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Kucong Villages, Refreshed Outlook Year by Year
Text by Yu Ge


By the beginning of 2008, a total of 54 Kucong villages had been reconstructed. Over 2,000 people from 410 households moved into new homes.


The interview for this article took place in 2008, demonstrating a case of poverty alleviation and development in China in the last three decades. It was the year when China's absolute poverty standards and low income standards both adopted an annual per capita income of less than 1,067 yuan as the poverty line. From then on, providing food and clothing for the poor in rural areas became the primary goal. Measures for large-scale poverty alleviation and economic development continued with a focus on poverty-stricken pockets.

In the middle of the Ailao Mountain in the Hengduan Mountains of Yunnan, there is an ethnic group called 'Kucong people'. In August 1987, by identifying the characteristics of this group, and in accordance with the will of all Kucong people, Yunnan Provincial Government recognized the Kucong as part of the Lahu ethnic group and decided to resume the Lahu title for more than 30,000 of the Kucong in the province from August 9, 1987. There are 15,263 Kucong people inhabiting Zhenyuan County of Pu'er City, which accounts for nearly half of the group's population in the province. 

Kucong people directly entered socialism from the end of primitive society. Before the 1950s, slash-and-burn cultivation and hunting and gathering remained their main mode of production. Since the founding of the People's Republic of China, both central and local governments have laid great importance on the development of Kucong people and their region. The efforts were redoubled after the Central Government launched the "8-7 National Poverty Reduction Program" in 1994, which was aimed at basically eliminating absolute poverty for 80 million people in seven years. Aggregate funds to Kucong ethnic minority areas for poverty alleviation had reached almost 130 million yuan by 2008.

As the production and living environment is extremely bad due to high mountains, steep slopes and crisscrossing ravines in the area of Kucong people, improvements in production and living standards in the area were slow. Until 2005, per capita net income was only 187 yuan, with per capita ration 170 kilosgrams and 6,600 people still living in cottages or bamboo houses.

Diao Yinghui from the Publicity Department of Zhenyuan County of Pu'er City vividly recalls that in July 2005, a domestic media team came to explore the history of the ancient tea route in Guizhou, Sichuan and Yunnan areas. When they arrived in Kucong villages deep in the mountains, some journalists remarked, "We can't believe there are people still living in such backwardness in the alpine mountain region."

The journalists then published a report titled "Kucong People from Yunnan's Zhenyuan Still Live in Poverty". In November, the Central Government put forward a plan to "implement supportive policy in areas inhabited by ethnic minorities with a smaller population, and take effective measures in alleviating Kucong people's poverty as soon as possible."


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