by Xinhua writers Zhong Qun and Zhang Hui
RUIJIN, Jiangxi, June 27 (Xinhua) -- After a night of rain seeping through the cracks in Hua Chongqi's ramshackle house, his arthritic knees creak and complain worse than ever.
Years of living in the dark, dank hovel in Ganzhou -- a center of the early revolutionary activities of the Communist Party of China(CPC) -- have taken their toll on Hua's health.
Tucked away in east China's boundless mountains, the mud shack that Hua and his wife Liu Daoxiu, 77, call home covers less than 20 square meters and is little more that a windowless room with simple, old household items: a stove; a rickety wooden table and a few oily bowls; a big, blurred heirloom mirror propped against the moldy wall.
On the simple wooden door hangs a ragged poster of Mao Zedong. Outside, flutter a pair of Duilian, hanging scrolls of optimistic poetic couplets. All around are the marks of damp and water damage.It rains a lot in Jiangxi.
"When it rains, the roof leaks and we put out washbasins to catch the drips," said Hua from his perch on a wooden stool. "Because the house was built with earth, it is susceptible to water damage."
Liu Daoxiu is scared that on rainy or windy days the weather will completely destroy their home.
There are no modern domestic appliances, because of the low voltage. The only modern thing in the house is an MP3 player. Liu is a pious Buddhist and the gadget constantly cranks out Buddhist music.
"Some villagers bought washing machines which they now use to store sweet potatoes instead of washing clothes. When my children tried to buy us some electric appliances, we just told them to save their money," Hua said.
The couple have lived in poverty for years. They depended on 240 yuan (38.40 U.S. dollars) a month from the government and support from their children. They are exemplars of the picture all across Ganzhou. The once glorious center of China's early revolution is now a miserable wasteland of wartime damage, unfavorable geological conditions and a dearth of government preferential policies.
STRUGGLING WITH POVERTY
Ganzhou is an inland city with a complicated landscape in Jiangxi Province. It was important in early revolutionary activities thanks to its remoteness, but the wartime geographical advantage has now become a developmental stumbling block.
Just after reform got underway in the late 70s, the government tried to push regional development, but Ganzhou won no major projects or key investment due to its geography, hence industrial growth is slow to nonexistent. Ganzhou's rate of industrialization in 2010 stood at a mere 38 percent, equal to the national level in the 1990s.
In recent years, whatever capital and human resources the area possessed have flown to the eastern seaboard, dragging the city even deeper into the economic mire.
More than 200,000 people in Ganzhou struggle under the national poverty line (annual earnings under 2,300 yuan), with many still living in mud brick houses like Hua Chongqi.
POVERTY ALLEVIATION CAMPAIGN
To help tackle Ganzhou's poverty, a central government circular in 2012 made some bold promises. Since then, a number of projects have taken place in the area.
In 2013, 186 projects were initiated at a cost of 75 billion yuan, up 25 percent from the previous year. The city also received government subsidies of 32 billion yuan, 11 billion yuan more than 2011. GDP was up10.5 percent, and GDP per capita exceeded 3,000 U.S. dollars for the first time.
With Saturday marking the second anniversary of the policy, the local government is determined to take the campaign to a new level. Over 142,000 mud houses will be replced with modern ones. Ganzhou plans to help over 400,000 people get access to safe drinking water, build 2,800 km of new roads and rebuild 100 bridges.
"We also plan to relocate 100,000 people from mountainous areas, or in places prone to natural disasters," Zhang Guanjun of the city publicity department told Xinhua.
Zhang added that the government will develop local industries and train the farmers with new skills to help them find jobs after relocation.
A new row of houses is already going up near Hua Chongqi's hovel. Hua and his wife expect to move in October and bid farewell to the old house and the old lifestyle that they have tolerated for so long.
"I am looking forward to a new life," Hua said. "Who would want to live in a house like this anymore?" (Shen Yang and Yuan Huijing from Jiangxi contributed to the report)