Xi Jinping declares eradication of extreme poverty in China

China’s President Xi Jinping solemnly declared “complete victory” in eradicating absolute poverty in the country during a conference in Beijing on Thursday 25th February 2021. The announcement of this great miracle in the human history of poverty reduction came four months before the centenary of the founding of the Communist Party of China (CPC), which leads the world’s most populous nation.

China is expected to declare a moderately prosperous society in all respects in the middle of this year, which means that the country has achieved its first centenary goal on schedule in 2021. In 2049, China will achieve its second centenary goal of building “a modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced and harmonious.”

President Xi presented awards and certificates to representatives of national honorary title recipients for their contribution to poverty reduction at the national commendation conference. A total of 1,981 individuals and 1,501 collective units were awarded at the conference.

Over the past eight years, the final 98.99 million impoverished rural residents living under the current poverty line have all been lifted out of poverty. All the 832 impoverished counties and 128,000 impoverished villages have been removed from the poverty list.

Since the launch of the reform and opening up in the late 1970s, 770 million impoverished rural residents have shaken off poverty when calculated in accordance with China’s current poverty line. China has contributed more than 70% of global poverty reduction over the same period.

With this, China has met the UN goal of poverty eradication 10 years ahead of the 2030 deadline, Xi added.

Xi has said that the arduous task of eliminating absolute poverty has created another miracle in the annals of history.

China has cultivated a “spirit of poverty alleviation” from the battle against poverty, Xi said. It comprises the CPC’s goals and spirit of the Chinese nation, and reflects patriotism, socialist ideas and Chinese values.

Zhang Xixian, a professor at the Party School of the Central Committee of the CPC, told the Global Times that the spirit of poverty alleviation is the result of the efforts of two generations of people led by the CPC since the 1980s, especially over the past eight years. 

The mention of the spirit of poverty alleviation by President Xi at the commendation conference makes it a national level spirit, just like the Jinggangshan spirit and Yan’an spirit during revolutionary times, Zhang said, adding that “those spirits together form CPC’s spiritual pedigree, becoming prominent features of the CPC and part of China’s soft power.”

It invigorates the CPC, which is critically important for the Chinese people at a time when the Party will mark the 100th anniversary of its founding in just four months“, Zhang said.

The spirit will become an essential part of civilized achievement for the CPC over the past 100 years and lay the foundation for the Party to fulfill its next centenary goal, he added. 

A grand gathering is held to mark the country’s accomplishments in poverty alleviation and honor its model poverty fighters at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, 25 February 2021. (Xinhua/Yin Bogu)

By 2021, to celebrate the CPC’s centenary, the goal is to “build a moderately prosperous society in all respects.” By 2049, the centenary of the People’s Republic of China, the goal is to “build a modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced and harmonious.

Eliminating absolute poverty shows that China’s development has entered a new era, Yu Shaoxiang, chief research fellow with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.

China’s achievement in poverty alleviation shows the progress of the country’s “whole nation system” – China can concentrate its efforts and resources to do major things and realize development, Yu said.

At every important stage in its development, China has developed a different spirit, such as the Jinggangshan spirit and the Yan’an spirit.

The newly announced spirit of poverty alleviation is a summary of experiences from China’s poverty reduction work over the past decades,” Yu said. “The practice has come into theory, which can be promoted to and help other developing countries in the world.

China will not forget those over 1,800 people who sacrificed their lives while fighting on the frontlines of the battle against poverty, President Xi said. They represented the original aspiration and mission of CPC members, he noted.

While inequality between the rich and poor in some countries continues to widen, China has achieved its poverty reduction goal ahead of the UN’s schedule. China has also provided support to other developing countries, contributing to the global cause of poverty reduction, Xi noted.

Some global policy experts have said China sets a low bar in its definition of poverty, with sustained investment required to fund continued development in its poorest areas.

China defines extreme rural poverty as annual per capita income of less than 4,000 yuan ($620), or about $1.69 a day at current exchange rates. That compares with the World Bank’s global threshold of $1.90 a day.

Xi said China had invested 1.6 trillion yuan in fighting poverty over the past eight years, but did not give figures for spending planned over the next five years.

Jenny Smith is a member of the YCL’s Birmingham Branch

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