Autonomy, Ethnicity, and Poverty in Southwestern China: The by Chih-yu Shih (auth.)

By Chih-yu Shih (auth.)

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Extra resources for Autonomy, Ethnicity, and Poverty in Southwestern China: The State Turned Upside Down

Sample text

As the next sections show, the simple confusion about the meaning of poverty affects the self-images of ethnic villagers in the mountains and their ability to formulate their own discourse on poverty. The Chinese government has been determined to tackle the issue of poverty, especially in the minority areas, since the early 1980s. However, there has been no systematic attempt to clarify the definition of poverty. In theory, most documents and public rhetoric regard poverty as a matter determined by low income or wealth.

Therefore, administrative incentives exist for officials to exaggerate the achievement of the Helping-the-Poor campaign. Specifically, almost all counties would fall below the national standard poverty line in Western Hunan. As a result, the county government is not forced to have the ability to eliminate poverty. There is little pressure for exaggeration in Western Hunan except that townships usually still have to meet the designated level of revenue imposed by the superior counties. In other areas where a single county below the poverty line threatens the whole region to be administratively out of poverty, the pressure to exaggerate is quite strong.

As a result, poverty is legitimately considered a maladaptation to the progressive force of the market. If poverty of culture is so severe to the point that the prospect of joining the market is slim, the emphasis of the Helping-the-Poor teams will be refocused upon providing basic needs instead of cultural reformation. The most typical projects in this regard include clean water, electricity, and village roads. While central authorities see the goal of the Helping-the-Poor campaign as eliminating poverty, teams in the field are satisfied with supplying basic needs.

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