South China University of Technology: Shifting poverty alleviation from funding and donations to building capacity for wealth creation


Since embarking on a mission to help Yun County in Yunnan Province to reduce poverty in 2013, South China University of Technology (SCUT) has mobilized experts in various areas to design a long-term plan with a far-sighted vision to build the county’s capacity to create its own wealth by, for example, developing and promoting profitable industries.

I.Conducting field investigations to identify development opportunities and challenges

Located in the southwestern part of Yunnan Province with a total population of 463,000, the county is home to 22 minority ethnic groups who live dispersed across mountainous areas. It is one of the 592 major counties in China faced with the task of reducing extreme poverty, and is located in one of the country’s 14 poorest regions. To assist the Yun County in its poverty relief efforts, SCUT launched a territory-wide tourism planning project and established a cross-disciplinary team of professors specializing in tourism planning, urban planning, journalism and communication, cultural design, internet applications and public administration. The team has carried out four field investigations and held over 20 themed seminars.

II.Identifying activities to drive economic growth

The expert team chose health and wellness tourism to be the economic engine of the county. In line with the applicable national standards on developing a health and wellness tourism demonstration base, the team prepared an overall plan, identifying functional areas for integrated development and proposed potential products and services that could be customized for target consumer groups—mainly senior citizen who need to travel regularly to places of natural beauty with a pleasant climate to rest and recover their strength.

III.Adopting a new approach to poverty reduction

To further leverage existing tourist resources, the team also proposed the development of a brand product “Yun County Shredded Chicken” that could drive the growth of the local black broiler industry. In 2017, the county produced 10,971 tons of broiler meat and 981 tons of eggs, generating 503 million RMB.

Thanks to these efforts, by May 2018, the number of poor people (according to the national poverty threshold of 3,000 RMB/year in terms of net income established in 2016) in the county was reduced to 4,847, down 48,000 from 2012. The overall plan has won wide acclaim from the local government and people. It is expected that, by 2025, the tourism industry in Yun County will have generated dozens of billions in revenue, turning the county into a territory-wide tourism demonstration county.