosperity, no one will be left behind,” Xi had promised.

Screenshot of the first episode of CMG Special “Poverty Alleviation”. /CGTN

‘Two assurances and three guarantees’

At the end of 2018, the nation’s impoverished population was reduced to 16.6 million, taking the poverty alleviation journey to the “last mile.” But poverty alleviation work in China still faced many challenges.

Some local authorities and departments fudged or exaggerated their poverty alleviation statistics to score political points.

Speaking at a symposium on the fight against poverty in April of 2019, the Chinese president called for efforts to resolve prominent problems in assuring the food and clothing needs of the rural poor population are met and guarantee they have access to compulsory education, basic medical services and safe housing, referred to as the “two assurances and three guarantees.”

The ministries then launched an extensive campaign to resolve outstanding problems and at the end of 2019, 5.2 million people’s “two assurances and three guarantees” issues were solved.

Screenshot of the first episode of CMG Special “Poverty Alleviation.” / CGTN

Reached anti-poverty goals despite COVID-19

The year 2020 was no ordinary year for China and the world. The COVID-19 pandemic coupled with floods in southern China posed daunting challenges to the national fight against penury.

According to the World Bank, the COVID-19 pandemic is estimated to have pushed an additional 88-115 million people into extreme poverty in 2020, which means global extreme poverty is expected to rise for the first time in over 20 years.

President Xi stressed at a symposium on securing a decisive victory in poverty alleviation in March 2020 that lifting all rural residents living below the current poverty line out of poverty by 2020 is a solemn promise made by the CPC Central Committee, and it must be fulfilled on time.

The country took stronger and more effective measures to ensure the full eradication of poverty on schedule. More efforts were made to minimize losses caused by natural disasters, and speed up the restoration of production and living orders in disaster-stricken poor areas.

Ministers also stepped up monitoring and gave timely assistance to prevent people from falling back into poverty.

In December 2020, President Xi announced that after eight years of unremitting efforts, all rural poor population have been lifted out of poverty and nearly 100 million poor people have shaken off poverty.

 

 

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