BEIJING — Since 1978, when the reform and opening up policy was first adopted, China has lifted more than 700 million of its citizens out of poverty.
While being the first developing country to meet the Millennium Development Goals target on reducing the domestic poverty rate by half, which it did before the 2015 deadline, the journey is far from over.
China has vowed to lift over 10 million rural people out of poverty this year and all people out of poverty by 2020.
At the end of last year, however, there were still 70.17 million people in the countryside living under the country’s poverty line of 2,300 yuan ($376) in annual income, data from the National Bureau of Statistics shows.
This year, the central treasury allocated 46.1 billion yuan to poverty relief, up 8 percent from 2014, and more than double the 22.2 billion that was channeled to poverty relief in 2010.
Despite the healthy growth of the poverty relief fund, however, results have fallen short of expectations: Only 12.32 million people emerged from poverty in 2014, compared with 43.29 million in 2011.
“Regions with better conditions have already been lifted out of poverty. While efforts in the areas that remain face many challenges,” said Liu Yongfu, director of the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development.
TARGETED POVERTY ALLEVIATION
Guan Xinping, a poverty relief expert with Nankai University, said it was time for China to review its poverty policy.
While promoting the regional economy through mass investment achieved remarkable results in the 1980s and 1990s, this approach had run its course, according to Guan.
Earlier this year, China floated the idea of a “precision” plan, a targeted approach to poverty alleviation rather than the previous “one size fits all.”
This plan was subsequently confirmed following the creation of a database last year that recorded the basic information of 88 million people -- all those living under the poverty line across in China.
“The database [will] effectively channel resources to those in greatest need,” said Liu.
This new strategy has enabled China to roll out a new suite of programs including road and home improvements, better public services and financing for new businesses.
Moreover, funds have also been established to provide support to specific sectors including e-commerce, tourism and solar panel manufacturing.
The government has also proposed long-term program, such as free vocational education and training for young people. The aim is that these students will be equipped with a practical skill or technique to help them stand out in the employment market, according to Liu.
China’s poverty reduction campaign has gained worldwide recognition. The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) in August praised China for promoting rural tourism as a way to fight poverty.
Between 2011 and 2014, more than 10 million people “were lifted out of poverty through tourism,” the UNWTO said, citing data from Chinese tourism authorities.
The government has been resolute in its commitment to poverty alleviation, investing a lot of money and creating new ways to lift its people out of poverty. This experience should be shared by the international community, said Guan.
At the same time, however, China should learn from other countries that overall social development is more important than food and clothing, added Guan.