Poverty Alleviation: China’s Experience and Contribution
The State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China
I. The Solemn Commitment of the CPC
II. Final Victory in the Fight Against Extreme Poverty
III. The Strategy of Targeted Poverty Alleviation
IV. Exploring a New Path of Poverty Alleviation
V. A Global Community of Shared Future Free from Poverty
Poverty is a chronic affliction of human society and a common challenge faced by the whole world. Poverty and its associated problems, including hunger, diseases, and social conflicts, are serious impediments to people’s pursuit of a better life, so the eradication of poverty has always been a wish to be fulfilled. The history of humankind is the history of relentless struggle against poverty.
China is the world’s largest developing country, with a population of 1.4 billion. In addition to its weak foundations and uneven development, the nation had long been plagued by poverty at a scale and a level of severity that has rarely been seen anywhere else in the world. As a result, the challenge of poverty alleviation in China almost defies imagination.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China (CPC). Over the past century, the Party has united and led the Chinese people in the battle against poverty with unwavering faith and will. Since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, the Party Central Committee, with General Secretary Xi Jinping at the core, has fought a decisive battle against poverty that is unprecedented in scale and intensity, and has benefited the largest number of people in human history. At a grand gathering held on February 25, 2021, to mark China’s achievements in poverty alleviation and to honor its model fighters against poverty, General Secretary Xi solemnly declared: Victory in the battle against poverty is complete, and China completed the arduous task of eliminating extreme poverty.
China is home to nearly one fifth of the world’s population. Its complete eradication of extreme poverty – the first target of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – 10 years ahead of schedule, is a milestone in the history of the Chinese nation and the history of humankind, making an important contribution to the cause of global poverty alleviation.
Poverty is not predestined, nor is it unconquerable. China’s experience in poverty alleviation indicates that courage, vision, sense of responsibility, and the eagerness to take on challenges are the most essential. With strong will and determination, as well as practical action, one can make steady progress towards overcoming poverty and realizing common prosperity.
This white paper is being issued to record the course of the Chinese people’s great fight in eliminating extreme poverty, introduce China’s approach, and share its experience and actions in poverty alleviation.
I. The Solemn Commitment of the CPC
The Chinese nation has a long history, diligent and intelligent people and splendid civilization. Over the history of thousands of years, eliminating poverty has been the persistent goal of the Chinese people, who suffered hardships and difficulties frequently. From the middle of the 19th century, foreign aggression and the decadence of the imperial dynasty reduced China to a semi-colonial, semi-feudal society, and hundreds of millions of its people were plunged into poverty or even extreme poverty. But the Chinese people have fought with fortitude to realize their dream – achieving economic prosperity, national rejuvenation, and a happy and better life.
1. The CPC Led the People to Win Victory in the Revolution, Build the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Opening a New Journey Towards Prosperity
The founding of the CPC in July 1921 was an epochal event in China’s history. The CPC has taken the happiness of the people and rejuvenation of the nation as its aspiration since its founding, and united and led the people to fight for a better life over the decades. The Party’s first generation of central collective leadership under Mao Zedong regarded the liberation of peasants as the fundamental issue of the revolution, led the people to launch the Agrarian Revolution to realize the goal of “the land to the tiller”, overthrew the rule of imperialism, feudalism, and bureaucrat-capitalism, and won victory in the New Democratic Revolution and established the PRC, bringing an end to sustained oppression, exploitation of the people, frequent wars, and partitioning of the country, and realizing the goals of national independence and people’s liberation. This helped to remove the obstacles to China’s progress, and created the political conditions it needed to eradicate poverty, regain national strength, and realize prosperity for everyone.
The founding of the PRC on October 1, 1949, allowed the Chinese people to stand upright and become the true masters of the country. To change the backward situation starting from scratch, the CPC united and led the people to rely on themselves and strived to build their homeland with strong determination and concerted effort. Land reform was rolled out across the country, abolishing the feudal land system that had endured for over 2,000 years. This removed the major institutional obstacle to eliminating poverty. Socialist transformation was carried out in agriculture, individual craft industries, and capitalist industry and commerce. The establishment of the socialist system provided a basic institutional guarantee for addressing the root causes of poverty. Socialist development was carried out on all fronts, creating an independent and rather complete industrial system and economic system. Efforts were made to develop the collective economy, improve farmland irrigation and water conservation, and develop rural education and cooperative medical services. A preliminary social security system took shape, with the collective economy at the base, and the “five guarantees”[ The National Agricultural Development Program (1956-1967) specified that agricultural cooperatives should give proper care to commune members who could not work and had no family to support them, by providing them with proper food, clothing, fuel, and education (for children and teenagers), and by paying their burial expenses. ] and relief for people in extreme poverty as the core. The Chinese people – including the farmers – who made up nearly one quarter of the world’s population, saw their basic living needs met. Their living standards and educational level improved. Socialist building during this period pressed ahead amidst successes and setbacks.
2. Reform and Opening Up Accelerated Development and Poverty Alleviation in China
Held in December 1978, the Third Plenary Session of the 11th CPC Central Committee ushered in a new chapter of reform and opening up and socialist modernization in China. Reform and opening up has been another great revolution in the history of the Chinese people and Chinese nation, injecting momentum and innovation. The rapid socioeconomic development that ensued gave a vigorous boost to poverty alleviation, and resulted in a sharp decline in the impoverished population.
In the initial period of reform and opening up, confronted by the grim challenge of a large rural impoverished population base and a high incidence of poverty, the second generation of the central collective leadership headed by Deng Xiaoping issued a declaration that “Poverty is not socialism; socialism means eliminating poverty”. It set the goal of ensuring the people a moderately prosperous life by the end of the 20th century, formulated a three-step strategic plan[ The 13th CPC National Congress proposed that a three-step strategic plan for China’s economic development would be laid out after the Third Plenary Session of the 11th CPC Central Committee: doubling the 1980 GNP by the end of the 1980s and ensuring that the people would have adequate food and clothing as the first step; doubling the 1990 GNP by the end of the 20th century and ensuring the people a moderately prosperous life as the second step; and increasing the per capita GNP level to that of moderately developed countries, ensuring the people a relatively affluent life, and realizing basic modernization by the middle of the 21st century as the third step. ], and articulated the vision of “Two Development Strategies”[ In 1988, Deng Xiaoping proposed that “The coastal areas, which comprise a vast region with a population of 200 million, should accelerate their opening to the outside world, and we should help them develop rapidly first; afterwards they can promote the development of the interior. The development of the coastal areas is of overriding importance, and the interior provinces should subordinate themselves to it. When the coastal areas have developed to a certain extent, they will be required to give more help to the interior. Then, the development of the interior provinces will be of overriding importance, and the coastal areas will in turn have to subordinate themselves to it.” (Source: “The Central Leadership Must Have Authority”, Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping, Vol III.) ]. A swathe of major reforms involving agriculture and rural areas were launched, providing for a massive, planned, well-organized poverty alleviation effort at the national level. The two-tier management system adopted in the rural areas, integrating cooperative management with household contract management, clarified the most basic production relations and inspired the farmers’ enthusiasm, bringing an end to a period of protracted stagnation in agricultural output. Reform of the distribution system for agricultural products was enacted. A major effort was made to develop township enterprises in order to increase overall incomes in rural areas. Special poverty alleviation agencies were set up, poverty standards were set, key impoverished areas and counties were identified, and a special plan for agricultural development in the three western regions[ The three western regions were Hexi Region and Dingxi Region in Gansu Province and the mountainous region in southern Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, the most impoverished contiguous areas in the country at the beginning of reform and opening up. In December 1982, China launched poverty alleviation initiatives in these regions to boost their agricultural development. This involved 47 counties, cities and districts (which expanded to 57 in 1992). It was a groundbreaking project in China’s poverty alleviation efforts. It set a precedent in regional poverty alleviation, accumulating rich experience in moving from relief-based poverty alleviation to development-driven poverty alleviation, pooling resources for the development of impoverished areas, for poverty alleviation through relocation, and for combining development-driven poverty alleviation with developing the eco-economy. These successful measures have had a profound influence on massive, planned, well-organized poverty alleviation efforts across the country starting from 1986. ] was launched. These measures liberated the rural productive forces, released vitality, boosted economic development, increased farmers’ incomes, and updated their mindsets. Development-driven poverty alleviation opened a new chapter in China.