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China Daily journalist chronicles anti-poverty work in new book

CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2021-03-19 10:58
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Erik Nilsson [Photo provided to China Daily]

There has never been a better time to be alive. This is largely thanks to China's progress and especially its poverty alleviation efforts, particularly in recent years.

This was the message China Daily journalist and Chinese Government Friendship Award laureate Erik Nilsson emphasized at the recent Vision China event that explored the theme, "the way forward after beating poverty".

"Across virtually all metrics, across our planet, life has, on average, been getting better and doing so faster than we could have reasonably expected, even several years ago-and, arguably, than most of us realize today," said Nilsson, who has spent 15 years exploring poverty alleviation in remote areas in every provincial-level region on the Chinese mainland.

"China has been the main driver of global poverty alleviation. This truly embodies the spirit of a community of a shared destiny for mankind. I expect China's development will continue to accelerate to advance virtually every dimension of human well-being, not only within China but also the world."

The United States citizen said he has made it his "life's mission" to tell the story of China's poverty alleviation through journalism and especially through his new book, Closer to Heaven: A Global Nomad's Journey Through China's Poverty Alleviation, published by China Intercontinental Press in English and Chinese.

"I discover unexpected dimensions of China's poverty alleviation in quake zones, deserts, mountains and other often geologically hazardous areas throughout the country. Along the way, I saw such extreme human suffering and then saw it overcome as China improved the human condition on a miraculous scale," Nilsson said.

"I wrote the book as an 'adventure book' of firsthand accounts to show how China has achieved this miracle and what it had to overcome. I'm honored for the opportunity to engage with this topic at Vision China because it's an exceptional platform to gain deeper insights into the country's realities."

In 2011, Nilsson founded a volunteer initiative in Qinghai province's Yushu, starting with providing solar panels for schools in nomadic communities, following a 2010 quake that killed about 2,600 people.

He was happy to see that, during the recent two sessions, President Xi Jinping lauded Yushu's progress. Xi visited the area soon after the quake and has followed its progress since.

"After electrifying schools throughout Yushu's Qumarleb county, friends and I went on to bring metric tons of clothes, computer labs, libraries, food, medicine, coal and even yaks, when a blizzard killed most of a school's herd," Nilsson said.

"Even there, on the 'planet's third pole', China's poverty-alleviation miracle means that the Yushu I returned to recently is a different place from what I first saw in 2011. Since China has by now provided the so-called hardware, like electricity, our volunteer initiative has shifted focus to providing full university scholarships for underprivileged nomads and surgeries for children with disabilities on the plateau."

Nilsson points out that, while the country's poverty alleviation miracle is multifaceted, a primary point is that the leadership has sustained it as a primary concern.

"Even though China abandoned GDP targets last year during the COVID pandemic, it remained true to its goal of totally eliminating extreme poverty," he said. "That's a powerful testimony."

And it is one with global consequences, he said.

"We are, as a planet, as a species, moving closer to heaven on Earth every moment-including this very instant, as China's progress, helmed by the Communist Party of China led by General Secretary Xi, in turn, drives global progress," Nilsson said.

"What a time to be alive! The best of times, in fact."

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