Leading China from Poverty to Common Prosperity

From: English Edition of Qiushi Journal Updated: 2011-12-29 14:12
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 Leading the people of China in a concerted push for socialist modernization, the CPC has forged a path of socialism with Chinese characteristics. Adhering to this path, the CPC has made history by lifting the Chinese people out of poverty and leading them towards moderate prosperity. In doing so, the CPC has demonstrated that it is the spearhead of China’s efforts to eradicate poverty and achieve common prosperity for all.

 I. China has made brilliant achievements in poverty reduction

 With the outbreak of the Opium War of 1840, China was reduced to a semi-colonial and semi-feudal society. As the country became progressively weak, the people were plunged into a state of poverty. By 1949, China had become one of the poorest countries in the world.

  After the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the CPC set out to make the country wealthy, strong, and prosperous. Relying on its own strength, it committed itself to building a modernized socialist country and changing the face of China’s poor and backward society. With these efforts, the CPC went on to make a series of achievements: it gradually established an independent and relatively complete framework for industry and the national economy, providing the material foundation for the accelerated development of the country; it initiated land reforms that put the country’s farmland in the hands of the farmers, laying down the institutional basis for the fundamental eradication of poverty; and it also established a basic framework for social security, education, and healthcare in rural areas, helping to improve the living conditions of the people in these areas. However, owing to various reasons, by 1978 there were still 250 million people living in a state of poverty in China’s rural areas, lacking adequate food and clothing.

 New residential houses for a Mang Ren community in Yunnan Province. The Mang Ren had been regarded as an unidentified ethnic minority in China prior to 2009. With a population of just 689 people, little was known about this group in the past. Previously, members of the Mang Ren lived in old thatched cottages, weaved their own clothes, and survived by hunting and gathering. The Mang Ren group was confirmed as being part of the Bulang ethnic group in 2009. / Photo by Xinhua reporter Wang Jinfu  

 With the convening of the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh CPC Central Committee, which signaled the beginning of China’s reform and opening up drive, China embarked on a new campaign to eradicate poverty in rural areas. In the period from 1978 to 1985, which was mainly characterized by institutional reform, a two-tier system for the management of rural land based on the contracting of land to families was developed. Following this, rural enterprises emerged in large numbers and grew at a rapid pace, playing a significant role in the liberation and development of productive forces in rural areas. This helped to alleviate poverty over large areas of the country. By 1985, the net income of rural residents per capita had increased 2.6-fold compared to 1978, and the number of people living in absolute poverty had dropped from 250 million to 125 million. In the period from 1986 to 2007, which was characterized by the promotion of dedicated plans for development, China launched large-scale efforts to alleviate poverty through development initiatives. As a part of these efforts, supervisory organs for poverty alleviation and development were established, national standards on poverty were formulated, a list of impoverished counties for key state support was confirmed, and preferential policies to support the development of poor areas were implemented. These efforts brought about profound changes to the environment in which China’s poverty alleviation efforts were taking place. By the end of 2007, the number of Chinese people living in absolute poverty had dropped to 14.79 million. In 2007, the Chinese government decided that it would establish a system to guarantee minimum standards of living across rural areas nationwide. At the end of 2008, the government adopted a new poverty line, and introduced aid for all low-income people in rural areas. With this, China’s poverty alleviation initiatives began to progress on two separate fronts, including both poverty reduction through the provision of relief as well as poverty reduction through development. According to China’s new poverty line, the number of poor people in China has been reduced from 40.07 million in 2008 to around 26 million at present.

 China’s unremitting efforts have allowed it to make brilliant achievements in poverty reduction over the last 60 years. First, poor population in rural areas has been cut by a significant the percentage of villages with electricity was 98%; and the percentage of villages with access to telephone services was 92.9%. Third, the living standards of rural residents in poor areas have improved remarkably. Since the turn of the century, the per capita consumer expenditure of rural residents in key counties for state support has increased at an average rate of 7.97%, reaching 2,662 yuan at present. In 2010, the per capita housing space for rural households in key counties for state support was 24.9 square meters. In addition, the proportion of rural households using dry latrines and flush toilets reached 88.4%, representing increases of 23.9% and 6.1% over the year 2002 respectively. Fourth, all-round progress has been achieved in social programs in poor areas. In 2010, the rate of school attendance among school-age children reached 97.7%, approaching the average rate of attendance for the whole country. The rate of illiteracy among young and middle-aged adults was 7%, representing a drop of 5.4% compared with figures from 2002. In key counties for state support, every township now has a public health center, and the vast majority of poor villages have their own clinics. China’s new rural cooperative medical care system covers 93.3% of the population, and the percentage of people who are able to secure rapid access to medical care has reached 91.4%. Fifth, a basic social security system covering all rural areas has been put in place. By the end of 2010, the number of people covered by the system to ensure a minimum standard of living in rural areas nationwide reached 52.284 million, while the number of people covered by the program of providing aid for food, clothing, medical care, housing and burial expenses for childless families and infirm elderly people in rural areas reached 5.548 million. Thus, China is now able to satisfy the basic living needs of its entire rural population.

 China’s achievements in poverty reduction have also accelerated the reduction of poverty on a worldwide basis, thus representing an important contribution. According to UN data, China was the first developing country to achieve the target of halving the number of poor people under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of the United Nations, an achievement that stands regardless of whether poverty figures are determined according to the international poverty line or by China’s poverty line. From 1990 to 2005, the number of people living on less than $1.25 per day was reduced to 1.4 billion. According to this standard, China has been responsible for 70% of the world’s poverty reduction.

 II. China has gained rich experiences in poverty reduction

 In order to take our initiatives in poverty alleviation to a new level and achieve our goal of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects by the year 2020, it is especially important that we look back over our initiatives in poverty alleviation and development and take stock of the basic lessons that we have learned.

 1. We must adhere to the leadership of the CPC and exert the leading role of the government. Since the beginning of the reform and opening up drive, the CPC Central Committee has convened a number of working sessions on poverty alleviation, during which it has made overall strategic arrangements for initiatives in this regard. The central government has always highlighted the importance of poverty alleviation and development in rural areas in China’s medium and long-term plans for economic and social development. As actual conditions on the ground have changed, it has also made necessary amendments to China’s poverty line and reassessed the regions that require key government support. Under the leadership of the CPC, China has established organizations to oversee poverty alleviation and development initiatives at all levels from the central government down to local governments. It has gradually developed an administrative system for poverty alleviation under which the central government defines overall strategies, provincial governments take full charge, and county governments are responsible for specific implementation. In addition, a working mechanism designed to focus on the development of adjacent poor areas and to take poverty alleviation initiatives into villages and homes has been established. These efforts have ensured that the policies of the state on poverty alleviation are carried out effectively.

 2. We must promote economic growth and consolidate the position of agriculture as the foundation of the economy. China has maintained steady and rapid economic growth since the beginning of the reform and opening up drive. The resulting increases in its comprehensive national strength have created sound conditions for the alleviation of poverty in rural areas. Economic growth has created large numbers of jobs to underpin the transfer and employment of China’s surplus rural labor force. At present, around 200 million rural laborers have found employment in non-agricultural sectors. On the other hand, economic growth has helped to strengthen the position of agriculture as the foundation of the economy, thereby promoting restructuring and economic growth in poor regions. By 2010, per capita quantities of principal farm produce in China, including grain, vegetables, meat and poultry products, were either approaching or had surpassed the global average, ensuring that we are able to satisfy the basic living needs of the poor.

 3. We need to encourage public participation and strengthen international cooperation. In 2002, the State Council initiated a scheme to reorganize dedicated poverty alleviation efforts of Party and government organs. Under the scheme, the government organized for 272 organizations, including central Party and government organs, democratic parties, social groups, and large state-owned enterprises, to offer dedicated assistance to poverty alleviation schemes in 481 key counties. From 2001 to 2010, these organizations directly invested 9.09 billion yuan in funds and materials into poverty alleviation schemes in these counties, and also ran various training courses for 1.684 million person-times. The State Council also organized for six provinces, three municipalities directly under the central government, and six cities with independent budget arrangements in the eastern region to support eleven western provinces (autonomous regions and municipality) on a point-to-point basis. From 2001 to 2010, governments of provinces and municipalities in eastern China provided 4.44 billion yuan in aid to western regions, while the corporate sector provided funds of approximately 250 billion yuan to support aid schemes. In addition, China has also worked actively with international organizations in poverty reduction, having engaged in a variety of joint projects for poverty alleviation. Since the year 2000, China has utilized US$ 560 million in foreign funds for the purpose of poverty alleviation.

 4. We must rely on our own efforts and carry out poverty alleviation through developmental initiatives. The fundamental goal of our efforts to alleviate poverty through development is to increase the capacity of people in impoverished regions to secure their own development by integrating them into the decision making process for poverty alleviation and development projects. For this reason, China has maintained a long-term commitment to the policy of poverty alleviation through development. The government has helped poor regions in the construction of infrastructure, such as roads, electricity, post, radio and television, and devoted great efforts to supporting poor households in developing crop cultivation, animal husbandry, and small processing projects. Since 2001, the government has implemented an “entire-village promotion” program in 126,000 poor villages and established mutual aid funding organizations in 13,600 villages. It has supported the relocation of more than 7 million impoverished people in areas with extremely harsh natural conditions, and offered training courses for more than 4 million laborers from poor families, which have helped these people to generate incomes locally or secure employment elsewhere.

 5. We must integrate the planning of urban and rural areas and promote scientific development. China has carried out the comprehensive reform of rural taxes and fees. At the same time, it has stepped up efforts to establish a system of agricultural subsidies and increased its investment in rural infrastructure such as water, electricity, road, and gas supply facilities. In addition to reducing the burdens of rural residents, these initiatives have promoted the development of agriculture and helped to increase rural incomes. China has also launched efforts to bring about the comprehensive development of social programs in rural areas. It has reformed the way that compulsory education is administered in rural areas; implemented a new rural cooperative medical care system; expanded medical assistance for people with financial difficulties; and achieved remarkable results in the building of a new socialist countryside. In an effort to promote the balanced development of different regions, China has implemented a strategy to promote the large-scale development of the western region, launched a strategy to promote the rise of the central region, and increased fiscal aid to central and western regions. Moreover, it has effectively increased the incomes of rural residents in the western region by improving ecological environments, which has been done by returning farmland to forests and grasslands.

 III. China is beginning a new round of efforts in poverty alleviation and development

 At present, China’s poverty alleviation and development initiatives have entered a new phase. While in the past the goal of our initiatives was to satisfy the basic living needs of impoverished people, the goals of the next phase should be to consolidate our previous achievements; overcome poverty and achieve prosperity at a faster pace; raise the capacities of localities for development; improve ecological environments; and narrow the developmental gap between different regions. In 2011, China began to implement its Outline on Poverty Alleviation and Development in China’s Rural Areas (2011-2020).

 1. We need to be more focused in our poverty alleviation initiatives. In the future, China will focus its poverty alleviation initiatives on adjoining areas in extreme difficulties. In a push to fundamentally turn these backward areas around, the government will give increased support in education, health care, culture, employment, and social security; nurture and expand competitive industries that display local characteristics; step up the development of regional infrastructure; and strengthen ecological development and environmental protection. At the same time, the provision of relief to able-bodied people in rural areas living below the poverty line will continue to be a focus of our poverty alleviation efforts. Efforts will be made to ensure the effective progression of poverty alleviation initiatives in key counties and poor villages which are not located in areas with extreme difficulties where poverty is highly concentrated.

 2. We need to further specify our strategic pivots in poverty alleviation. At present, special projects, industry support, and public participation represent China’s three strategic pivots in poverty alleviation. In special projects for poverty alleviation, the focus shall be to promote the development of entire villages, create jobs in relief projects, alleviate poverty through the development of industry, and promote employment. Particular emphasis shall be given to counties in the old revolutionary areas within poverty-stricken regions. In industry support, government departments will be assigned to assist poor areas in developing distinctive industries and speeding up the construction of local infrastructure. Emphasis will be given to the development of energy and ecological environment, so as to create better conditions for the development of aid recipients. In regard to public participation, we should strengthen dedicated poverty alleviation initiatives, promote east-west coordination in poverty alleviation, mobilize enterprises and different circles of society to participate in poverty alleviation, and actively engage in international cooperation in the field of poverty alleviation.

 3. We need to further improve our framework of policies on poverty alleviation. During the Twelfth Five-Year Plan, China will continue to intensify the preferential policies it provides in terms of taxation, finance, and industry. Poverty alleviation and development aid for ethnic minorities, women and children, and the disabled will be written into overall plans, and these groups will be given priority assistance in order to ensure that they receive greater support. In particular, efforts to make border areas prosperous and allow the people in these areas to become wealthy must be deepened. Our various initiatives in poverty alleviation should be tilted in favor of ethnic minority areas, so as to ensure greater input in poverty alleviation in such areas. In addition, we need to adopt special measures to assist disabled people who are living in poverty, thereby allowing them to share the fruits of China’s reform and development.

 4. We need to further intensify our responsibilities in poverty alleviation and development. China will strengthen the way it manages and uses funds for poverty alleviation; create a new mechanism for poverty alleviation to ensure that funds reach households; and adopt various methods to enable the recipients of poverty alleviation aid to get direct and effective support. All projects making use of poverty alleviation funds will be made known to the public; auditing and supervision will be intensified; channels for supervision and control will be widened; and resolute action will be taken to punish the unlawful diversion, retention, and embezzlement of funds for poverty alleviation. We shall speed up the pace of legislation so as to bring poverty alleviation under the governance of the law as soon as possible and thereby realize the normalized operation of our poverty alleviation initiatives. 


 (Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No.14, 2011)

 Author: Director of the Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China

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 Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development of the State Council

 The Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development of the State Council operates under the Leading Group of the State Council for the Development of Underdeveloped Regions.

 The Leading Group of the State Council for the Development of Underdeveloped Regions, which was founded on May 16, 1986 as the Leading Group for Economic Development of Poverty-Stricken Regions, is an advisory and coordinating body under the State Council. Assuming its present name on December 28, 1993, the group is currently headed by Vice-Premier Hui Liangyu. Its primary tasks are to organize investigations and surveys into issues concerning poverty; work out directives, policies and plans for the economic development of poor regions; coordinate the resolution of major issues encountered in the development and construction of poor regions; oversee and evaluate poverty alleviation efforts and to summarize and exchange experiences in the economic development of poor regions.

 The office of the leading group, referred to as the Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development of the State Council, is charged with overseeing the daily operation of group affairs. Its main responsibilities are as follows:

 1. To formulate and organize the implementation of policies and plans for poverty alleviation and development.

 2. To coordinate public efforts to aid the poor; to coordinate and organize the fixed-point poverty alleviation efforts of central government organs; and to coordinate and organize the initiatives of developed eastern regions to support poor western regions.

 3. To set standards in regard to rural poverty and key counties for state support in poverty alleviation and development; and put forward suggestions in regard to the confirmation or cancellation of key counties for state support in poverty alleviation and development.

 4. To organize the statistical analysis and dynamic monitoring of poverty alleviation and development activities; and to oversee the data collecting and monitoring efforts of organizations engaged in poverty alleviation.

 5. To coordinate the formulation of plans for the allocation of central government funds for poverty alleviation; to oversee, inspect, and supervise the use of such funds; and to oversee key inter-provincial and inter-regional projects for poverty relief.

 6. To organize the publicity of poverty alleviation and development initiatives.

 7. To be responsible for international exchanges and cooperation in regard to poverty relief.

 8. To be responsible for the training of cadres from poverty-stricken regions in regard to initiatives in poverty alleviation and development.

 9. To undertake other tasks entrusted by the Leading Group of the State Council for Development of Underdeveloped Regions.

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