CHENGDU, China, July 30, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — At the beginning of the grand opening ceremony of the 31st World University Games in Chengdu on Friday night, Jihao Youguo, a girl hailing from the mountainous Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture in Southwest China’s Sichuan Province, led representatives of the 56 ethnic groups of China to sing “Beautiful National Flag” and “Ode to the Motherland.”
Youguo firstly became known to the public in February 2018 when Chinese President Xi Jinping visited her family, a poverty-stricken household in Sanhe village, while on an inspection tour to learn about the progress of poverty eradication in the village.
To welcome Xi’s visit at the family’s dilapidated abode, the then 10-year-old Youguo sang the same song “Beautiful National Flag” and won the applause from Xi.
One year later, all the 29 Sanhe households, including Youguo’s family, were relocated to a newly built tile-roofed and brick-walled building which includes a series of apartments measuring about 100 square meters each, thanks to the local poverty eradication program. Youguo said in 2019 that she wished President Xi would come back and visit her new spacious house.
Youguo’s father told the media that they opened a grocery store in one extra room of their new house. The store spared the villagers’ 30-minute trip to the township for grocery shopping. The store itself brought the family an income of 3,000 yuan ($419) a month, roughly covering the monthly expenses of their three kids attending a boarding school in Liangshan. Youguo’s father also keeps some livestock and 30 beehives, making a total income of about 60,000 yuan a year.
Wang Liyuan, an organizer for the opening ceremony of the Chengdu Games, told media that they contacted the Liangshan education authorities and invited Youguo and five other children in the region to sing at the event. “The children are always smiling and enthusiastic, giving a true feeling of sincerity.”
Dream of becoming music teacher
With the help of a private education service provider, Youguo, her sister and brother were enrolled into the Liangshan Xichang Tianli School in 2020. Thanks to a dedicated charity fund, they were able to attend the school tuition-free.
Zhang Tao, Youguo’s lead teacher, told the Global Times that Youguo has developed good habits living in the school and has made great academic progress since her enrollment.
“She is humble, friendly and gets along well with her classmates. Her English has improved a lot since coming to the school. Her favorite subjects are standard Chinese, English and music,” said Zhang.
Youguo is athletic and loves to take part in extra-curricular activities including singing, basketball and running. She is also the champion shot-putter of the school, Zhang said.
“Once during a talk after school, she told me that she dreamed of becoming a music teacher in the future,” Zhang told the Global Times. “It’s a great way to realize her potential. I encourage her to pursue her dream and give back to the community.”
Regarding her progress at school, Youguo said that she has become more confident and open-minded. “I used to be nervous when singing on stage. But I’ve learned a lot from my classmates and I’ve grown confident,” she said.
Part of big story
The experience of Youguo’s family is part of the story of the country’s historic achievement in poverty eradication.
Liangshan is home to the largest ethnic Yi community in China and is about 2,000 kilometers from Beijing. When President Xi visited Sanhe village in February 2018, it was one of the most destitute villages in Liangshan. Deep in the Daliang Mountains, local people lived in dark mud huts, suffering from limited transportation and low crop yields caused by the harsh natural conditions. Most villagers grew corn and potatoes for a living.
Given the difficulty of building roads in the mountainous area, the local government opted to relocate the villagers out of the mountain. By September 2020, 353,200 people from 74,400 households in Liangshan had been relocated and started their new lives in their new homes.
Local villagers also came up with innovative ways to improve their living. In Zhaojue county, where Sanhe village is located, locals developed plantations of strawberries. After a year of development, the plantation covered an area of 1,800 mu (120 hectares). Thanks to this new business, in a five-month period in 2019, more than 20,000 local workers were employed, each earning 9,000 yuan on average. From then on, some 165 modern plantations have mushroomed in Liangshan.
After years of national and local efforts, Liangshan witnessed the eradication of poverty, with more than 1.05 million people lifted out of absolute poverty and 11 counties and 2,072 villages removed from the list of impoverished areas.
Sanhe village has established a unique development model that combines breeding, plantation and rural tourism to increase the villagers’ income. Currently, the villager’s net income per capita has reached over 18,000 yuan, which is more than 10 times higher than the amount before the anti-poverty campaign, Sichuan Daily reported.
In February 2021, China announced victory in its fight against poverty, eradicating absolute poverty in the country.