BEIJING, Aug. 13 (Xinhua) -- In the late 1930s, when the generals and soldiers of the Communist Party of China (CPC) established a revolutionary base in Lyuliang in north China's Shanxi Province, they didn't know this mountain city would remain poor 80 years later.
Among the 13 counties in Lyuliang, 10 counties and 3,350 villages are still considered regions in "abject poverty."
With about 128,000 villages and over 40 million people in China still living in poverty, the country's fight against invaders and oppressors decades ago has now turned into a fight against poverty, as more than 120 CPC members have sacrificed their lives in the fight.
In the past 30 years, even with 700 million people lifted out of poverty, abject poverty remains one of China's top concerns.
It persists not only in areas around old revolutionary bases, but also in ethnic minority regions, border areas, and places with poor infrastructure, fragile environmental conditions and frequent natural disasters.
In late June, Chinese President Xi Jinping went to Lyuliang to visit poor families and talk with officials in charge of poverty alleviation work.
Xi called on the villagers to "roll up your sleeves and work harder, together with the CPC Central Committee."
A RACE AGAINST TIME
China has set 2020 as the target year to complete the building of a moderately prosperous society, which requires the eradication of poverty. The task has become more difficult and costly as the process approaches its end.
According to global experience, the most difficult phase in poverty eradication is when the population living in poverty accounts for less than 10 percent of the overall population.
As of the end of 2016, there were still 43.35 million people in China living below the country's poverty line of 2,300 yuan (344.30 U.S. dollars) of annual income as constant with 2010 prices, accounting for about 3 percent of China's population.
To achieve the target in 2020, China needs to bring more than 10 million people out of poverty every year, meaning nearly one million people per month or 20 people per minute.
China is in a race with time, and President Xi has put himself on the front lines.
In December 2012, Xi was in Fuping County of Hebei Province, while in November 2013 he went to Huayuan County of Hunan Province, and in June 2015, he visited Zunyi County of Guizhou Province.
Lyuliang was the last stop of Xi's tour to the 14 poverty-stricken areas in China since becoming general secretary of the CPC Central Committee in 2012.
He visited the poor, talked with local officials, studied the local conditions and reviewed the poverty-alleviation work.
It is fair to say that poverty reduction has been at the top of Xi's priority list in the past five years.
According to Xi, if rural China, particularly impoverished areas, is left behind, there will be no "moderately prosperous society."
MISSION A MUST
To win this fight against poverty, the CPC Central Committee has been leading Chinese people in the march toward victory in the battle against poverty since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012.
As Xi said during his Lyuliang tour, the CPC must put people first and use socialism to concentrate resources and accomplish major tasks, including fighting poverty.
Financial support has played a leading role in the process. So far this year, more than 86 billion yuan has been spent on poverty alleviation.
Another method has been dispatching Party cadres to lead the work in poverty-stricken areas. Nearly one million people have been sent to needy villages so far.
Luo Junyuan was one of them. Dispatched by the agriculture department of south China's Jiangxi Province, he is now the first secretary of the Party committee of Paitou Village, which has long been impoverished.
"I came as a total stranger to the villagers, but kept focusing on details concerning their livelihood ever since," he said. "Now they regard me as their good friend."
The notes on Luo's work log spoke for themselves. He wrote down details such as villagers' wishes for the agriculture department to fulfill, and plans to give 24 elderly villages cotton quilts and handwarmers.
More than 195,000 first secretaries like Luo have been stationed in impoverished villages, while 775,000 Party cadres have been sent to assist their work, including local officials, retired armymen and even college graduates.
For many people living in poverty, relocation remains a crucial method.
It was estimated that from 2016 to 2020, around 10 million people will move away from impoverished areas, most of which are "locked" in mountains.
Zhang Zhengying, 82, has been moved from an adobe house in south China's mountainous Guizhou Province. Before that, he and his family were too poor to furnish his home properly due to the extremely difficult conditions.
Things changed as the government worked with companies to set up 50 relocation areas in the county before moving Zhang's family and their fellow villagers out of the mountains to resettle in areas with a business project for each family.
"Since the mass migration 300 years ago, poverty has troubled generations of our villagers," wrote Zhang Daiquan, a village historian. "The relocation finally shed some hope upon us."
DESIRE TO WIN
Xi has called on Chinese people to work together to win the key battle of poverty alleviation within the targeted timeframe.
In Xi's 2016 New Year Message, he said that "the 1.3 billion Chinese should forge ahead in a concerted endeavor" to build a moderately prosperous society in all aspects.
His calls were widely answered by those who have yet to eliminate poverty across China.
Nearly forty years ago, Yan Jinchang and his fellow farmers in a village in central China's Anhui didn't have full control of the land they farmed on, as the implementation of collective system at that time, limiting their economic rewards and living standard.
Unable to live with the hardship, Yan and his villagers signed a contract with local cadres to be allowed to produce by household, so that after handing in the quota harvest to the government, they could keep the rest for themselves or sell it. The contract immediately boosted the village's production and started a wave of land reform nationwide that changed history.
Over 30 years later, riding another wave of reform, Yan stamped a contract yet again to transfer the land-use rights to agricultural cooperatives. As a result, the annual income of his family surpassed 100,000 yuan for the first time ever in the following year.
For many, the unfading faith in striving for better lives has driven them to overcome the odds.
During the Chinese New Year in 2011, Yang Wenxue returned to his home in Hetao Village, which is also in the mountains of Guizhou, with the 130,000 yuan he earned in the provincial capital of Guiyang.
Instead of spending the money on his new house, Yang decided to use it to build a road that would connect the village with those outside the mountains, after seeing the poor traffic conditions and hearing the villagers' complaints.
The story quickly spread across the mountain villages, inspiring 21 other young men to join him in traveling to Guiyang for more money. Villagers were inspired to make their own contributions to the project.
A thousand days of hard work paid off. The road stretches two kilometers across the valley and along the villages.
Today, more than 30 brand new houses have been built in the village since the road was put in to use, and many young men have returned to start businesses.
For Liu Zonglu, the key to battling poverty lies in a broader vision and the awareness of market demands.
An orchardman with deep roots in the Yimeng Mountains of east China's Shandong Province, Liu used to sell his fruit only to nearby villages, until he heard that peaches could be sold for a high price in Dubai, yet Chinese peaches couldn't arrive there fresh due to the long distance.
With the news about the Belt and Road Initiative in mind, he went to Shanghai to consult experts on fruit preservation, and modified customs formalities after visiting customs authorities.
Seventeen days later, 20,000 kilograms of Liu's peaches arrived in Dubai, generating profits many times higher than before, as the peaches sold for over 20 yuan per kilogram there, compared to less than 1 yuan back in Shandong.
Such is the spirit of China's neediest people. Stricken by poverty for years, they have refused to succumb to the difficulties, and instead blazed their own trails out of poverty under the Party's leadership.
"To meet the people's desire for a happy life is our mission," Xi said five years ago at the press briefing following the 18th National Congress of the CPC, sounding the horn for the final charge toward China's 2020 goal.
For that, the people are confident and determined.
"We can't allow any laziness if we really want to get rid of poverty," Li Guozhi, a pepper grower from a poor village in Sichuan Province said.
"We must win the battle against poverty, even if I'm the only one left in it."