China's anti-poverty programme benefits 'largest number of people in human history'

1 Apr 22

Sustaining China’s unprecedented success in ending extreme poverty will need “vigorous measures” revitalising the country’s rural areas, the World Bank has said.

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Rural China

Rural China. Image © Shutterstock

In a report looking at the past four decades of poverty reduction in the world’s most populous country, the Washington-based development bank put forward policy suggestions for the future.

The paper praised China’s efforts, which in 40 years have seen the number of people living below $1.90 per day (the World Bank’s poverty line – China’s own national poverty line is higher at about $2.30 per day) fall by nearly 800 million.

During that time China has contributed nearly three-quarters of the global reduction in extreme poverty, but new challenges require the Communist Party government to freshen its approach, the report said.

“China’s poverty reduction story is a story of persistent growth through economic transformation,” said Manuela V Ferro, World Bank vice president for East Asia and the Pacific.

“As China’s economy adjusts to a new low carbon growth model, its social policies will need to be adapted to support greater labour mobility, upgrade skill levels in line with shifts in labour demand and offer improved social protection to ensure a just transition.”

The report set out two “pillars” of China’s success: relying on economic transformation to open opportunities and raise average incomes, and targeted support to areas disadvantaged by geography.

It said focusing on education, supporting competition and sustained public investment in infrastructure were the biggest lessons for other countries.

But now, with absolute poverty having been eliminated in 2020, China can set its sights on raising incomes further, the World Bank said.

Last year the Chinese government announced it would begin to focus on rural revitalisation, aiming to address the persistent income gap rural areas face compared to cities.

The strategy includes commitments to improve public services and work to create and retain non-agricultural rural jobs.

“China’s battle against poverty has benefited the largest number of people in human history,” said Ma Jiantang, secretary of the party leadership group of the Development Research Centre, a government policy unit.

“To sustain poverty reduction gains, China will focus more on achieving endogenous development in areas that have been lifted out of poverty and introduce vigorous measures to support rural revitalisation.

“Our goal is to achieve common prosperity and high-quality development including through the rural revitalisation strategy with a focus in five key areas: industry development, human capital, culture, ecological environment and local governance.”

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