Three principles in war on poverty

Some 110 counties and 16,000 villages still have at least 20 per cent of their populations in extreme poverty in China .
Some 110 counties and 16,000 villages still have at least 20 per cent of their populations in extreme poverty in China . PHOTO: REUTERS

China wants a genuine and sustained victory in its fight against poverty, not a hollow one achieved by cooking numbers, its top official in charge of the campaign said.

Beijing is also clear-eyed that fighting poverty will not end in 2020, and will implement policies to prevent people from backsliding, added Mr Liu Yongfu, head of the State Council's Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development.

Yesterday, Mr Liu outlined three principles that set the tone as China turns to regions where the problem has been most intractable, the final lap in its bid to eliminate absolute poverty by 2020.

Foremost is ensuring that "not one individual" remains under China's official poverty line of 2,300 yuan ($478) per year when the deadline rolls around, said Mr Liu. Second is ensuring that this goal is met through real improvements to the people's lives.

"Our poverty alleviation work must be of high quality and able to stand the test of time; it can't be diluted, fake, or a paper victory."

China will also continue the fight beyond 2020 to reduce relative poverty and help those at the bottom of society, he added.

"It doesn't mean China will have no poverty after 2020, just that we will have eliminated absolute poverty. Relative poverty will persist for a long time; we must make progress sustainable (by) establishing sound institutional mechanisms."

One segment of society that has been resistant to help are the inter-generational poor who have become accustomed to a hard life, said Mr Liu. "Their ancestors have been in the mountains for generations, and they... often find it difficult to leave."

Beijing will intensify coordination with the provincial and local governments in deeply impoverished areas, such as Tibet, Xinjiang, Gansu and Yunnan, which will receive the bulk of newly earmarked poverty alleviation funds.

Longer-term training programmes and education efforts to get rid of outdated mindsets and practices will be introduced and entrenched, said Mr Liu, citing the unhealthy rural practice of spending exorbitant amounts on weddings and funerals.

Defeating poverty is a key promise made in 2015 by President Xi Jinping. In the last five years, China has lifted up two-thirds of the 99 million who were living in extreme poverty in 2012, with just over 30 million still under its poverty line.

Last year, China shortened its list of 832 impoverished counties - those with more than two or three per cent living under its poverty line - the first time since the ledger was created in 1986. The 28 counties who cast off poverty included five counties each in Tibet and Xinjiang, historically some of the poorest parts of China.

Mr Liu said since then, another 120 counties have been removed from the list. Some 110 counties and 16,000 villages still have at least a fifth of their populations in extreme poverty, but China is confident it will meet its 2020 target, he said.

"After years of hard work, the battle of eradicating poverty can finally be accomplished."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 08, 2018, with the headline Three principles in war on poverty. Subscribe