"Impoverished areas" is how China defines areas with larger impoverished populations and greater poverty than other areas. At different stages since the late 1970s China has launched large-scale poverty alleviation programs targeting different impoverished areas.
For instance, in 1982, the State Council designated 28 poor counties in Gansu Province and Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. In 1984, the central leadership issued a document entitled Notice on Helping the Impoverished Areas Improve Their Conditions, which delimited the general scope of poor areas across the country. The document pointed out that the imbalance in local natural conditions, economic development and implementation of policies resulted in imbalances in the rural economy, leaving millions of people still living in poverty with their basic needs not yet met. Most of the areas involved are mountainous or remote, and many are ethnic minority areas or old revolutionary bases. To tackle poverty, the focus should be on a dozen or so contiguous areas of extreme poverty.
Despite some adjustments over the following decades, the configuration of impoverished areas has remained more or less the same over the years.
In 1986, the State Council designated 331 key impoverished counties entitled to state assistance. Two years later in 1988, 27 more counties in Gansu, Hebei, Inner Mongolia, Qinghai, Sichuan and Xinjiang were added to the list. Provincial-level governments also designated more than 300 counties under their jurisdiction for special support. This raised the total number of poor counties to 664 by the end of 1988. A further expansion of the scope of assistance brought the number to 699 nationwide.
According to the Seven-year Program for Lifting 80 Million People Out of Poverty (1994-2000), released in 1994, there were 592 key counties entitled for state poverty alleviation assistance across China. The number remained at 592 in the Outline for Development-oriented Poverty Alleviation of China's Rural Areas (2001-2010), involving 148,000 poor villages.
The impoverished areas are the main battlefields in China's war against poverty, as they have the toughest problems to tackle in building a moderately prosperous society in all respects.