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Out of poverty the Zhashui way
January 10,2018   By:Xinhua

BEIJING, Jan. 10, 2018 -- Mountainous Zhashui County is making a long trek out of poverty.

Having limited arable land and in a key area for water conservation, development is restricted and rigorously supervised. Zhashui in northwest China's Shaanxi Province used to be among the poorest counties in China, with 22.6 percent of its population below the poverty line.

"If our county was divided into 10 equal parts, nine would be covered by mountains. The remaining tenth would be half water and half farmland," said Chen Xuan, secretary of Zhashui committee of the Communist Party of China.

The scarcity of resources had held back the local community for years until an economic shift across the country turned their disadvantages into a road to an unexpected, brighter future.

"Clear waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets" is now a key principle in steering the economy along a green, sustainable path.

"The first priority now is to protect the environment and thereby to protect productivity," Chen said.

Mountains once considered useless have turned out to be a ready source of money. Zhashui's 82-percent forest coverage and 88-percent vegetation coverage are good for growing ingredients for traditional Chinese medicine, and a production base has been established.

Shannxi Panlong Pharmaceutical Group is the province's first public company in a poor area. Since its debut on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange in November, its share price has more than tripled. The medicine sector has contributed nearly 20 percent to the county's poverty reduction, Chen said.

Zhashui has also vigorously cultivated wood-ear, an edible fungus widely used in Chinese cuisine, and a 300-million yuan industry. The comparatively unspoilt landscape in easy striking distance of Xi'an, the capital city of Shannxi, has brought in many tourists.

The work have been translated into real results. By the end of last year, the proportion of population considered impoverished dropped to 15.8 percent.

Zhashui's drive to prosperity will go on. When the poor population falls below 3 percent, it will be removed from the list of poorest counties in China.

"We will fulfill the target of getting rid of poverty in a high-quality manner by 2019," Chen said.

China is aiming to eliminate absolute poverty by 2020, while creating a "moderately prosperous society."

Before Zhashui, 28 counties officially changed their status in 2016, which means China shortened the list of poorest counties for the first time in more than 30 years. The government estimates the number will rise to around 100 in 2017.

There were around 30 million Chinese living below the national poverty line at the end of last year, less than one-third of that five years ago.