Editor's note: China has witnessed unprecedented changes in the past 10 years. The country is forging ahead on its latest journey, toward even greater heights in the new era.
There was nothing but barren Gobi Desert when Xie Xingchang and his family were relocated from Xihaigu, an area in the Ningxia Hui autonomous region that was once dubbed one of the most uninhabitable regions in China.
It was 1997 and Xie, who was then a village chief, was painstakingly trying to convince his fellow villagers that the resettlement, which would later be known as Minning, could present a more promising future than their arid homeland did.
Xie said he was fully convinced, knowing that the farmland in the new settlement was more fertile and water for irrigation could be diverted from a section of the Yellow River not far away.
"Life here was even harder, and we were starting from scratch. But there was hope. In our old home, there was no hope and no end of suffering in sight," he recalled, referring to the crippling water shortage, frequent crop failures and forbidding natural conditions in Xihaigu.
Behind the resettlement program was a vision proposed by Xi Jinping, who was then deputy secretary of the Communist Party of China Fujian Provincial Committee, as he oversaw the pairing-off cooperation between the more affluent Fujian province in East China and Ningxia for poverty alleviation.
The vision slowly panned out. As villagers were resettled, aid packages poured in, including initiatives to help farmers grow mushrooms and grapes and to raise cattle. The yearly per capita disposable income of residents of Minning, which now boasts 66,000 residents, increased from 500 yuan ($79) to 14,960 yuan in 2020.
The vision of transforming Minning was spread nationwide after Xi became general secretary of the CPC Central Committee in 2012, and poverty alleviation was put at the top of the nation's political agenda.
With 98.99 million rural residents still mired in poverty in 2012, Xi made a powerful appeal for the fight against extreme material deprivation during a visit to impoverished villages in Hebei province in early 2013.
He set out a targeted poverty reduction strategy during his visit later that year to Shibadong, an impoverished village in Hunan province.
Resettlement programs similar to that in Minning were rolled out nationwide for residents of harsh natural environments, as the nation relocated about 10 million people to areas with better natural and economic conditions.
With Friday marking the first anniversary of China's declaration of complete victory in its fight against absolute poverty, some analysts have highlighted the global implications of the nation's fight against poverty.
Yu Xiaohua, a professor of agricultural economics at the University of Goettingen in Germany, said the most important global implication for China's poverty alleviation campaign is that a strong political commitment is the single most important factor in ensuring eventual victory.
"The government must put poverty alleviation at the top of its policy agenda, and that is the strongest guarantee for reaching the goal," he said.
"The top-down passing of the political pledge to eradicate extreme poverty became the most critical driving force for poverty alleviation in China and a decisive factor for victory," said Liang Xiaomin, an associate research fellow at the Center for International Knowledge on Development.
She said the targeted poverty alleviation strategy adopted by China in 2013 played a crucial role in solving the "last mile" problem and became China's strongest weapon in its fight against poverty.
As for financial input, China devoted a total fiscal investment of about 1.6 trillion yuan－including 660.1 billion yuan from the central budget－during the 2013-20 period, according to official figures.
Even with China's decisive victory against poverty, Xi has pledged no complacency, but instead unwavering commitment to lifting the living standards of rural residents.
During the grand gathering marking the victory of the poverty alleviation fight last year, Xi said shaking off absolute poverty is not the end, but the starting point of a new life and new endeavor.
"We don't have any reason for exaggerated pride, self-satisfaction or complacency. We must build on this momentum and continue with persistent efforts," he said.
Preventing the recurrence of poverty remained a priority in many policy documents released in 2021 and this year, as authorities rolled out steps to monitor rural residents' income, help impoverished groups bolster their income and beef up policy support to key regions.
The nation devoted 156.1 billion yuan in 2021 to promoting rural vitalization, more than half of which was used to develop rural industries and provide employment for individuals who have shaken off poverty, according to the National Rural Vitalization Administration.
The per capita disposal income of those lifted from poverty reached 12,550 yuan last year, up by 16.9 percent year-on-year, the administration said.
Tang Renjian, minister of agriculture and rural affairs, said the income level of the population that has just shaken off poverty was still low, and that impoverishment could still recur among certain groups in scenarios of natural disasters, disease and accidents.
Yu, the professor, said China still has a long way to go in bridging the income gap between rural and urban residents and developing rural industries.
"The growth of industries is the key underpinning for rural vitalization. It will be almost impossible to vitalize rural areas without support from industries," he said.
Hugo Jones, a research associate on China at the London School of Economics' foreign policy think tank, LSE IDEAS, said China will eventually have to make the transition from the poverty alleviation campaign to helping its vulnerable groups in a more sustainable manner. "Given the scale of China's developmental successes to date and its remarkable capacity to defy odds stacked against its favor, this transition may well be within sight."
Xie, the village chief, said he still sees immense potential for the growth of Minning even after its exponential growth over the past decades.
His family now runs an e-commerce store selling local agricultural produce, and he hopes that more businesses will invest in the township to create more local job opportunities.
He is appealing to local authorities to set up a vocational high school to enable more training opportunities for the youth.
"For our generation, the solution to changing our lives was to resettle and work hard. For the next generation, the solution will be better education," he said.
Hu Dongmeiin Yinchuan contributed to this story.