China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region has achieved remarkable progress in poverty alleviation since 2012, thanks to the high importance attached by the central government on poverty reduction, as well as its efforts made to advance relocation, education, infrastructure, affordable housing projects, drinking water safety and ecology in the region and its border areas.
The central budget's transfer payments to Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region and the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps expanded from 263.69 billion yuan ($40.73 billion) to 422.48 billion yuan from 2014 to 2019. The annual growth was 10.4 percent. A total of over 2 trillion yuan has been distributed to the autonomous region, and the southern part of it enjoyed preferential support.
According to an announcement issued by the autonomous region on Nov. 14, 2020, all 3.09 million impoverished residents in Xinjiang have been lifted out of poverty. In addition, 3,666 villages and 32 counties were removed from the poverty list.
"Farming usually stopped in winter, so I barely had anything to do but to stay at home during this season before. This winter, however, I'm working at a factory near my house. I can not only make money, but also take care of my family at the same time. It's really great," said Maregul Hapiz, a registered impoverished resident from Xinhe county, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.
The woman now works at a local factory that produces flexible container bags. She goes to work every day after sending her child to school in the morning. The job has significantly increased the income of her family.
As a core region of the Silk Road Economic Belt, Xinjiang enjoys geographical advantages and rich resources, which lays a solid foundation for development. Based on the actual conditions in the autonomous region, the Chinese government tailored special policies to develop industries there, taking industrial development and employment as a critical part of the poverty alleviation efforts. The autonomous region created 450,000 new jobs each year on average, and the average annual relocation of surplus rural labor was more than 2.7 million people.
With a broad territory and a sparse population, Xinjiang saw an urgent need to enhance its infrastructure for better poverty alleviation. The central government also supports the autonomous region in developing transportation, water conservancy and power grid infrastructure projects, and remarkable achievements have been made in this regard.
As of the end of 2019, the total operational railway mileage in the autonomous region reached 6,900 kilometers, connecting all 14 districts, prefectures and cities there. In addition, all districts, prefectures and cities is connected to expressways. Three airports were newly put into use, making the number of civil airports in the region from 16 in 2014 to 21.
A total of 77.3 billion yuan was invested by the central government in Xinjiang's water conservancy projects. Sixteen projects were listed as major projects of water saving and supply of the country, and all of them are under construction. For instance, the Altash Water Conservancy Project in the southern prefecture of Kashgar has solved the inundation of the Yarkand River, benefiting 2.4 million residents along the river.
Since 2014, 640 million yuan has been invested to upgrade Xinjiang's power grid. Besides, the installed capacity of renewable energy in the autonomous region totaled 37.53 GW, accounting for 38.7 percent of the region's total installed capacity.
The education expenditure in Xinjiang's general public budget reached 86.29 billion yuan in 2019, up 50.37 percent from that in 2014. Schools at different levels and of different kinds are now better facilitated, and the enrollment rate at all ages is on a steady rise.
From 2014 to 2019, the autonomous region completed 1.69 million affordable housing projects in rural areas, and 1.56 million in urban areas, accommodating over 10 million residents. In addition, drinking water safety has been constantly improved. More than 4.62 million farmers and herdsmen there now have access to safe drinking water.
Xinjiang also enhanced its construction of urban and rural basic medical insurance network, achieving phased progress in the reform of the medicine and healthcare system. All of its township hospitals and village health centers are now standardized. The essential drugs system basically covers all of the autonomous region. The basic medical insurance for non-working urban residents and the new type of rural cooperative medical care were integrated. The autonomous county also joined a national network of basic medical insurance that supports cross-province real-time reimbursement from basic medical insurance.
Now a 2,485-kilometer natural gas pipeline project is put into use in the Tarim Basin, providing over 2 million cubic meters of natural gas for millions of residents in southern Xinjiang.
Pair assistance also contributed to Xinjiang's social and economic development. Between 2014 and 2019, 19 provinces in China enhanced their assistance to the autonomous region, offering 96.4 billion yuan for Xinjiang and the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps. Over 10,000 aiding projects have been implemented.
Enterprises across China invested a total of over 1.68 trillion yuan in Xinjiang. Central state-owned enterprises (SOEs) invested more than 700 billion yuan and completed construction contracts of over 200 billion yuan. The central SOEs created more than 300,000 jobs for local communities.