The Watcher: Poverty Alleviation
Robert L. Kuhn
I’m Robert Lawrence Kuhn and here’s what I’m watching – China’s Precision Poverty Alleviation.
China has lifted more people out of poverty than any other country in history – over 700 million people. That’s remarkable; but still, that’s not enough. China has set the national goal of becoming a "moderately prosperous society" by 2020 – and a "moderately prosperous society" by definition, cannot have any people living below the line of extreme poverty. Zero.
President Xi Jinping first raised his “precision poverty relief strategy” in 2013 when he visited a poor village in central China’s Hunan Province. Officially, China began registering poor people in 1978. The number of poor was reduced from 165 million in 2010 to 55 million in 2015. In recent years, on average, China has annually brought about 14 million people out of poverty. In 2017, about 40 million people were still living below the poverty line.
The government examines their geographies, assesses reasons for their poverty, and decides what’s needed to bring them out of poverty. Primary strategies include industrial development, relocation, environmental protection, education, social welfare, and financial and medical support from the government.
It’s not only a matter of low income. Some people live under harsh conditions; some cannot work; some are ill. China’s "precision program" to eliminate poverty tracks every low-income family individually and prescribes specific measures for each. Summaries are posted on walls of village offices. For those who can work, it means earning a livable income. For those who cannot, it means receiving payments and services.
Eliminating poverty also requires public development – better infrastructure, housing, healthcare, education. If you don’t have a flush toilet, no matter how much you earn, you are still poor. When visiting impoverished villages, I was amazed to find mid-level provincial officials spending two years running small poverty reduction offices – not two weeks, two years!
One test of China’s success will be how many of those lifted out of poverty stay out of poverty? How can the poor become self-sustaining? The more who sell mushrooms and apples, the better.
There is a darker side: officials who falsify data to avoid punishment; even worse are those who misappropriate funds, stealing from the poor. But independent auditing is getting better.
China’s experience in poverty alleviation offers lessons to other developing countries, perhaps even to developed countries.
Dr. Robert Lawrence Kuhn is a CGTN anchor, a public intellectual, international corporate strategist and investment banker.