Poverty hinders the fulfillment and enjoyment of human rights. Reducing and eliminating poverty is a major element in human rights development.
Poverty reduction among 1.37 billion Chinese population is the most telling evidence of China’s progress in human rights. Over the recent decades, the Chinese government has persevered in its attempts to eliminate poverty, improve people’s well-being, and strive for common prosperity. It has made continuous development-oriented poverty-reduction efforts in rural areas to help those who are striving to escape from poverty and improve the quality of their lives.
Since the launch of reform and opening up in 1978, more than 700 million Chinese people have been lifted out of poverty. The number of rural poor had fallen to 55.75 million by 2015, with the incidence of poverty dropping to 5.7 percent. Notable improvement has been made in terms of infrastructure and basic public services, and poverty-reduction mechanisms have been innovated, thus contributing to the guarantee of the basic rights of the impoverished population.
The UN Millennium Development Goals Report 2015 shows that the proportion of people living in extreme poverty in China fell by half from 61 percent in 1990 to below 30 percent in 2002, and on down to 4.2 percent in 2014. The number of citizens China has raised from poverty accounts for 70 percent of the world’s total.
After years of trials and experimentation, China has accumulated a wealth of experience in promoting human rights through development-oriented poverty reduction, and established a new model of development-oriented poverty alleviation with Chinese characteristics.
The Chinese government has carried out large-scale development-oriented poverty eradication programs across the country in a planned and organized way, and implemented a series of medium and long-term projects. China’s poverty reduction actions are broad in extent. They include building rural and agricultural infrastructure, helping increase the incomes of impoverished population, and providing public services such as social security and health care, education and cultural services.
Poverty reduction has become an important component of China’s national strategy. Since 2012, the new leadership of CPC has given top priority to development-oriented poverty reduction. Poverty reduction has been incorporated into China’s overall approach to building socialism with Chinese characteristics, which is to promote coordinated progress in economic, political, cultural, social and ecological areas.
In 2015, the leadership of CPC further specified the task of eliminating rural poverty and rehabilitating all impoverished counties by 2020. China’s 13th Five-Year Plan for Economic and Social Development codifies the central leadership’s poverty reduction decision into concrete requirements and measures. For the first time, poverty reduction has been made an important part of China’s five-year plan, and helping the poor population shake off poverty has been listed an obligatory index in such an important document. Also for the first time, the heads of Party committees and government officials of relevant provinces and autonomous regions at various levels have all committed themselves to achieving the set goal of poverty elimination by 2020.
While China’s poverty reduction registered remarkable achievements, the Chinese government is fully aware that the fight remains tough as the country still has a large population living in profound poverty, and the solutions are becoming increasingly costly and complex. The sheer number of 55.75 million people living in poverty, equivalent of an entire population of a medium-sized country, is daunting enough. And the fact that China’s poverty reduction efforts are targeting mostly those living in extreme poverty makes the task even more formidable.
China has committed to ensuring that by 2020 its impoverished rural population has stable access to adequate food and clothing, compulsory education, and basic medical services and housing; to realizing a growth rate of per-capita disposable income in poor rural areas higher than the national average; to achieving indices of major basic public services close to the national average levels; to ensuring that the rural population living below the current poverty threshold and all impoverished counties are all lifted out of poverty; and to solving the problems of regional poverty.
The Chinese government has worked out the specific schemes to actualize the overall goals: first, helping 30 million people who have the ability to work and possess productive skills to escape from poverty by supporting them in developing businesses and enterprises; second, helping 10 million people escape from poverty by transferring them to locations where they can find employment; third, helping 10 million people whose land does not provide subsistence to escape from poverty by relocating them to other places; fourth, bringing all the impoverished population under the coverage of the rural subsistence allowance system and eradicating poverty through the guarantee of social security. The government has pledged to lift 10 million people out of poverty every year from 2016.
While combating poverty at home, China also actively helps other developing countries to address their poverty problems. Over more than six decades since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, China has provided nearly RMB400 billion (approximately USD 59.7 billion) to 166 countries and international organizations, sent more than 600,000 aid workers, given medical assistance to 69 countries, and aided more than 120 developing countries in realizing the Millennium Development Goals. On seven occasions China has unconditionally canceled interest-free loans to the heavily indebted countries and least developed countries.
China’s commitment to lifting its entire impoverished population in rural areas out of poverty by 2020 is a prerequisite for completing the building of a moderately prosperous society in China, and a crucial step in implementing the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. China will continue to honor international obligations commensurate with the stage and status of its own development. It will strengthen exchanges and cooperation with developing countries and international organizations in the fields of poverty alleviation and human rights. It will promote the sharing of expertise and experience in these fields through multiple channels such as foreign aid, project cooperation, technology transfer, and think-tank exchanges, with the aim to further advance poverty alleviation and human rights development worldwide.
by H.E. ZHANG Jiming,
Chinese Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of The Gambia