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.
By the early 1990s, there had been visible progress in poverty alleviation in rural areas. In the meantime, poverty had evolved from a widespread problem into one afflicting particular regions, groups and populations, highlighting the problem of uneven regional development. The Party's third generation of central collective leadership with Comrade Jiang Zemin at the core formulated a three-step development strategic plan[ The 15th CPC National Congress held in 1997 drew up a new three-step strategic plan. The first step involved doubling the 2000 GNP, giving the people greater prosperity, and putting in place a relatively complete socialist market economy system, all by the end of 2010. The second step involved working hard for another decade to further develop the economy by the centenary of the CPC, and to improve all relevant systems. The third step involved realizing basic modernization and developing China into a modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, and culturally advanced by the time we celebrate the centenary of the PRC in the middle of the 21st century. ], put forward the goal of achieving moderate prosperity in all respects, and continued to press ahead with massive national campaigns on poverty alleviation. In 1994, the State Council launched the Priority Poverty Alleviation Program (1994-2000), China's first ever national poverty alleviation program with definite goals, targets, measures and deadlines. It committed to ensuring that the basic needs of 80 million impoverished rural residents would be met in the seven years from 1994 to 2000. In 1996, the central authorities held the National Conference on Development-driven Poverty Alleviation, further clarifying the steadfast commitment to the goal of being able to provide adequate food and clothing for the impoverished people by the end of the 20th century and confirming the shift from relief-based poverty alleviation to development-driven poverty alleviation. In 1999, the central authorities held the National Conference on Development-driven Poverty Alleviation, making plans to ensure success of the Priority Poverty Alleviation Program. Another conference on poverty alleviation was convened in 2001, and the State Council issued the Outline of Development-driven Poverty Alleviation in Rural Areas (2001-2010). On the basis of initial progress of China's poverty alleviation, the campaign continued with further measures. By the end of 2000, the impoverished population in rural areas had been reduced to 32.09 million and the incidence of poverty down to 3.5%, based on the poverty alleviation standard at the time.
In the 21st century, the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Hu Jintao as General Secretary embraced the Scientific Outlook on Development. Its goals were to advance the development of a harmonious society, build a moderately prosperous society in all respects, and facilitate the development of a new socialist countryside. It enacted a new series of poverty alleviation policies and measures. This resulted in major adjustments to the focus and targets of poverty alleviation work, listing the central and western regions as the priority region, and choosing as individual targets 150,000 impoverished villages besides the 592 key counties, where the full participation of villagers in poverty alleviation efforts was encouraged. A whole range of efforts were directed to business development, the training and transfer of rural labor, poverty alleviation through relocation, and relocation for the development of the eco-economy. State strategy of regional development was implemented, such as developing west China, revitalizing old industrial bases in the northeast, and stimulating the rise of the central region. These achieved coordinated development between regions and between rural and urban areas. The Agricultural Tax was abolished and a series of rural social security systems such as the new cooperative medical care system were established, greatly easing the burden on farmers. The National Conference on Development-driven Poverty Alleviation in 2011 made plans for a new phase in the battle against poverty to ensure that moderate prosperity in all respects would be achieved by 2020. After the meeting, the CPC Central Committee and the State Council issued the Outline of Development-driven Poverty Alleviation in Rural Areas (2011-2020). China's poverty alleviation effort had evolved from its primary mission – meeting the basic needs of the poor – to a new stage of consolidating this achievement, accelerating poverty alleviation, improving the eco-environment, increasing development capacity, and bridging the development gap. By the end of 2010, according to the poverty standard, the impoverished rural population had been reduced to 26.88 million, and the incidence of poverty had fallen to 2.8%. In 2011, the standard was raised to RMB2,300, and accordingly the poor population was 122 million.
3. China in a New Era and a New Battle Against Poverty
China marched into a new era after the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012. The country reached a critical stage in building a moderately prosperous society in all respects and achieving the First Centenary Goal. Rapid economic and social development, a marked increase in comprehensive national strength, a better social security system, and progress in modernizing China's system and capacity for governance provided solid manpower, material, and financial foundations and strong institutional support for its poverty alleviation efforts. But the country still faced a daunting challenge since it had to solve the most difficult problems in raising the poorest population out of poverty in the coming period. China's battle against extreme poverty had entered the toughest stage. It was hard to complete the task with conventional approaches and ideas. To achieve the goal of poverty alleviation, the nation had to pull together with greater determination, sharper thinking, more targeted measures, and extraordinary efforts.
The CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at the core takes the desire of the people for a better life as its goal. It has committed to realizing the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation and securing a decisive victory in building a moderately prosperous society in all respects. Poverty alleviation, a key task and index of the realization of the First Centenary Goal, has been included in the Five-sphere Integrated Plan and the Four-pronged Comprehensive Strategy. The CPC set the goals that by 2020 it would help all the rural population out of poverty as defined by the existing standard, raise all impoverished counties out of poverty, and eliminate poverty over entire regions – mobilizing the whole Party, the whole country, and all sectors of society to engage in this battle. President Xi Jinping, always concerned about impoverished regions and families in straitened circumstances, has always put poverty alleviation at the top of his work agenda and devoted much of his energy to it. He has presented a series of important ideas and proposals, and made some major policy decisions. The 18th CPC National Congress in 2012 set the goal of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects. Soon after that, Xi enunciated, "To achieve initial prosperity in the countryside, it is essential to raise rural living standards and particularly those of impoverished villagers." Launching the campaign against poverty in the new era, he also emphasized, "No single poor area or single poor person should be left behind in achieving this goal." In 2013, on his inspection tour to Shibadong Village, Huayuan County, Hunan Province, Xi proposed for the first time the concept of "giving differentiated guidance for targeted poverty alleviation in line with local conditions by seeking truth from facts". In 2014, while attending the deliberation session of the Guizhou delegation at the Second Plenary Session of the 12th National People's Congress, Xi stated, "Inspection tours must be conducted to identify the truly poor. Poverty alleviation must reach those who truly need it, and poverty must be fully eliminated." In 2015, at the National Conference on Development-driven Poverty Alleviation, he sounded the bugle call to battle, "We should be determined, dedicate ourselves, and work hard towards the goal." In 2017, in the report to the 19th CPC National Congress, Xi emphasized the need to mobilize the energies of the whole Party, the whole country, and the whole of society to win the battle against extreme poverty and eradicate it, "Ensuring that poor people and poor areas will enter the moderately prosperous society together with the rest of the country is a solemn promise made by our Party… We must win the battle against poverty." In 2020, faced with the sudden attack of Covid-19, Xi mapped out new plans for mobilization at a seminar on poverty alleviation, emphasizing that lifting poor people in the rural areas out of poverty "must be achieved as scheduled". "It is non-negotiable. This is a tough battle with no route of retreat. We must double our efforts till the last minute. We must not pause, slacken off or be negligent." He asked the whole Party to perform well in this "difficult test", to apply more determination and more vigor, and to be confident of bringing the battle to a successful end.
President Xi Jinping has assumed leadership, made plans, and directed the battle in person. He has attended the National Conference on Development-driven Poverty Alleviation, and presided over seven seminars on poverty elimination. He has made over 50 fact-finding trips. In every one of the last five years, he has reviewed the evaluation reports of the poverty alleviation work. In every one of the last seven years, he has attended important events or issued directives on the National Poverty Alleviation Day. In every one of the last seven years, he has expounded on the fight against extreme poverty in his New Year address. In every one of the last eight years, he has discussed plans for the battle against poverty with delegates during the Two Sessions and written letters to encourage grassroots officials and communities to engage in the great fight. He has visited every one of the 14 contiguous poor areas across the country and over 20 poor villages, and sat in the homes of impoverished households to hear of their difficulties, suggestions, and needs, building up their confidence and determination, and their belief that they can work their way out of poverty. On February 25, 2021, at the National Poverty Alleviation Summary and Commendation Conference, he declared that China had secured a comprehensive victory in the fight against poverty, and completed the arduous task of eradicating extreme poverty – an outstanding and historic achievement.
The strenuous process whereby the CPC has led the Chinese people in the battle against poverty has been extraordinary and difficult. Over the past 100 years, the Party has committed itself to the original aspiration of seeking happiness for the people, taken on its responsibility for the people, honored its promise to the people, and made huge sacrifices in fighting to win national independence and people's liberation, to make China prosperous and strong, and to bring common prosperity to all. In the process it has won the support and trust of the people. Over the past 100 years the Chinese people, under the leadership of the CPC, have never faltered in pursuit of progress, have put in unimaginable efforts, and have relied on themselves to eradicate extreme poverty, and march towards shared all-round prosperity. Over the past 100 years, under the leadership of the CPC, China has stood tall, become prosperous, and grown in overall national strength. The protection of the rights to subsistence and development, and the promotion of equality and justice have laid solid foundations for well-rounded human development.