China’s President hails ‘complete victory’ in poverty fight

Xi said over the past eight years under his term, 98.99 million poor in rural areas had been lifted out of poverty

Published - February 25, 2021 07:55 pm IST

File photo of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

File photo of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

China on Thursday held a high-profile celebration to mark what its President Xi Jinping described as “a complete victory” in eliminating absolute poverty.

Mr. Xi said over the past eight years under his term, 98.99 million poor in rural areas had been lifted out of poverty while all the 832 designated “impoverished counties” and 128,000 “impoverished villages” had been removed from the government’s list.

He described the lifting of close to 100 million people out of poverty in eight years as “a miracle” that would “go down in history”, offering “a China example” to developing countries, although he said “no other country” could do so “in such as short time”.

China’s elimination of absolute poverty is defined according to the government’s poverty line of $2.30 in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP) per person a day, which is higher than the international poverty line of $1.90 PPP. According to the World Bank, China has lifted more than 850 million out of poverty since its reforms began in 1978, unleashing years of double-digit GDP growth.

The World Bank defines the poverty line for lower middle income countries at $3.20 PPP and for upper middle income countries, such as China, at $5.50 PPP. According to the World Bank, 373 million people in China are living below the upper-middle-income poverty line of $5.50.

Mr. Xi convened a high-profile gathering at the Great Hall of the People to mark the occasion, which has been seen as aimed at burnishing his legacy. Thursday’s event mainly emphasised the last eight years in China’s poverty fight, coinciding with Mr. Xi coming to power in 2012, rather than the four-decade legacy of his predecessors Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, which received little mention.

The official Xinhua news agency said in a commentary, “In 2020, after eight years of efforts, all of China’s nearly 100 million impoverished rural residents living below the current poverty line had shaken off poverty. Over the last eight years, unabated attention and a sustained push from Chinese President Xi Jinping have ensured continued momentum. Under his leadership, efforts against poverty have been woven into every fabric of Chinese life, in which reducing poverty is a consensus and constant call to action.”

Other reports also emphasised 2012 as a key turning point in China’s poverty fight.

Mr. Xi acknowledged that although China had achieved the target of eliminating poverty below its US$ 2.30 threshold, set in the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, 10 years ahead of schedule, the fight still remained unfinished. “Shaking off poverty is not the finish line, but the starting line of a new life and new endeavour,” he said, with a “rural vitalisation” strategy outlined in the 14th five year plan (2021-2025) and the “Long-Range Objectives Through 2035” blueprint his government put out last year.

China’s State media said infrastructure and connectivity were key factors in reducing poverty in remote impoverished counties, with 1.1 million km of rural roads upgraded or built sine 2012 and 4G coverage reaching 98 percent of the rural poor population. Part of the strategy has also been relocating residents of remote counties and villages, with 9.6 million people moved under the poverty programme.

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