Grassroots cadre Tong Panfeng races to meet China’s deadline to eradicate poverty

When Tong Panfeng arrived on a two-year anti-poverty mission in Zeku county, Qinghai province, one of the first things he discovered was that “hard work” was a whole lot harder there.

Formerly a proofreader at The Commercial Press, Tong was no novice when it came to early deadlines and late nights, but, “when in the rest of China, you can put your life on the line for your work, you can work like crazy, and that’s impossible on a plateau with only 60 percent the oxygen level of Beijing,” said Tong, who began to come down with debilitating headaches in mornings after an all-nighter, or simply after reading a document for too long.

The eye-openers, though, didn’t end with his personal habits. “It was very different from what I expected,” Tong admitted. “Before, I saw myself doing all this good in the village, but…well, for example, for three whole months all we did was just write reports and reorganize data for government inspection.”

This is subscriber exclusive content

Become a subscriber to continue reading

First Aid is a story from our issue, “Grape Expectations.” To read the entire issue, become a subscriber and receive the full magazine. Alternatively, you can purchase the digital version from the App Store.


author Hatty Liu

Hatty Liu is the managing editor of The World of Chinese, and an award-winning communications researcher. Born in China, and raised in China, Canada, and the US, she leverages her cross-cultural identity to create more empathetic knowledge across national boundaries.

Related Articles