China helps to reduce global absolute poverty by 70 per cent

Sunday, March 7th, 2021 10:39 |
Farmers run tractors through wheat fields in Suqian, East China's Jiangsu Province. Photo: Courtesy
Farmers run tractors through wheat fields in Suqian, East China's Jiangsu Province. Photo: Courtesy

The declaration by Chinese President Xi Jinping last week that China had achieved “complete victory” over poverty captured the real magnitude of the rare feat.  Making the keynote address during the grand gathering to mark the nation's poverty alleviation accomplishments and honor model poverty fighters at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China on February 25, Xi stated that “no other country has ever been able to lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty in such a short period of time. This achievement belongs to China and the world.”

By reaching the milestone, China has contributed to the eradication of poverty in the world by 70 per cent simply by virtue of the fact that the country has the highest population in the world. Further, this is also a landmark for Goal No. One of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which seeks to “end poverty by all its forms everywhere.”

Like any other war, fighting poverty is not without great sacrifices and casualties. In the Beijing event, Xi noted that more than 1,800 workers lost lives for the country's cause of poverty alleviation. This includes people who died while performing high risk or dangerous jobs so others can benefit. A selfish system that seldom values humanity cannot have such martyrs because it is usually a case of everyone for his own and God for us all. 

China has set a perfect example for other developing countries to emulate, especially those who often view poverty as fate, while others have actually been led to glorifying it as a sign of humility. But there is no dignity to poverty and it behoves any government worth its salt to do all that it takes to lift its people out of the malaise.

Those who condemn China for its re-education campaign in Xinjiang fail to tell the true story of the economic empowerment and transformation of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region through multi-pronged programs that attack poverty at its core. These include creation of healthy ecosystems, law-based governance, inclusion as a core part of the Silk Road Economic Belt and lately measures containing the pandemic.  

However, China’s success dictates that, in the spirit of a shared future for mankind, it pulls along others from dire need. Obviously, this comprises countries of the South, who need a similar paradigm shift in their poverty alleviation efforts.

Projects like the Belt and Road Initiative are already fulfilling this role with the myriad projects spread globally. Poor countries just need to tap into the pipeline and take full advantage of the access to world’s trading routes that the opening up is offering.

China has already set precedence with various initiatives, such as the Forum on China–Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), which this month celebrated 20 years since its inception. The World Bank says FOCAC "has become a (flagship of) South-South Cooperation, in which China's experience of lifting its people out of poverty, building its industrial prows, using its resources in a very efficient way, and developing its technology can be shared with African countries, which the West has never done in Africa."

October 17, 2020 marked the last China Poverty Alleviation Day, effectively placing the country at the forefront of global poverty relief efforts. This milestone also coincides with the annual International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, whose theme this year is "Acting together to achieve social and environmental justice for all."

For China, poverty is more than a policy issue. It is a problem that touches the soul of its leadership, which informs the government's concerted efforts to ensure a basic minimum standard for its people. In 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping set a deadline of 2020 for the country's rural areas to defeat extreme poverty.

Incessant efforts through the reform and opening-up policy started 40 years ago have lifted about 800 million Chinese citizens out of poverty, accounting for over 70 percent of the global total. Since the end of 2012 when Xi officially declared the war against poverty, the number of people living below the poverty line has fallen from almost 99 million in 2012 to 5.51 million in 2019.

An opinion published in the Financial Times on June 26 by Yuan Yang and Nian Liu titled "Inside China's race to beat poverty" puts it aptly, "For both Xi and the Communist Party of China, poverty-alleviation goals are more than a policy target. They are also a major source of legitimacy, both inside China and globally."

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