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What a surprise: charity in China is big

2020-July-12       Source: Newsgd.com

This isn’t about the involvement I have with charity, although there has been some, this is more about the fact that charity is an integral part of Chinese life and, it’s something that surprises many people when they learn about it.

This isn’t about the involvement I have with charity, although there has been some, this is more about the fact that charity is an integral part of Chinese life and, it’s something that surprises many people when they learn about it.

‘I took this photo on a Sunday morning, local VYA visited some families and gave them gifts, listened to their problems and hopefully, helped them a little bit.’ [Photo/Jerry Grey]

Let’s start with the local situation, there’s a group here called the Volunteer Youth Association. Every city has them, they visit elderly, people, people with hardships and people with disabilities, they deliver donations of rice, cooking oil and various other items which the recipients wouldn’t normally be able to afford, this is particularly so during Chinese New Year, but it goes on all through the year and peaks in the holiday. Each residential area has an administration office and, if there’s someone in the area in need of help, this office will usually know and they can arrange whatever help is required.

On a city scale, every single disabled person is registered, they receive an allowance from the government and funds are put aside for them to take part in activities. We have an active dance team, a singing choir, an archery and cycling team and many others. Once a year, our disabled athletes get together to take part and compete in games organised by other cities in Guangdong. Training camps, buses, food and a small allowance are all provided for the team. Volunteers help with training; we have professional coaches who give time willingly to help our team bring glory back to Zhongshan, we even have an Olympic Gold Medallist and World Record Holder here.

Guangzhou helps develop and promote the agricultural industry of Qingyuan, a northern city of Guangdong. [Photo/Nanfang Daily]

What happens outside the city at a provincial level is interesting. In Guangdong, some cities are very rich, others are not so rich. If the city is in the Greater Bay Area it has opportunities to grow though international business and local manufacturing, some cities in the mountains such as He Yuan on the border with Jiangxi and Shao Guan on the border with Hunan don’t have the same opportunities so the richer cities help out by making donations, building schools or libraries in the schools to ensure that all Guangdong kids get similar opportunities, no matter where they are. Kind of like a big brother scheme. This is formalised by the government, but I’m convinced the government manage it just to ensure it’s smoothly handled and evenly shared, it would take place anyway if the government didn’t manage it but probably less well organised.

At a national level we all know there’s a poverty alleviation scheme going on in China — I can attest to how well its working having spent time travelling through places in far West China such as Ningxia and Gansu.

Photo taken by Phil Behan, a riding partner of Jerry, during their trip from Xinjiang to Ningxia in 2014

In 2014, I rode through these places and stopped in small cities and towns, they were obviously not in the same league as the Guangdong towns I’d left so far behind. Roads were in disrepair, many people lived in ramshackle old buildings and there were very few private cars on the road — this was only 6 years ago. A few months ago, I was lucky enough to ride through again and the difference is amazing — there are still poor people, of that there is no doubt, but many new buildings, new schools, train lines running through the small towns and stopping in places that couldn’t have dreamt of having a train line before. All of these are helping to bring more people, more tourists, more industries and, importantly, more money into the region. Shopping centres are being built and people can afford to go there. A few years ago, no developer would have considered opening a shopping centre in a place like Zhongning, for example. Now, there are new markets with bustling car parks full of private vehicles. Internet shops offer local produce to the entire country and businesses are able to get these products out through new roads and transportation hubs. Fast trains for passengers and the old slow trains loaded with goods go from there to the rest of China and even the world — watch out for Ningxia red wines becoming popular wherever you are.

‘I remember the time we passed this village in 2014, it was all mud huts, and in 2019, this is what we saw’ [Photo/Jerry Grey]

Internationally, everyone knows China is a rich country, right? Well, the GDP is certainly big, but the per capita GDP is nothing like other G7/G20 nations: it’s doubled in the last 10 years from 4552 to 8254 USD per person. In the same period the USA grew from 48,000 to 56,000 per person, the UK is 44,000 and Germany was 47,000 — So we can see that China, despite having the second highest GDP, is still a long way behind in how much it has to spend on its citizens, yet spend is exactly what it does. Massive infrastructure in building roads, trains, airports and shipping ports all around the country, especially in the far west and the mountain regions. As far as I know, there is no longer a single village in China which doesn’t have a main road running into it or very close to it so people can get in and out with their products. Yet, just a few years ago, in 2006, I was in Guanxi on a bus tour to help with some charity aspects and our bus stopped in a village, we had to walk 8 kilometres to another village, there was no road but just a track meandering through the farms and hills. On the way, I passed donkeys making deliveries to the local shop (not shops, only one in the village). In the last 10 to 15 years, all this has changed.

China has announced the suspension of debt repayments for 77 developing countries and regions on a press conference on June 8th. [Photo/ Xinhua]

China doesn’t stint on its international obligations either. Despite claims to the contrary, China does help with loans to poorer countries and just recently deferred the debt to 77 developing nations which were struggling because of Covid19. Time will tell what will happen once a vaccine is created and made available, but, given my experience of how China and Chinese people are, I wouldn’t be surprised if it really is made available to the world, as Xi Jinping says it will.

China still has a long way to go, but it isn’t leaving anyone behind. There no one homeless here, I can’t remember ever seeing people sleeping in the streets, in bus shelters, in parks or any place else other than their homes. The concept of homelessness is simply unknown, everyone has a place to sleep, if they don’t, they aren’t from China.

Poverty alleviation at home, debt restructuring overseas, charitable acts in all levels of society from the neighbourhood system to the international arena and everything in between. China really isn’t a bad place to live, and Chinese people aren’t bad people to live with: what a surprise!

 

Author| Jerry Grey

Editor| Jasmine Yin, Wing Zhang

Editor: Hannah

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