Eradicating Extreme Poverty and Promoting Global Cause of Poverty Alleviation

By Wang Zhengpu

Poverty is a chronic affliction of human society and a common challenge faced by the whole world. In 2000, the United Nations MillenniumLeaders Summit adopted the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), in which poverty reduction was the top priority. In 2015 when the set poverty alleviation goal was largely achieved and substantial progress had been made in the global campaign against poverty, the UN convened the Development Summit. On this occasion, world leaders endorsedTransforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in which ending poverty in all its forms is the first and foremost goal. Countries are called upon to eradicate extreme poverty, establish social protection systems, ensure equal access to basic services, develop inclusive finance, and prevent and mitigate disasters. They are also encouraged to enhance international cooperation against poverty and provide assistance to the least developed countries.

China is the most populous country that continues to make headway in poverty reduction. Over the past 100 years, under the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC), the country has adopted a consistent, people-centered approach to reducing poverty, promoting development, and increasing people’s well-being. The relentless efforts and proud achievements of China, a country with a population of over 1.4 billion and more than 500 million farmers, will go down in history. And China’s contributions to the anti-poverty efforts of mankind speak volumes about its firm commitment and sense of responsibility.

China pursues a science-based, efficient and innovative approach to reducing poverty. We have implemented the strategy of targeted poverty alleviation. Targeted efforts have been made to accurately identify the poor and allocate the resources to ensure those in need get the support. This proves to be the right way to combat poverty. In parallel, we pursue development-driven poverty alleviation, taking development as the fundamental approach to eradicating poverty. This is a uniquely Chinese way of fighting poverty, which contributes China’s solution to the international campaign against poverty.

China’s efforts as a developing country lend a strong boost to the global cause to end poverty. We stand firm in China’s own reality and yet take a global perspective. China is the first developing country to achieve the poverty alleviation target in MDGs and meet the goal in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development 10 years ahead of schedule. We have all along pursued international exchanges, knowledge sharing, and results-oriented cooperation. By working with other countries, we contribute our own action and strength to the global efforts against poverty. In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, which, for the first time in decades, increases the numbers of those living in poverty, we still managed to achieve, on schedule, the target of ending extreme poverty in all dimensions, thus contributing China’s wisdom and adding impetus to accelerating the global action against poverty.

I. Consistency and Commitment

The Chinese nation has an abiding commitment to fighting poverty. For several millennia, the Chinese people had longed for a life free from want. Prosperity and abundance had been their relentless pursuit. In modern times, the Chinese people suffered from the corrupt feudal rule and foreign aggression. Political turmoil and incessant wars brought untold hardships to the people who were living with the nightmare of poverty. To shake off poverty has been what the Chinese people are fighting for and is part of the Chinese dream of the great renewal of the Chinese nation.

In 1921, the CPC was born when the Chinese nation was at great peril and the Chinese people were grappling with deepening social crises. The CPC serves the people and depends on the people. Since the very first day of its founding, it has seen as its mission to deliver a happy life for the people and seek renewal of the Chinese nation. It has since united and led the Chinese in a long-term struggle for a better life.

During the New Democratic Revolution, the CPC rallied the Chinese people closely in 28 years of hard struggles on the platform of “defeating the landlords to redistribute the land” and “giving land to the tiller”. The impoverished were liberated, and victory was achieved in the Chinese revolution. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) was founded in 1949, thus clearing the obstacles and creating fundamental political conditions for eradicating poverty.

After the founding of the PRC, the CPC concluded that “the issue of poverty in today’s China was caused by the semi-colonial and semi-feudal social system that had been overthrown.” It united and led the people in carrying out land reform, putting an end to the feudal land system that had been in existence for over 2,000 years. Poverty in developing countries is largely due to the fact that farmers own no land. The land reform thus removed the institutional impediments that held back anti-poverty efforts. Socialist transformation was carried out in agriculture, individual craft industries, and capitalist industry and commerce to pave the way for the establishment of socialist system, thus providing a basic institutional guarantee for addressing the root causes of poverty. Socialist construction was promoted, and farmers were mobilized to take part in production. Efforts were made to grow the collective economy, improve farmland irrigation and water conservation, and develop rural education and cooperative medical services. A preliminary social security system in rural areas took shape, with the collective economy at the base, and the “five guarantees” (providing commune members who could not work and had no family to support them with proper food, clothing, fuel, education for children and teenagers, and paying their burial expenses) and relief for people in extreme poverty as the core. The Chinese people, including the farmers, who made up nearly one quarter of the world’s population, saw their basic living needs met. A solid foundation was thus laid for poverty eradication.

Since the start of reform and opening-up, the CPC, convinced that “poverty is not socialism; socialism means eliminating poverty”, has led the people to put economic development front and center, pursue reform and opening-up, and improve China’s national strength in all respects. With a focus on rural areas, a massive, planned, well-organized poverty alleviation campaign was launched. The two-tier management system adopted in the rural areas, integrating cooperative management with household contract management,clarified the most basic production relations and inspired the farmers’ enthusiasm. In a ground-breaking move, poverty alleviation was integrated into national strategies. The Priority Poverty Alleviation Plan (1994-2000), the Outline of Development-driven Poverty Alleviation in Rural Areas (2001-2010), and the Outline of Development-driven Poverty Alleviation in Rural Areas (2011-2020) have been successively rolled out. These plans lay down the policy of development-driven poverty alleviation, setting the poverty standard, and identifying impoverished counties and contiguous poverty-stricken areas. A four-tier poverty alleviation work system from the county level up to the central level was put in place. A coordination mechanism was also established that covers both infrastructure such as agriculture, water conservancy, transport, housing and electricity and social programs, including education, health, science and technology, and culture. These make up an institutional framework for poverty reduction across the country. As the Chinese economy continues to grow fast and steadily, we make sure development and opening-up contributes to poverty reduction. Enormous changes have taken place in poverty-stricken areas and unprecedented achievements have been made in improving people’s well-being.

Since the 18thNational Congress of the CPC, the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core has underscored that“To achieve initial prosperity in the countryside, it is essential to raise rural living standards and particularly those of impoverished villagers,” and pledged that “No single poor area or single poor person should be left behind in achieving this goal.”China’s battle against extreme poverty had entered the toughest stage. It was hard to complete the task with conventional approaches and ideas. To achieve the goal of poverty alleviation, the nation had to pull together with greater determination, sharper thinking, more targeted measures, and extraordinary efforts.To this end, the CPC Central Committee and the State Council decided in 2015 to win the battle against poverty. It was made clear that by 2020, the rural residents under the current poverty standards would have adequate food and clothing, and access to compulsory education, basic medical services and safe housing, and that all the rural poor and all impoverished counties would be lifted out of poverty, and that poverty over entire regions would be eliminated. Thanks to the joint efforts of the Party and people of all ethnic groups, China secured a comprehensive victory in the fight against poverty. The 98.99 million rural residents who were living below the current poverty threshold all shook off poverty; all the 832 designated poor counties and all the 128000 impoverished villages got rid of poverty. China has eliminated poverty over entire regions and eradicated extreme poverty.In so doing, China developed a model of poverty alleviation and made major contribution to the global campaign against poverty.

II. A Science-based Strategy of Targeted Poverty Reduction

Identifying thosetruly in need, finding the cause of poverty, and working out an effective and efficient approach to ending poverty is a challengefor countries with a large population and vast territory.In its anti-poverty efforts, China has actively learned from international experiences, fully considered its actualconditions, and pursued innovative and targeted policies to eradicate poverty. “Targeted Efforts in Six Areas” were made to identify the poor accurately, arrange targeted programs, utilize capital efficiently, take household-based measures, dispatch first Party secretaries based on village conditions, and achieve the set goals. “Five Measures for Poverty Eradication”were taken to boost the economy to provide more job opportunities, relocate poor people from inhospitable areas, compensate for economic losses associated with reducing ecological damage, improve education in impoverished areas, and provide subsistence allowances for those unable to shake off poverty through their own efforts. We also addressed “Five Questions in Poverty Alleviation”, which refers to:who should help, who should be helped, how to help, how to evaluate whether someone has emerged from poverty, and how to ensure those people stay free from poverty.This way, China’s response to poverty has been targeted, science-based, and highly efficient.

1.Identifying People in Need to Know Whom to Help

To help the poor, we must know who they are. China has developed a set of standards and procedures to accurately identify the poor. Poor households are identified primarily based on their incomes, with consideration given to other factors such as housing, education and health. Household applications for poverty registration are discussed and reviewed, disclosed for public supervision, and then evaluated by each level of administration.For administrative villages applying to be registered, consideration is given to the incidence of poverty, the per capita net income of the villagers, and income from businesses run by village collectives. Applications are filed by the village committee, reviewed and disclosed by the township government, and examined by the county government before the results are made public. The individuals and villages confirmed as poor are then registered and a file is created in the national poverty alleviation information system. Dynamic management of the poor population has been strengthened to remove those who have been wrongly identified and to add those newly identified, with an emphasis on accuracy.Through this registration system, for the first time in a country with over 500 million farmers, China has identified every poor individual in every village, and every poor household has the causes of their poverty and their needs registered with the government. The first national information platform on poverty alleviation provides powerful IT support for targeted measures.

2. Strengthening Accountability and Team-building to Know How to Offer Support

Accountability is key to poverty alleviation. China has established a poverty eradication management network with the central government acting as coordinator, provincial governments taking overall responsibility, and city and county governments overseeing implementation. Officials are sent to villages to help every needy household. Top local officials take charge of poverty eradication affairs. The leading officials of 22 provinces and equivalent administrative units in central and western China signed written pledges to the Party Central Committee, and Party secretaries at the five administrative levels of province, city, county, township and village have worked towards the same goal. In places where the work was particularly difficult, the fight against poverty became the top priority in social and economic development and people’s well-being. Through the strictest possible evaluation and supervision mechanism, China has evaluated the performance of provincial Party committees and governments as well as central government departments tasked with poverty alleviation. Those who did well are honored, and those who fell behind are encouraged to step up efforts. The mobilization advantage of the socialist system with Chinese characteristics is brought into full play. Government departments at county level and above and state-owned enterprises and public institutions selected and sent over 3 million officials to work in poor villages. They worked closely with over 2 million township officials and several million village officials on the frontline against poverty. They worked with poor populations to make poverty alleviation plans and deliver those plans on the ground to make a real difference. They are a staunch force in the fight against poverty.

3. Applying Targeted Measures for Different Groups to Know How to Help

We cannot address the root cause without the right remedies. In practice, China has adopted categorized and targeted measures to reduce poverty, based on the situation of individual households, local conditions, and the causes for and types of poverty. These targeted measures include: boosting the economy to provide more job opportunities, relocating poor people from inhospitable areas, compensating for economic losses associated with reducing ecological damage, improving education in impoverished areas, and providing subsistence allowances for those unable to shake off poverty through their own efforts alone.

First, boosting the economy to provide more job opportunities. China has supported and guided poor areas in developing economic activities geared to their available resources, and encouraged poverty alleviation through new forms of business and new industries such as e-commerce, photovoltaic (PV) power generation and tourism, and through the consumption of products and services from poor areas. China has facilitated the transfer of food processing, clothes manufacturing, and other labor-intensive industries from the east to the west. In an innovative way, thegovernment issued small loans for poverty alleviation – loans under RMB50,000 to be issued to poor people without requirements for guarantee or collateral and paid back in three years. The loans are issued at benchmark interest rates with interest subsidies and risk compensation funds set up at county level. More than RMB710 billion have been issued in small loans to 15 million poor households. More than 300,000 industrial bases have been built. 12,000 local agro-product brands have been created, 14,400 leading enterprises above the city level established, and 719,000 rural cooperatives operated by farmers. A total of 72.6% of poor households have formed close ties with new types of agribusiness entities. 98.9% of the poor households have benefited from these support policies. Almost all poor people with the ability and intention to work have joined the collective endeavor.

Second, relocating poor people from inhospitable areas. Some people lived in uninhabitable areas suffering from harsh natural conditions and subject to frequent natural disasters. It would be very hard for them to shake off poverty if they remained where they were, so the government relocated them to other areas on the basis of fully respecting their wishes. As a result, more than 9.6 million people from inhospitable areas have been relocated to places of better living conditions. Measures have been taken to create jobs for the relocated population in nearby industrial parks and workshops. Of all the relocated people with the ability to work, 73.7% have found jobs; 94.1% relocated families with members who have the ability to work are in employment.In the resettlement sites, support facilities have been built. Some 6,100 kindergartens, elementary and middle schools, 12,000 hospitals and community health centers, 3,400 old-age care facilities, and 40,000 cultural centers and venues have been built or expanded.Through all these efforts, the relocated people can have a better and prosperous life.

Third, shaking off poverty through compensations for economic losses associated with reducing ecological damage and getting eco-jobs. Clear waters and green mountains are invaluable assets. China has explored the mechanism of reducing poverty through ecological improvement, strengthened ecological restoration and environmental protection in poor areas, and increased government transfer payments to key eco-areas. Poor people with the ability to work have thus been employed in eco-work, for example as forest rangers. By participating in projects for ecological conservation and protection, and growing woody oil plants and working in forest tourism, the poor population have made a major contribution to improving the eco-environment in poor areasandincreased their incomes, with mutually beneficial results.

Fourth, improving education in impoverished areas. To eliminate poverty, education must come first. The government has continued to increase support for schools in poor areas to improve their conditions, standard of teaching, faculties and financial resources. The state ensures compulsory education for all school-age children.A total of 1.27 million teachers from more than 80,000 schools have benefited from a program that gives special allowances to rural teachers in contiguous areas in extreme poverty. Altogether 190,000 rural teachers have been dispatched to support schools in remote poor areas and ethnic minority areas on the borders. A funding system covering preschool to postgraduate education has been established, offering assistance to an equivalent of 640 million people. Favorable policies have been leveraged to enroll more poor students from designated areas, expand employment for graduates, and help students shake off poverty through vocational education. More than 8 million middle and high school graduates from poor families have received vocational training, 5.14 million poor students have received higher education. Education can help to prevent poverty from passing down from generation to generation, enhancethe capacity building of the poor, and inject impetus to the sustainable development of poverty-stricken areas.

Fifth, providing subsistence allowances for those unable to shake off poverty through their own efforts alone. China has strengthened the social security net in rural areas, aligning the rural subsistence allowances framework with poverty alleviation policies.The departments in charge of poverty alleviation and civil affairs compare data and verify information on a regular basis, to ensure full coverage of support for eligible groups, with a focus on the poor groups who have lost working abilities in full or in part. Other forms of social relief are offered to those have encountered temporary difficulties caused by disasters.

4. Adopting Strict Criteria to Know When and How to Deregister Those Who Have Emerged from Poverty

To help those in need truly get out of poverty is what we strive for. A poverty exit mechanism has been established, with clear provisions on the standards and procedures for deregistering from the list poor counties, villages, and individuals. And the government has worked out a poverty deregistration plan and an annual poverty alleviation plan. These efforts prevent misconduct such as manipulation and falsification of data, and also prevent those who have emerged from poverty from keeping the label in order to continue accessing preferential treatment. The results of poverty exit in the case of villages and counties have been disclosed for public evaluation and review, based on transparent procedures, accurate data and complete files, to ensure fairness.Annual evaluations are made by third parties of the deregistered population and counties, with a focus on three parameters – the accuracy of decisions, the poverty incidence of recurrence among deregistered counties, and public rating of assistance measures. From 2020 to early 2021, China conducted a general survey of poverty elimination, collecting accurate data on progress in helping the poor out of poverty, to ensure the achievements are authentic and can stand the test of history.

5. Conducting Follow-up Monitoring to Help People Stay Out of Poverty

People and locations will only be considered to have shaken off poverty when they have stayed out of it and have not fallen back in poverty after a certain period. Counties have been given a five-year period of grace from the day they emerged from poverty. During this period they will continue to enjoy the main support policies. China will improve its dynamic monitoring of any trends indicating a return to poverty, and improve associated support measures. It will regularly check on key groups, such as those who have just emerged from poverty but whose position is far from secure, those on the verge of poverty who can fall back in again easily, and those experiencing difficulties in meeting their basic needs due to expenditure induced by illness, disaster or accident, or due to a sharp drop in income, and exercise dynamic management to spot these trends early and intervene through support measures, so that these people do not fall back into poverty. China will continue to support formerly impoverished areas in developing their specialty industries and help those who have emerged from poverty havestable employment. Follow-up support will be given to the resettled populations. Systems and practices, such as resident first secretaries and working teams, eastern-western collaboration, paired-up assistance, and social assistance, will be continued and improved. Efforts will be intensified to help those who have emerged from poverty create a better life through their own hard work. More evaluation will be carried out over the status of formerly impoverished people and areasto ensure that people do not slide back into poverty in large numbers.

III. Helping Other Countries Create A Better Future

To eradicate poverty is the shared mission of mankind. As the world’s largest developing country, China has been an active champion and supporter of the global cause of poverty alleviation. While working hard to end poverty within its borders, China has taken an active part in international exchanges and cooperation on poverty alleviation and work with the rest of the world to build a global community of shared future that is free from poverty and pursues common prosperity.

We learn from international experience to support poverty reduction in China. With a firm belief that other’s experience can be useful for China, we pursue exchanges with other countries and seek international support. China has engaged in cooperation with UN development agencies, the World Bank, and other national and international organizations to fund projects in China. We established the International Poverty Reduction Center in China together with international partners to bring in international expertise to train officials in charge of poverty reduction, and coordinate industry, education and health related poverty alleviation projects that have made a positive impact in poor areas. The center brings China effective solutions, innovative models, funding, talents and managerial expertise. The Chinese people always remember the invaluable support and help we have received from various parties and will give back to the international community.

China also goes global to help other developing countries reduce poverty and improve people’s well-being. Following the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, China has hosted three major conferences, including the Global Poverty Reduction and Development Forum, China-ASEAN Forum on Social Development and Poverty Reduction, and China-Africa Poverty Reduction and Development Conference to provide consistent assistance for poverty reduction purposes. Between 2005 and the end of 2020, China hosted 159 training sessions on poverty alleviation for 4,233 officials from 136 countries and organizations in Asia, Africa, Oceania, North America, South America and Europe. These training sessions helped to disseminate China’s approaches and practices in poverty reduction, build consensus among countries on poverty reduction, and promote experience sharing. China signed MOUs on poverty reduction with Asian, European, African and Latin American countries to build stable mechanisms for bilateral cooperation. China has carried out the program known as East Asia Poverty Reduction Demonstration Cooperation Technical Assistance Projects in six rural communities of the Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar to help develop poverty reduction industries, improve infrastructure in villages, and train skilled workers. Such bilateral cooperation produced tangible benefits for local communities. The general public are encouraged to play their part. The China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation conducted the Package of Love project in Myanmar, Nepal, Ethiopia, Cambodia, the Laos, Uganda, Pakistan, and Namibia. Over 730,000 primary students have received education support from China.

Looking back, we are proud of the tremendous achievements China has made in poverty alleviation and our contributions to the global cause of poverty reduction in all dimensions and at multiple levels. Looking ahead, China has embarked on the new journey of rural revitalization. The gains in poverty alleviation will be consolidated and expanded. Rural areas will be revitalized in terms of industry, talents, culture, ecology, and community building. The urban-rural gap in development and people’s living standards will be significantly narrowed. We are confident that more substantial progress will be made in delivering a life of prosperity for each and every one. We are convinced that “China will get better only when the world becomes a better place, and that a better China will contribute to the greater good of the world.” Going forward, China is ready to work with the international community for common development and remain focused on improving people’s well-being and creating a better future with all other countries.

Wang Zhengpu isAdministrator of the National Rural RevitalizationAdministration.