China 'going all out' to lift 30m out of poverty by 2020

In the village of Shenshan, which had paved roads only four years ago, 'red tourism' has completely replaced subsistence farming and changed the lives of the rural poor.

Lifting 30 million Chinese out of poverty in the next three years will be a difficult task, but the government will "go all out" to make sure it achieves the target, a key official in charge of China's poverty alleviation drive said.

The final push will see officials work more closely across ministries and with non-governmental organisations (NGOs), Mr Liu Yongfu, director of the State Council Poverty Alleviation and Development Office (CPAD), said at a press conference yesterday on the government's progress in this area since the 18th Party Congress.

With the 19th Party Congress a week away, the clock is ticking for President Xi Jinping's goal of achieving a moderately prosperous society by 2020 - ahead of the centenary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) - with eradicating poverty a "baseline" task.

Mr Xi on Monday made a fresh call on party officials to double down on the "the toughest battle of all tough battles", a tacit acknowledgement that the CCP faces an uphill task to meet the ambitious target with all low-hanging fruit already harvested.

China has had large-scale poverty alleviation campaigns since 1986, but the resources needed for initiatives such as resettlement or infrastructure building truly grew only after Mr Xi's 2012 pledge, said Mr Liu.

The greater emphasis on lifting up the poor has paid off: An average of 13 million people have been brought out of poverty every year since 2012, double the number in the previous decade, he said.

But Mr Liu admitted that the difficult part remains.

"The main difficulty we face is that eradicating poverty in deeply-impoverished regions remains an arduous task, with medical-related poverty a prominent problem," he said.

Regions such as Xinjiang and Tibet have entrenched poverty problems because of "long-term historical and other reasons" and weak infrastructure, he said.

This means local departments, whether in road works or water resources, will have to work more closely together.

While many causes of poverty such as lack of local jobs have been addressed, the proportion of those who have been pushed into poverty because of medical expenses has risen in recent years, from 42 per cent in 2015 to 44 per cent today.

"The government is paying particular attention to this as it will be a key part of the next step," said Ms Su Guoxia, head of policy and regulation at CPAD.

Part of the solution was implemented earlier this year, including expanding insurance coverage for more diseases and setting up more specialist facilities in poorer regions, said Ms Su.

"We will also mobilise social forces, including NGOs," she said.

 

And CPAD will work with the National Health and Family Planning Commission on treating children with major diseases, she added.

Mr Liu said: "Every major poverty alleviation project before this one had always left behind an absolute-ly impoverished group, from 200 million to as many as 300 million.

"But our effort this time is to totally eliminate absolute poverty, leaving no one languishing at the 'bottom of the pot'."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 11, 2017, with the headline 'China 'going all out' to lift 30m out of poverty by 2020'. Print Edition | Subscribe