China aims to reduce its poor rural population by more than 10 million this year, including relocating 2.8 million of them out of inhospitable areas, as the clock ticks on a political promise to lift all Chinese out of poverty by 2020.
Much of the efforts will focus on regions with significant minority populations which have struggled with poverty for decades, such as Tibet and Xinjiang, as well as parts of Yunnan and Gansu provinces, said Premier Li Keqiang at the opening session of China's annual Parliament meetings yesterday.
Eliminating extreme poverty in China by 2020 was a key promise made by President Xi Jinping in 2015. While more than 13 million Chinese have been lifted out of poverty every year since 2015, some 30 million people still live under the official poverty line of 2,300 yuan (S$480) a year.
In his annual work report, Mr Li said the remaining poor are the hardest to help.
"Poverty alleviation remains a formidable task (and) the disparities in development between rural and urban areas, between regions, and in income distribution remain substantial," he said.
China has significantly ramped up spending on its poverty reduction drive in recent years.
Beijing allocated 86.1 billion yuan towards poverty reduction efforts last year, a 30 per cent increase over the amount in 2016. It will increase this figure by 23 per cent to 106 billion yuan this year.
The large sums directed towards poverty reduction have provided opportunities for corruption, admitted Mr Li, who said Beijing will tighten oversight over the use of public monies to ensure proper use.
More than 49 billion yuan in public funds was found to have been misused last year, according to China's latest Budget report.
"We will take targeted measures against corruption and misconduct in poverty alleviation, and improve the methods used in evaluation and oversight," he said.
Delegates yesterday welcomed the government's renewed focus on fighting poverty.
"This is an issue that still affects innumerable households, and is a practical measure of how successful we are in ensuring that everyone shares the fruits of China's reforms," said Ms Feng Fan, a delegate from the south-eastern Jiangxi province.
"This year's report details many concrete measures in this crucial final lap, and we await its success."