At a national conference at the end of May, the Chinese Government said partnership assistance in the past year had boosted development in northwestern Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region remarkably and called for greater support. Since March 2010, 19 provinces and municipalities have been each assigned a less developed region in Xinjiang to assist.
The partnership assistance model is typical in China, and aims to turn one-off or emergency aid into long-term help. It has been widely applied to national and regional programs to alleviate poverty and narrow regional gaps in fields such as education and health, post-disaster reconstruction in particular. Participating sponsors are obliged to assist their partners with personnel, funds and assets according to needs. In most cases, the assistance is provided in the form of projects that are funded and built by sponsoring regions and handed over to the recipients in ready-to-use condition.
The reconstruction of regions affected by the Wenchuan earthquake in Sichuan Province in May 2008 is a ready example of the effectiveness of the model.
The reconstruction program, the largest in terms of affected area and investment in China's history, began in October 2008. The Chinese Government initially planned to finish the job in three years, but most reconstruction projects were achieved at least a year ahead of schedule. This has been largely attributed to partnership assistance. Twenty economically developed provinces and municipalities were paired up with hard-hit cities and counties in Sichuan and neighboring Gansu and Shaanxi provinces, and were required to offer no less than 1 percent of these areas' financial revenue of the previous year in aid over three years.
The 18 provinces and municipalities have sent 2,740 officials, 310,000 construction workers and 29,400 doctors, teachers and other professionals to partner regions in the past three years. By September 2010, they had completed all the reconstruction projects they had undertaken. More importantly, the partnerships have been upgraded to mechanisms for long-term cooperation, laying a solid foundation for sustainable development of quake-affected regions.
On the long list of beneficiaries of partnership assistance are also Yushu County in northwest China's Qinghai Province that was struck by a 7.1-magnitude earthquake in April 2010, and Tibet Autonomous Region that has been a recipient of such assistance since 1995.
China is one of the countries most affected by natural disasters and is facing tough challenges from unbalanced development. So it often needs to mobilize great amounts of resources to accomplish massive tasks. And the popularity of the partnership assistance model has a more pervasive and convincing reason: the Chinese people's strong desire for prosperity.