China Focus: Steps to make life easier mirror challenges of building a well-off China
"Xiaokang" has become a buzzword in China as the country is in the homestretch toward completing the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects.
But the aspirations Chinese people have for reaching a "Xiaokang" (well-off) society vary from individual to individual. Even their requirements for better living facilities can vary greatly, revealing the country's diverse economic landscape as well as its tough task of realizing common prosperity.
"Achieving a Xiaokang society is definitely not egalitarian," said Xin Ming, a professor at the Party School of the Communist Party of China Central Committee.
"Living a Xiaokang life does not mean bringing the living standards of all Chinese to the same level at the same time," he said.
Despite drastic changes over the past years of economic growth, China's rural regions still lag behind cities in terms of income level, living environment and public services.
Hundreds of thousands of rural residents have benefited from the "toilet revolution" launched nationwide, aiming to increase the number and improve the sanitation of toilets.
Han Jinhua, an 88-year-old grandmother in a village of north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, was overjoyed with her newly renovated bathroom with heating, hot water and a flush toilet.
The pit latrine previously located in the corner of Han's courtyard had once been a real headache for her. "I was always afraid of slipping and falling down especially on windy or rainy days, but now I have no such worries," she said.
In many Chinese counties, there are slogans on the walls reading, "Small toilet, big revolution; Practice hygiene and you won't get sick!"
In 2019, the country invested 7 billion yuan (about 1.02 billion U.S. dollars) in the rural "toilet revolution," aiming for 85 percent of rural households to have access to sanitary bathrooms by 2020.
For a developing country like China with 40.42 percent of the population living in rural areas in 2018, its leaders have more than once emphasized that the measurement for moderate prosperity lies in rural areas, and a well-off society won't come if rural people, especially those in poor areas, cannot live a well-off life.
When people talk about modernized cities they tend to think of skyscrapers, high-rise apartment buildings and rows of villas. But to some Chinese urbanites living in old residential communities, home renovation is central to a well-off life.
For Li Feng, a woman of 89 in Taiyuan City of north China's Shanxi Province, an elevator is a true sign of progress.
Before the government started a program to renovate dilapidated homes in her city, which involves elevator installation, roof repair, pipeline renewal and road maintenance, she had to take several breaks when climbing the three flights of stairs to her home.
"It got even tougher when I had to carry things," she recalled. Built 20 years ago, the apartment building she resides in was not equipped with elevators.
Li was happy to see the inconvenience removed, and her excitement resonated with other senior residents in the neighborhood.
From 2018 to 2020, the Chinese government has planned to finance the renovation of 15 million dilapidated homes to improve the quality of city life, and rolled out preferential policies to speed up the progress.
When it comes to building a well-off society, there exists a general consensus that no one should be left behind. For seniors like Li, elevators speak volumes.
Some 1,283 km to the southwest of Taiyuan lies Chongqing, which has overtaken Guangzhou for the first time to become the country's fourth-largest city by economic aggregate, behind only Shanghai, Beijing and Shenzhen.
To some local residents, a well-off life relates more to smart living propelled by the use of big data, cloud computing and artificial intelligence technologies.
When Wu Lin, a local, returned home from work, she scanned her face to enter the residential compound, searched for a parking space via the smart parking management system, dumped waste into automatic sorting dustbins, and requested water and electricity repair service through a quick tap on her mobile phone.
Yearning for more efficient modern city life, Wu expected the country to further enhance investment in building smart cities.
According to estimates by the International Data Corporation, a global market intelligence firm, by 2020, the country's spending on smart cities is expected to hit 25.9 billion U.S. dollars, with most of the total going to sustainable infrastructure, data-driven governance and digital management.