Internet-empowered poverty relief revitalizes rural China

By Gu Zhongyang, Chang Qin, People’s Daily


Internet has given a big leg up to poverty alleviation in Longnan, northwest China’s Gansu province in recent years. In the demonstration city of poverty alleviation by e-commerce, e-marketing is now a new “farm work” for local farmers.

Zhang Jiacheng is one of the many that have turned into anchors on livestreaming platforms. Last year, the wholesale prices of apples have tripled. By showing his followers around in his apple orchard on a livestreaming platform, the man earned more than 200,000 ($28,239) yuan last year.

Since China promoted internet services in rural areas for poverty alleviation more than three years ago, rural areas have seen constantly improving network infrastructure.

With the help of the internet, distinctive agricultural products from rural areas are reaching more places in the country, and high-quality education and medical resources have become available in rural areas, revitalizing the countryside with better internet connectivity.

Local government in Longnan has vigorously supported the e-commerce sector in recent years. The city is home to 14,372 online shops and more than 33,000 individual e-commerce businesses. In 2019, the average per capita income of impoverished people in the city increased by 840 yuan spurred by e-commerce.

536 state-level impoverished counties are learning from Longnan’s experience in relieving poverty through e-commerce, according to the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development.

E-commerce now covers all 832 state-level poor counties across China. In rural China, there are about 1,700 county-level e-commerce public service centers and logistics and distribution centers, as well as more than 130,000 village-level e-commerce service stations.

Besides, the country has trained more than five million people for e-commerce in rural areas. Last year, the online retail sales of agricultural products reached 397.5 billion yuan, 1.5 times higher than that in 2016.

The deepening internet-driven poverty alleviation has been constantly optimizing network infrastructure in poverty-stricken areas.

As of October 2019, more than 98 percent of China’s administrative villages had been connected with optical fiber network and 4G network, and 99 percent of the impoverished villages had been linked with broadband internet services. The internet has not only boosted sales of agricultural products, but also profoundly changed the lives of the poor people.

Besides, the internet has strengthened the role of education in poverty relief in rural China.

Li Zimin is a junior middle school student in Hulu township, Guangzong county, north China’s Hebei province. As she introduced, she now has two teachers – a top teacher invited by the school for tele-education classes, and a local teacher assisting the former in the classroom.

Li noted that in the college entrance examination four years ago, only one student in her county was admitted to first-tier universities, and the figure jumped to 112 last year.

Internet-based education is introducing more excellent education resources to impoverished areas, such as top teachers, schools and education institutions, greatly curbing the intergenerational poverty.

Telemedicine is another sector where the internet could play a role in poverty alleviation. Recently, doctors from a hospital in Lingtai county, Pingliang of northwest China’s Gansu province, conducted remote consultations via a video link with a health center in the county’s Dudian township for a poor villager named Zhang Hongcai in Zhangpo village.

“It’s convenient and economical to invite doctors from the county hospital to take part in my treatment via the video link,” the farmer said happily.

Internet-based healthcare provides impoverished people with convenient access to quality medical resources, playing an important role in preventing people from fall into or slipping back to poverty due to illness.

However, to have the internet play a bigger role in poverty alleviation, China still needs to bolster areas of weakness as soon as possible, for instance, the logistics.

Statistics indicate that 96.6 percent of the Chinese townships have established delivery service stations, but such facilities are only available in 35 percent of the villages. To bring more agricultural products out of the rural areas, a special project was launched by the State Post Bureau, aiming to offer express delivery services to all incorporated villages in three years.

The industrial chain should also be improved so that the internet could better facilitate poverty alleviation. For instance, when the COVID-19 epidemic brought troubles to the picking and sales of 170,000 tons of navel oranges in Zigui county, Hubei province, local farmers and e-commerce platforms worked together for solutions.

“We adopted a video monitoring system to oversee the harvesting, sorting and packing of the fruits. We also measured the size of the fruits with calipers and the sweetness of the fruits with refractometers. Examinations were carried out once abnormity was spotted,” said an executive of an e-commerce platform.

Alleviating the shortage of talents helps internet-empowered poverty alleviation go further and steadily.

Juncheng county in east China’s Shandong province has established a school to cultivate online influencers. By organizing regular training on making short videos and livestreaming hosting, the school has exported a number of farmers that are adept at using the internet, livestreaming and e-marketing. By integrating livestreaming with offline industries, the county has sold its products to the whole country.

Workers sort apples at an e-commerce center of a fruit company in Yanguan township, Longnan, northwest China’s Gansu province, April 15. The fruits will be distributed to places across the country. Photo by Li Xuchun/People’s Daily Online

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