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Much efforts to achieve the goal of eradicating poverty in China by 2020

Beijing Review by Lan Xinzhen, December 27, 2018
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China has set the goal of eradicating poverty by 2020. There is a lot of skepticism about whether the goal can be achieved. When even developed countries are not confident enough to declare they have no one living in poverty, is it possible for China, the world's most populous country whose per-capita GDP lags behind developed nations', to lift all its impoverished population out of poverty by then?

To meet the goal, the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in 2017 proposed the task of winning the fight against poverty and in 2018, a three-year special poverty alleviation plan was put into action.

China's current poverty line is based on an annual income of 2,300 yuan ($334). Established in 2011, the benchmark is revised from time to time. According to the current criterion, more than 30 million Chinese still live in poverty. Most of them reside in extremely disadvantaged areas that are difficult to be brought out of poverty. If a disaster should hit such areas, they could slip back into poverty again.

The State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development has given details of the poverty alleviation goal. By 2020, the net per-capita income of those currently living under the poverty line will exceed 4,000 yuan ($580). They will have access to sufficient food. They will also have sufficient clothes for different seasons, compulsory education, basic health services and housing security. This target is based on China's economic development, price indexes and social conditions and is rational and feasible.

This year, the focal point has been issuing a whole set of extraordinary policies to build an accountability system in poverty alleviation efforts. The Central Government makes the overall plans and arrangements, the provincial governments take on major responsibilities, while cities and counties take tangible actions. The poverty alleviation monitoring and assessment system assesses the work by governments at various levels. Achievements are rewarded while failures get those in charge pulled up. Given the efforts in 2018, the goal is attainable by 2020.

The strategy of targeted poverty reduction was put forward by President Xi Jinping. After more than 40 years of exploring ways to eradicate poverty, this is seen as a remarkable innovation in terms of both theory and practice.

In the early days of reform and opening up, as poverty was widespread, special policies were adopted to help the rural population, who formed the bulk of the impoverished. Today, the situation is different; so precise, targeted and differentiated measures are needed to fight poverty.

In this phase, the government sends teams to villages to collect information and create files, then officials are sent to stay in these villages to help impoverished households. Millions of officials and state-owned enterprise staff were sent to stay in poor villages in 2018 to help with targeted poverty alleviation. Never before has China launched such a widespread and large-scale poverty alleviation effort.

As part of the campaign, specific and detailed programs are tailored based on local conditions and the causes of poverty. There are different solutions for different problems, making them feasible. Such tailored solutions have borne considerable fruit.

According to the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development, in 2018, the campaign has produced greater results in deeply impoverished areas than in other places, including the western region that has a sizeable impoverished population. This speedy alleviation in regions plagued by deep poverty is a guarantee that the target can be accomplished by 2020.

Currently, the regions in deep poverty are characterized by outdated industries, unskilled labor and a large number of old, sick and disabled people. The government is taking differentiated measures to help them and will continue to do so. Some are being provided with training to improve their working skills and some with work to promote employment. The elderly and disabled, incapable of working, are being provided with social security. All these measures make the goal of lifting the last 30 million poor people out of poverty by 2020 an attainable one.

Of the numerous achievements of the four-decade-old reform and opening-up policy, poverty alleviation is an important one. Within 40 years, the poverty incidence in rural areas of China has dropped from 97.5 percent to 2 percent, thanks to solutions based on China's national conditions. If China meets the goal of removing absolute poverty in 2020, it would be done 10 years ahead of the date proposed by the United Nations' 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.