A file photo of Chinese President Xi Jinping delivering a speech via video at the ASEAN Expo in Nanning, in southern China's Guangxi province on November 27, 2020.(AFP/ FILE)
A file photo of Chinese President Xi Jinping delivering a speech via video at the ASEAN Expo in Nanning, in southern China's Guangxi province on November 27, 2020.(AFP/ FILE)

China has eradicated absolute poverty: President Xi Jinping

The announcement is a propaganda victory for the Communist Party, capping an eight-year anti-poverty drive, and coming in a year in which China’s economy has been battered by the pandemic
By Sutirtho Patranobis | Hindustan Times, Beijing
UPDATED ON DEC 05, 2020 12:07 AM IST

Chinese President Xi Jinping has declared victory in the country’s drive to eliminate extreme poverty, a major goal for the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) as it approaches its centenary in 2021.

Xi announced the verdict at a meeting of the seven-member CPC politburo standing committee, the highest decision-making body in China, on Thursday, official news agency Xinhua reported on Friday.

“China has removed all poor counties from the poverty list, and eradicated absolute poverty and regional poverty,” Xi was quoted as saying.

The announcement is a propaganda victory for the Communist Party - and a personal one for President Xi - capping an eight-year anti-poverty drive, and coming in a year in which China’s economy has been battered by the Covid-19 pandemic.

It is part of China’s efforts to, what the CPC calls, a “moderately prosperous” society - possibly the most critical component on which its political legitimacy among the 1.4 billion people in China depends.

“We have achieved in a timely manner the poverty alleviation goal of the new era,” Xi said at the meeting. “Through eight years of sustained work, China has lifted all rural poor populations under the current standard out of poverty and nearly 100 million poor people have shaken off poverty.”

The anti-poverty drive has to be sustained, the meeting discussed, according to the Xinhua report.

“At present, the country still faces acute problems caused by unbalanced and inadequate development as well as onerous tasks of consolidating and expanding poverty alleviation achievements,” said the meeting.

The meeting called for efforts to keep the existing supportive policies, financial support and assistance basically stable.

Chinese government statistics say the country has lifted some 850 million out of poverty, contributing over 70% to global poverty reduction, in the last few decades.

The country’s rural poor population was slashed from 98.99 million at the end of 2012 to 5.51 million at the end of 2019, with the poverty ratio in rural regions dropping from 10.2% to 0.6%, according to government statistics.

Chinese government’s own flattering statistics on poverty alleviation have been questioned.

The debate over the number of poor in China was reignited last May when Premier Li Keqiang said the monthly income of some 600 million Chinese was 1000 yuan (Rs 10,000).

“It’s barely enough to cover monthly rent in a mid-sized Chinese city,” Li said at his annual press conference at the closing of China’s legislature, the National People’s Congress (NPC) in Beijing.

“Extreme poverty is officially gone and millions of villagers have been moved off mountaintops, but many more continue to live with significant privation. The uneducated and elderly will struggle to move up further, and there’s plenty of penury in urban areas and among migrants, often excluded from official discourse that has focused on rural poverty. Inequality is rising, too,” a Bloomberg report said in late November after China’s last nine counties were removed from the poverty list last month.

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