China can fulfill its poverty eradication goals

Editor's note: The following article is taken from the Chinese-language opinion column "The Real Point".

As China's annual policy-shaping sessions of the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference get underway in Beijing, questions are being asked about whether the country is able to reach its economic and social development goals, especially in poverty alleviation. Despite the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic this year, the prospects are positive.

The government has made the elimination of poverty a priority of national governance since 2012. During an inspection tour in Shanxi Province, President Xi Jinping reaffirmed the government's commitment to eradicating absolute poverty this year, further enhancing confidence in the country's efforts.

Aside from the leadership's determination, the government is also equipped with applicable policy tools, including measures favoring a scientifically coordinated resumption of production in poverty reduction-related industries. For example, some enterprises switched to manufacturing personal protective equipment in the early stage of the pandemic, keeping jobs open for the employees.

By the end of last month, according to official statistics, around 97 percent of leading poverty-alleviation enterprises and workshops had resumed production, while 82 percent of poverty-relief projects had restarted. The number of poor migrant workers returning to work has surpassed 95 percent of the total migrant workers last year.

The government has allocated 5.6 billion yuan (some 800 million U.S. dollars) so far this year to fund the local employment of a 300,000-strong labor force, who are unable to go out to work due to the pandemic.

Alongside the governmental support, farmers from poverty-stricken rural areas have managed to survive during these difficult times thanks to live-streaming sales. According to the National Statistics Bureau, China's online retail sales of agricultural products in the first three months surpassed 93 billion yuan (13 billion U.S. dollars), up 31 percent over the same period last year.

The online retail sales of 800-plus national poverty-stricken counties reached nearly 27 billion yuan (3.8 billion U.S. dollars), up 13.3 percent and 14 percentage points higher than the national online retail growth rate. The figures mean that live-streaming sales can be a new approach to targeting poverty alleviation.

The country's poverty alleviation tasks are near completion, as the number of impoverished people fell to 5.51 million at the end of 2019 from 98.99 million at the end of 2012. The poverty headcount ratio dropped to 0.6 percent from 10.2 percent during the period, with regional overall poverty being basically eradicated.

The central government has made concrete plans, including investing over 30 billion yuan (more than 4 billion U.S. dollars), to lift the remaining 52 poor counties out of poverty.

According to the World Bank, China's poverty relief attainment has contributed over 70 percent to global poverty reduction work. Kerry Brown, Director of the China Institute at King's College London, said, as China will overcome poverty soon, the country and the world are expected to work together to build a sustainable, fair and inclusive society with mutual benefits.

As Volker Tschapke, honorary president of the Prussian Society in Berlin, pointed out: "China's goal of overcoming poverty and building a society with a modest prosperity in all areas would not be affected by the COVID-19 epidemic. If you look to the future, the outbreak of the epidemic is just one of the episodes in China's vigorous development process."

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