As political advisers and lawmakers convene in Beijing for the annual consultative and parliamentary sessions in coming days, a key topic expected to be addressed is how the nation can achieve its goal to lift all its people out of poverty by 2020.
After an unrelenting effort over the past six years, China has reduced the number of poor people in rural areas from about 99 million in 2012 to 16.6 million by the end of last year, with the central government already pledging to lift at least another 10 million people out of poverty this year.
Poverty reduction has been a recurring topic for President Xi Jinping during his speeches at panel discussions at the annual two sessions in the past five years.
Last March, he underscored the importance of prioritizing poverty alleviation efforts for areas grappling with extreme poverty as well as for villages and townships with large concentrations of poor people.
He urged authorities to focus on solving problems at hand while putting more effort into establishing a sustainable, long-term mechanism.
Alan Piazza, a former rural development economist at the World Bank, said the priority Xi has given to poverty reduction is one of the important reasons for China’s resounding success in this regard.
“One thing that President Xi has done so well is to elevate poverty reduction to the No 1 job of China. All people are focused on achieving the 2020 goals. Without that, we would not be where we are today,” he said.
Piazza, who studies China’s rural development and poverty reduction, said Xi’s personal involvement in poverty reduction should be given credit.
“That is something very rare around the world, something very admirable,” he added.
He said that China has already eliminated extreme cases of hunger and limited access to basic education and health services for all of the rural population, and “China is very likely to succeed in its goal of completely overcoming poverty by 2020”.
During a panel discussion with lawmakers from Sichuan province in 2017, Xi recalled his deep concern as he read about people living in a village in Sichuan having to scale a cliff face using treacherous bamboo ladders to return to their homes.
The key to the poverty reduction lies in targeted efforts and focusing more on grassroots levels, he said, adding that it would require an endeavor comparable to embroidery at times.
Long Shuwu, the Party chief of Shibadong village, a remote enclave in Hunan province, said Xi’s vision on poverty reduction has had a profound influence on the village.
In 2013, Xi introduced the concept of targeted poverty alleviation during his visit to the village.
With the help of the provincial authorities, the villagers were able to improve their living environment, boost tourism and launch agricultural cooperatives to increase incomes.
“A quintessential part of our experience is that poverty reduction lies in identifying the poverty-stricken groups and coming up with targeted measures to help them,” Long said.
He said that Xi’s continuous attention has also spurred the villagers not only to work for better lives for themselves but also to pioneer a new model of poverty alleviation to be introduced elsewhere.
Qi Gubo, a professor of rural development at China Agricultural University, said it is a great challenge for the country to continue with the momentum of lifting at least 10 million people out of poverty this year.
“That is because those who have yet to be lifted out of poverty are mostly mired in deep poverty, or are being affected by their limited educational background,” she said.