Volunteer doctors give free consultations and examinations to members of the Tajik ethnic group in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, last month. (Photo Provided to China Daily)
Assistance projects to help develop the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region will continue focusing on improving people's livelihoods and poverty alleviation, a senior official said at a three-day conference that ended on Tuesday.
People from Xinjiang, particularly members of ethnic minority groups, will be encouraged to travel more to other parts of China to boost understanding between regions, said Wang Yang, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee.
He spoke at the Seventh National Work Conference on Pairing Assistance for Xinjiang held in Hotan prefecture from Sunday to Tuesday.
In March 2010, the central government introduced the "pairing assistance" program, which requires 18 provincial-level regions and Shenzhen to help support Xinjiang's development. Each of them is paired with specific cities or counties to assist. The central government also requires the partners to invest a certain percentage of their annual GDP in Xinjiang.
In 2014, the central government said the program would be a long-term strategy for the region's social stability, seen as vital for the country's stability and security.
In the past 10 years, 120 billion yuan ($17.5 billion) of such assistance has poured into the region. Over 70 percent has been used to improve the locals' livelihoods, the Xinjiang regional government said.
The unprecedented program has helped transform the region, Wang said. New quake-proof housing and schools were built and new factories and e-commerce companies started to create jobs.
Wang added that the program will further help Xinjiang establish more industries and expand product sales channels. He said that the program needs to focus on improving people's livelihoods, poverty alleviation and creating more job opportunities in the future.
"Our current priority is to help Kashgar prefecture eradicate absolute poverty by the end of next year, together with remaining impoverished regions of China," said Yuan Fuyong, pairing assistance office director for Shenzhen in Kashgar.
Pairing providers' expertise is a factor in the matches. Shenzhen－China's first and most successful Special Economic Zone－has been paired with Kashgar, a new special zone connecting with nations on the Silk Road Economic Belt.
Since 2010, more than 87,500 officials and experts have brought in new ideas and expertise.
Di Na, an ultrasound medicine expert from Guangzhou, Guangdong province, said she was surprised at the wide gap between the best hospital in Kashgar and hospitals in Guangzhou when she started work at the No 1 People's Hospital of Kashgar prefecture in 2018.
"But I know I'm here to help them catch up, and I will teach doctors there everything I know," she said.