China’s claim to eradicate poverty challenged by new study
The Chinese Communist Party’s claim that it has eliminated extreme poverty has been challenged by a new study which argues that Beijing used a limited and inflexible definition of what it means to be poor.
Late last year, the party announced that extreme poverty had been successfully eradicated, despite negative economic growth in the first half of the year caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Hitting the target on time allowed for a propaganda stunt for President Xi Jinping ahead of the party’s founding centenary celebrations in July this year.
Beijing also proposed its approach as worthy of study in the developing world and published a white paper describing how China achieved its “final victory” against poverty.
however, research published Tuesday by Bill Bikales, former UN chief economist in China, said China has not done enough to claim the ultimate victory over poverty.
“China has not eradicated poverty, even extreme poverty. And that won’t be the case until he puts in place viable systems that will identify the poor everywhere. . . and until the country provides a safety net for all its inhabitants [including] those affected by death, serious illness, job loss or other shock, ”he writes in the report, which was funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.
Bikales agreed that last year’s milestone was “unquestionably an achievement of great historical significance” and that all available evidence suggested that China did what it set out to do.
But this success remains distinct from poverty eradication, as the static definitions used by Beijing were at odds with the international realities of poverty, which are changing.
The Chinese government did not respond to a request for comment
In the April white paper, China described the targeted system adopted under Xi as “the most powerful weapon” to achieve “complete victory” and “the elimination of comprehensive and extreme poverty for the first time in [China’s] history of thousands of years ”.
China considers poverty to be a purely rural phenomenon, even though more than 60% of its population lives in urban areas.
Launched in 2013, Xi’s campaign identified all of the rural poor – 89.98 million in 2015 – and registered them in a national database. He then mobilized the state’s vast resources to ensure they would no longer fall below the poverty line by the end of 2020.
The rigid approach meant that even as the coronavirus pandemic drove economic growth into decline, China’s anti-poverty work focused on helping the 5.51 million registered rural poor remaining on the original list. . Few resources were devoted to shock mitigation for vulnerable households that were not originally among the registered poor.
“To accurately capture the impact of Covid-19 on poverty elsewhere than in the counties and villages already identified, it would have taken systems that simply weren’t in place,” Bikales wrote.
The debate on how to interpret China’s achievements in poverty reduction also has ramifications for the future of the country’s social protection programs.
Some economists have argued that the country would benefit from setting a much higher absolute poverty line or using a relative or multidimensional measure of poverty, which would first require acknowledging that poverty still exists in China.
China’s poverty line is just above the World Bank’s global extreme poverty line of $ 1.90 per day, but below the $ 5.50 per day recommended for middle-income countries in China. upper edge.
“China is now an upper middle income country,” said Martin Raiser, the World Bank’s country director for China. “It will be important. . . that poverty reduction efforts are increasingly geared towards the vulnerabilities faced by the large number of people still considered poor by the standards of middle-income countries, including those living in urban areas.
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