Most of the world’s attention is still focused on China’s economic miracle. The country’s national growth rate last year of 9.5% has prompted several international aid organisations to scale back or withdraw their operations there. When the World Food Programme announced recently that it was pulling out, its executive director, James Morris, said Beijing was now giving, rather than receiving, lessons on how to reduce poverty.
But for Gansu, congratulations about graduating from international aid are premature. In this vast area, the average rural income in 2001 was 1,500 RMB (¬£100) a year, less than 20% of the national average, and rates of illiteracy and tuberculosis were more than twice the norm.