by Xinhua writers Li Laifang and Cao Bin
BEIJING, Dec. 28 (Xinhua) -- Residents in Luotuowan village have a busy winter this year. They are building new houses and new roads, a scene never seen in these parts before.
"In past winters, elders just squatted at their house gates to enjoy sunshine with hands buried in sleeves, and some laborers climbed up hills to collect firewood," said Gu Runjin, 68, a Party official in the mountain village in Hebei Province.
"The traditional restful winter has become a busy one," he said.
Deep in the Taihang Mountains, Fuping County, which administers Luotuowan village, has been under a national poverty reduction program since the mid-1990s. In 2013, the county's registered poverty-stricken population was around 110,000, or 48 percent of its total.
Great changes started taking place in this remote village after a visit by Xi Jinping in December 2012, shortly after he was elected general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee.
During his 2012 trip to the county, Xi told officials to work hard to help villagers in poverty live a better life as soon as possible.
NEW HOMES NEW LIVES
Tang Rongbin, 73, from Luotuowan, and Gu Chenghu, 65, from Gujiatai village, were both visited by Xi in 2012 and then had had their homes rebuilt and living standards improved.
"My current living conditions are almost the same as someone living in the city. I used to live in a clay house and was not accustomed to my new home when I moved in," Gu said. His new house has four bedrooms, a living room and a kitchen.
Since 2013 Gu and his son have been working in construction in the village, earning 200 yuan (29 U.S. dollars) per day. They also receive 4,000 yuan per year to rent their farmland.
Tang Rongbin's house was renovated with a government fund.
"I never dreamed of living in such a house before," he said. He rents three rooms of his house to a tourism company.
Farmers in Luotuowan no longer cultivate the traditional crops of potato and corn, once their major income source. Instead, they grow apple trees and mushrooms, with investment from two companies. This brings more income in the form of rents, salaries and bonuses from the two firms.
Per capita income in the village increased to 3,000 yuan in 2015 from less than 1,000 in 2012. In 2015 alone, 48 families escaped from poverty.
"Poverty reduction cannot simply rely on 'transfusing blood.' We must take advantage of resources and develop industries," said Xu Xiangdong, an official from the provincial housing department who was dispatched to the village to help eradicate poverty.
It is common for officials to be chosen to work in villages on poverty reduction.
In the past four years, Fuping County's per capita income of farmers increased from 3,262 yuan to 5,815 yuan in 2015, and its poverty-hit population has been reduced to 60,000, said Hao Guochi, Fuping Party secretary.
China is aiming to eradicate rural poverty by 2020, lifting the remaining 55 million rural poor out of poverty, roughly 10 million each year. The country's poverty line is 2,300 yuan in annual income.
AGRITAINMENT AND INDUSTRIES CUT POVERTY
Xi has visited a number of villages and counties since 2012, repeatedly stressing the importance of poverty reduction and creating policy to address the issue.
Liang Qiang, 26, began sweeping the scattered snow from his courtyard at first light Wednesday. He was expecting a dozen tourists to dine and rest at his lodgings. Liang is in "agritainment," a trend to incorporate entertainment on farms and in rural tourist areas.
Liang is a villager in Shaanxi Province's Liangjiahe, where Xi worked as a rural laborer from 1969 to 1975. He started his business in May 2015, just three months after President Xi visited the village.
During the tour, Xi said revolutionary bases were the roots of the Party and the army, and that they should not be forgotten, as wisdom and power is obtained from history.
"Without the development of old revolutionary bases, we will not be able to achieve a moderately prosperous society," Xi said.
Liang has 18 big tables and three small ones in his 100-square-meter rural guesthouse. Nearly 200 people can dine under the same roof every day at busy times.
He hired six chefs and adjusted the menu to feature local specialties. High-speed wifi is also available for customers as they are waiting.
"Net income will exceed 200,000 yuan this year," said Liang, who was a miner with a monthly income of about 5,000 yuan three years ago.
Liangjiahe is expected to receive over 900,000 visitors this year, bringing 13 million yuan in revenue. Per capita income will reach 18,000 yuan.
Targeted poverty alleviation is the household name for a policy that was put forward by President Xi during his inspection tour to the central province of Hunan in November 2013.
Development is the general method to eliminate poverty, and governments in poverty-hit regions should suit their measures to different conditions and help locals find out ways to shake off poverty, he said during the trip.
Shibadong is a Miao minority village and was labeled "poor" at the time. Shibadong in Chinese means 18 caves, and there are 18 natural karst caves in the village. Scarcity of arable land was the biggest obstacle to local villagers hoping to improve their lives.
"We are poor in resources, but rich in fascinating culture and landscape," said Gong Haihua, the village head.
Inspired by Xi's idea of targeted poverty alleviation, the village committee started supporting industries such as breeding, planting, Miao embroidery and village tourism, as well as labor export.
In cooperation with a rural cooperative, the village arranged for over 66.7 hectares of land elsewhere to be planted with kiwis, a popular fruit.
The kiwis base was expanded this year and helped villagers in other townships to shake off poverty, said Shi Jintong, a township official stationed in Shibadong village.
Tourism is booming in Shibadong. The per capita net income of villagers was 3,580 yuan last year, up 115 percent from 2013.
"We really thank general secretary a lot," said Shi Quanyou, a Shibadong resident, who returned home from outside three years ago and opened the first restaurant for visitors in the village.
China is determined to win the war against poverty, by adopting various means to reduce poverty, such as e-commerce, financing, industries, relocation and improvement of infrastructure.
The country expects to achieve its target of lifting 10 million people out of poverty this year and has set the same target for next year.