Xi visits soldiers on frozen northern border

Updated: 2014-01-28 02:16

By AN BAIJIE (China Daily)

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President Xi Jinping visited soldiers at a border frontier base in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region on Sunday, expressing his gratitude for their service to the nation.

Soldiers in the region deserve the respect and gratitude of both the State and the people for braving the cold winter weather and protecting the nation, Xi said.

Xi visits soldiers on frozen northern border 

President Xi Jinping offers Lunar New Year greetings to a guard at an army base at Mount Sanjiao in Hinggan League, the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, on Sunday, where temperatures hovered around -30 C. PHOTO BY Zhou Chaorong / for china daily 

Temperatures were indeed frosty at the army base at Mount Sanjiao in Hinggan League, hovering around -30 C on Sunday morning.

"Today, I will stand guard together with you," Xi told the soldiers.

He had lunch in the military cafeteria with the soldiers. Xi urged the company commanders to prepare for the upcoming Spring Festival to make sure that the soldiers could enjoy a peaceful and happy holiday period.

On Sunday afternoon, Xi inspected a shantytown renovation project in Arshaan and urged the local government to improve living conditions for the local people.

Xi paid a visit to 74-year-old Guo Yongcai, a forestry worker who lives with his five family members in a hut measuring 38 square meters. The living conditions of local people have become tough in recent years due to a government ban on cutting trees.

"The festival is coming. Knowing that you're living with difficulties, I came here to have a look," Xi said to the forestry worker.

Forestry workers have made great contributions to the country, and they should not be forgotten by the State, Xi said.

The president extended his good wishes to Guo, saying that he hoped the lives of local people will improve along with the development of tourism in the mountainous region.

A local official told Xi that Guo's living conditions will be improved next year in accordance with the city's plan for the renovation of slums.

Since 2009, the Arshaan city government has been working to improve the living conditions of forestry workers. A total of 175,000 families are expected to benefit from government plans, which include moving all forestry workers into new housing by the end of 2017.

"Xi's visit has brought spring earlier to us in this small, freezing place," said an excited Yu Jifang, head of Bailang township, once a major forestry hub in Arshaan. "Our outpost has not been forgotten as ‘beautiful China' becomes a national slogan."

In 2012, Arshaan imposed a rigid regulation on forestry conservation to stop logging and better protect this crucial ecological reserve on the Sino-Mongolian border. In Bailang, more than 10,000 lumberjacks had to find other jobs.

"It's not easy transferring former lumberjacks to other industries because most of them are not highly educated. We are exploring multiple options, including eco-tourism, deer husbandry and the manufacture of handicrafts," Yu said.

Though one-third of former loggers have switched to new jobs after dropping their axes, their employment prospects remain uncertain because the economic base of Arshaan is weak without forestry.

"We dare not set a deadline for solving these problems because some tasks will be very tough without stronger support from high-level decision-makers, bringing us more projects to build a sustainable economy," said Yu, the township official.

"However, we are greatly encouraged by Xi's visit, which shows that redundant loggers, who once made a great contribution to the economic development of our country, are really cared for by the central government, though their roles may change. I'm very much looking forward to a series of new policies to accelerate our reforms," Yu said.

Ye Duchu, a professor of politics with the Party School of the Central Committee of the CPC, said that there is a tradition in China of State leaders visiting the ordinary people during the Spring Festival every year.

Staying among the people during the festival is a kind of "political ethic" that shows the top leaders' concern for the people's livelihood, he said.

On Dec 29, 2012, Xi visited an impoverished village in Fuping county, Hebei province, ahead of the Spring Festival. The local people's per capita income in 2011 was only about 900 yuan ($149), Xinhua News Agency reported.

Wang Kaihao in Hohhot contributed to this story.