More than 82 million in poverty in China: official

BEIJING (AFP) - More than 82 million people in China still live on less than about US$1 (S$1.27) a day, a senior official said, despite a decades-long boom that made it the world's second-largest economy.

China's official poverty standard is an annual income of 2,300 yuan (S$480), close to the long-used benchmark of US$1 a day.

More than 82 million people were living on less than that at the end of last year, senior government development official Zheng Wenkai told reporters.

The World Bank's own definition of poverty is US$1.25 a day, and Mr Zheng said China's poor would would rise to more than 200 million if "international standards" were applied.

"The poverty-stricken population not only suffer from low income but also face various difficulties in getting drinking water, roads, electricity, education, medical care and loans," he said at a press conference Tuesday.

Most of them live in areas prone to natural disasters or with inadequate infrastructure, and lifting them out of poverty is "a tough nut to crack", added Mr Zheng, vice director of the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development.

Over 30 years of reforms have led to an economic boom in China, which displaced Japan as the global number two in 2010, behind the US.

But per capita GDP in the country of 1.36 billion people was just US$6,767 last year, less than 13 percent of that in the US, the state-run Global Times newspaper said on Wednesday.

More worrying is the country's widening income gap, which was highlighted in a Peking University report earlier this year pointing out that the top one per cent of households in the Communist-ruled country controlled more than one third of its wealth in 2012, while the bottom 25 percent controlled just one per cent.