China’s poverty eradication milestone . . .
Chinese state media outlet CGTN announced today that the nine remaining impoverished counties in southwest Guizhou Province were removed from the country’s ‘poverty list,’ declaring success in meeting its self-imposed deadline of eliminating extreme poverty by the end of 2020. The poverty alleviation program covers 832 counties and more than 80 million people living under the poverty line. According to the World Bank, China has lifted more than 850 million citizens out of poverty – amounting to more than 70 per cent of global poverty reduction – since 1981, when the country’s poverty rate stood at a staggering 88 per cent.
Beyond the numbers . . .
Since 2015, China’s poverty alleviation campaign has shifted to focus on so-called ‘precision poverty alleviation,’ a tailored approach in each poverty-stricken village targeting local circumstances and specific needs. Beijing invested vast amounts of human and financial resources in the campaign, with 2.9 million party officials working in-residence, as well as both government and private funding going into infrastructure building, education and training, and relocation programs. The relocation programs under which some rural populations are moved out of poor mountainous areas to nearby towns cost C$119 billion alone. China has also nurtured new industries in the countryside to provide job opportunities for rural-born reverse migrants. In particular, the immense popularity of e-commerce has allowed many local entrepreneurs and businesses to bounce back quickly after pandemic-related lockdowns.
Defining poverty . . .
The COVID-19 pandemic created set-backs for poverty eradication goals worldwide. And summertime floods created further obstacles for China’s fight against poverty. Nonetheless, eradicating absolute poverty is considered a significant landmark in the country’s social and economic development. Questions do remain around the threshold for extreme poverty in China. Despite the World Bank’s definition of extreme poverty being “those living on less than US$1.90 a day,” China employs its own benchmark for rural poverty that is currently at about US$1.66 a day. Regardless of this difference, the challenge now remains in ensuring that people are self-dependent and do not fall below the poverty line again.