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On way to winning the fight against poverty

By Guan Xinping | China Daily | Updated: 2017-06-29 07:20


Building a moderately well-off society in an all-round way by 2020, just before the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China, is the major task on the road to establishing socialism with Chinese characteristics.

Since the 18th National Congress of the CPC, the Party with Xi Jinping as its core decided to expedite development in order to improve people's livelihoods and welfare. China has lifted on average 10 million rural people out of poverty every year from 2013 to 2016. The total number of people lifted out of poverty in both rural and urban areas during the period was more than 55.64 million. As a percentage of China's total population, the number of poor people dropped from 10.2 percent in 2012 to 4.5 percent in 2016, with the increase in the incomes of rural residents in poverty-stricken areas being higher than the national average level in terms of percentage.

The central leadership has instructed governments at all levels to accord priority to poverty alleviation and employ all the necessary resources to eliminate absolute poverty in their areas by 2020.

The more than three-decade-old poverty-alleviation program has reached its final stage, and the country's leadership is confident of eliminating absolute poverty by 2020.

But we have to realize that by 2020 China will be able to achieve only the goal of eliminating absolute poverty. And after absolute poverty is eliminated, China will have to alleviate relative poverty, which will be an even tougher task.

Absolute poverty refers to the lack of means necessary to meet basic needs according to a set standard that is consistent over time and between countries. Relative poverty, on the other hand, refers to the lack of means to realize normal living standards. The threshold for relative poverty increases based on the social and economic development of a country. Which means relative poverty will exist as long as there is social inequality in society. The higher the inequality level, the more serious relative poverty will be.

Therefore, governments at all levels, instead of becoming complacent after eliminating absolute poverty, should focus more on fighting relative poverty. Also, they should realize that the objective of the fight against relative poverty is to gradually narrow the gap between the living standard of the impoverished population and the overall average living standard. And to realize this, they have to take measures to ensure poverty-stricken areas achieve a growth rate higher than the national average and cultivate talents among the poor.

The future fight against poverty should first focus on building a technology-driven development model for the poverty-stricken areas. Following that, the governments should implement policies that will help improve the human resources and social conditions in poverty-stricken areas by promoting education, providing affordable houses and better medical care, and protecting the environment. Finally, the governments should take steps to ensure people lifted out of poverty continue to earn enough money to not only live with dignity but also climb up the social ladder.

Whether these objectives can be achieved depends on the governments' determination and the actions they take. The central leadership emphasizes fairness and justice, and this should be reflected in the fight against poverty, especially because they are crucial for China's sustained economic development under the new normal.

The author is a professor at Nankai University's Institute of Social Development and Administration in Tianjin.


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