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Chinese President Xi Jinping ​on Monday vowed to banish the “ghosts” of poverty​.

He spoke during an interaction with villagers in a poor southwestern part of the country during a traditional visit to outlying regions before the Lunar New Year.

Chinese leaders use the time around the festival to make inspection trips around the country where they flag important policy initiatives or areas of concern for the year ahead.

The week-long holiday is the most important in the Chinese calendar, when millions of people travel home, many for the only time in the year.

Visiting a remote mountainous part of Sichuan province to meet ethnic Yi people who live there, Xi was told by one villager that she believed ghosts were the cause ​of poverty and ​illness​.

After hearing her story, Xi told her ​his government would exorcise the ghosts​.

“​I​n the past we did have ghosts – the ghosts of ignorance, backwardness and poverty​”, Reuters quoted him as saying.​

“If we can resolve these problems then the ghosts will vanish. If there is culture, knowledge and hygiene, then our prosperous lives can resolve these difficulties and then how can there be any ghosts?”

The official Xinhua news agency and state television showed pictures of Xi inspecting dried meats, chatting with villagers wearing colorful traditional costumes and being shown housing improvement projects.

Xi will likely make visits to other parts of the country during the holiday.

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Chinese President Xi Jinping ​on Monday vowed to banish the “ghosts” of poverty​. He spoke during an interaction with villagers in a poor southwestern part of the country during a traditional visit to outlying regions before the Lunar New Year. Chinese leaders use the time around the festival to make inspection...