The Elimination of Poverty in China

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Original course: People's Democracy

The elimination of poverty is an essential requirement of a socialist system. Poverty is an essential concomitant of a capitalist system. So long as the capitalist society exists in a country, poverty will never be abolished. The slogan of ‘Garibi Hatao’ given in a capitalist system is only an election gimmick. Child labour as a product of poverty will continue to exist so long as poverty exists in a society.

Even in the richest capitalist country, the USA, millions of people continue to be poor and find it difficult to get elementary requirements of human existence.

Even the millennium goal of reduction of poverty by 50 per cent by 2012 is not going to be achieved all over the world.

The world hunger report 2009 clearly points out that a large number of human population in the world continue to remain hungry while growing prices of food products will make the task of providing food for all, more difficult.

The United Nations’ international agencies are paying lip sympathy to the task of elimination of poverty. They claim that the present high rate of hunger is unacceptable to them but they in practice accept it and no concrete steps are being taken to provide food for all.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares that every human shall have the right to enjoy the living standard required to maintain health and welfare of himself and his family members including food, clothing, housing, medical service and necessary social services. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, expressly specifies that every human shall be entitled to obtain a certain living standard for himself and family including sufficient foods, clothing and housing and keep improving the living conditions.

The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action adopted by the world conference on Human Rights in 1993 specifies that all the human rights are Universal, inseparable, interdependent and interrelated.

The 47th United Nations General Assembly decided on December 22, 1992 to make every October 17, the international day for the eradication of poverty. As noted earlier, at the United Nations Millennium Summit in September 2000, the leaders of various countries in the world identified the clearly defined objectives and indicators known as the millennium development goals, with regard to the issues of the eradication of poverty, hunger, disease and illiteracy. The goals specify that the proportion of the population living on less than one dollar everyday will be cut down by half by 2015 and the proportion of population threatened with hunger will also be reduced by half. Specifically speaking, the population living on less than one dollar will be slashed from 1.25 billion in 1970 to below 625 million in 2015.

According to the World Bank, a person having an income of less than two dollars per day can be considered as poor while a person having an income of less than one dollar per day is considered to be suffering from acute poverty!

In spite of global lip sympathy towards the starving population in the world, the stark poverty levels continue to dog the world. The recent global economic crisis has only aggravated the situation with large number of unemployed people trying their best to some how or the other keep themselves alive. The bailout packages of various capitalist countries have only brought additional miseries for the common people. The exploitation of the working class and the people all over the world had only added to the poverty conditions of the vast masses of the society. Naturally, the global documents and declarations however much they express noble intentions, but in reality poverty at the global level only gets aggravated  with rise in assets of the big business houses and their speculative gains in the share market, adding to the continuously growing inequality and gulf between rich and the poor all over the world.

According to the 2008 World Bank report, the people living in acute poverty conditions have declined from 1.8 billion in 1990 to 1.4 in 2005. However, much of the reduction was due to reduced poverty conditions in China. The extremely impoverished population in sub-Saharan Africa increased by 100 million in 2005. In 2009, the population living in the extreme poverty is estimated to grow from 55 million to 90 million compared to that before the global economic crisis.

NO UNIFORM DEFINITION

The definition of poverty in developing and  developed countries is not uniform. According to the poverty line determined by the American government the proportion of the impoverished population in America is usually 10 per cent. However, in 2009 the impoverished population was 35-80 million, i.e., 13.3  percent of the total population. The impoverished population represented 12.5 percent of American total population in 2004.   The poverty rate was likely to reach 12.7 percent in 2008. The data clearly underlined how the richest capitalist country in the world is showing growing incidence of poverty conditions. The tall talk of superiority of capitalist system is exposed by the official data in America. The Federal statistics office of Germany data shows a 14.9 percent poverty rate in the country in 2009. The poverty rate in France stands at 13.4 percent in 2009.

The government of India has been claiming reduction in poverty levels in the country since the advent of globalization in 1990. However, it was due to manipulation of data and keeping the poverty level so low at Rs 13 per day of per capita consumption. The controversy relating to BPL and APL has only exposed the hollowness of the government’s argument. Arjun Sen Gupta Committee’s report said that 77 percent of our population is living below Rs 20 per day. The government of India is not even prepared to take into account the World Bank’s calculation of poverty levels in the world! The World Hunger Report observed that the largest number of hungry people in the world are from India. Its condition was considered worst that among the most backward countries of Sudan in sub-saharan Africa.

The official data reported by the World Bank has clearly shown the bankruptcy of the capitalist system in its utter failure to eliminate poverty from the globe.

SITUATION IN CHINA

In the six decades of establishment of socialism, China has been trying to abolish poverty.

There was some progress in the direction of reduction in poverty prior to the cultural revolution and remarkable improvement in the standard of living of the people had taken place. However, during the cultural revolution period, there were some problems. By the year 1978, there were 250 million people in China facing poverty levels.

Since 1978, the Chinese government adopted a policy of economic reforms which paid special attention to faster economic development and eradication of poverty. According to a statement by the state council of China in 2008, “In the past 50 years since the founding of New China especially since the initiation of reform and opening up to the outside world, the Chinese government has always put the people’s right to subsistence and development first, focused on economic construction and made efforts to develop social productivity. Consequently, China’s economy and society have advanced by leaps and bounds, its comprehensive national strength has been raised and the people’s livelihood has improved by a huge margin thereby realizing two historic leaps bringing the people from poverty to having enough to eat and wear and then to living a better life.”

During 1980 and 2010 the per capita real standard of living of the entire population increased eight times bringing a large section of the poverty stricken people towards a decent living standard. In the year 1980, more than four billion Yuan were allotted to poverty eradication programs. Thus from 1978 to 1986, the people below the poverty line came down from 250 million to 120 million.

In 1986 during the seventh five year plan poverty alleviation was given a top priority. People were given tax concession and other facilities. From 1986 to 1993 the impoverished people nationwide were reduced from 120 million to 80 million. Poverty was thus reduced by 6.4 million per year.

Sustained efforts to improve the standard of living of people and quality of life had a very important role to play in poverty eradication program.  More job creation was a crucial measure taken up by the government. In three decades since 1978, 37 crore (370 million) jobs were created by the government of China. Nine year compulsory education was introduced and in 2008 the rate of enrollment stood at 99.5 percent and junior middle schools reached 98.5 percent. Due to improved health care and social security measures the life expectancy increased since 1978 by five years to reach 73 years! Over 1978 infant mortality rate declines by 56 percent reaching 15.3 percent, while the maternity mortality rate dropped by 60 percent since 1978. All these measures had a  positive impact on reducing overall poverty levels of the Chinese population.

One of the different problems China is facing today in the task of elimination of poverty is that a large part of the impoverished population belongs to ethnic minorities. They live in remote backward areas like Dingri, Gansu, Ningxia, Guaxi, Yunan, Guizov, Sichwan and Tibet. They were victims of century’s old feudal exploitation, slavery, primitive society and serfdom. People from inner Mangolia also to some extent come in this category. In 2007, the incidence of people in absolute poverty in autonomous areas of minorities in China was 6.4 percent – 4.8 percentage  points higher than the country’s average of 1.6 percent. Their number stood 77.4 lakhs (7.74 million) accounting for 52.3 percent of the country’s total of one crore forty seven lakhs and nine thousand poor people (10,709,000). However, available statistics show that in 2007, a total of 18.5 lakh (1.85 million) people came back to absolute poverty due to natural calamities. The government of China has prepared a special package to overcome the problem.

A section of the ethnic minorities oppose economic reform, which is also an obstacle in this task. In Tibet, every step taken by the government to reduce poverty is considered as a step towards destroying Tibetan culture by Dalai Lama whose thinking practically means continuation of poverty and backwardness is preserving age-long Tibetan culture.

The government of China is taking steps to develop road and railway network, airports to extricate Tibet from the poverty conditions. Indian press backed by US imperialist agencies has been making stories that the economic developments in Tibet have security concerns for India.

In Xinjiang, with 16 lakh 59 meters area in 1978, there were 53.2 lakh (5.32 million) people living without enough food and clothing. However, due to huge spending by the Chinese government, by 2000 the problem of basic subsistence was solved satisfactorily. Social security benefits were also provided to the vast masses of the people.

Since 1994, the Chinese government increased investment in poverty alleviation programs, three times in comparison with the investments made between 1986 to 1993. As a result of this the absolute poverty declined by an average of over 60 lakh (6 million) per year. During 2000-2003, the poverty was reduced by over 30 lakhs (3 million).

The global economic recession however slowed down the poverty alleviation program. However, at the end of 2008 the impoverished population in rural areas was reduced to four crore (40 million)! As the number of impoverished people is declining the task is becoming more and more difficult, since it is concentrated in remote areas where developmental needs are more and more complex. Yet efforts are being made by the Chinese government to provide funds for poverty alleviation programs.

The Chinese 12th five year plan which is under consideration of the government is likely to emphasize faster economic growth of less developed regions and give special emphasis on eradication of the vestiges of poverty prevailing in the country. The plan (2010-2015) will further reduce the extent of poverty in the country and will pave the way for accelerating the economic growth of the country.

Photo by ernop, courtesy Flickr, cc by 2.0

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  • reduce poverty in india to 15 percent like china is my dream provided our politicians co operate

    Posted by swami krishnananda, 06/06/2012 2:49pm (6 years ago)

  • While civil freedoms can be violated by China's authoritarian one-party system (another superpowers two-party system also comes to mind), poverty will not be solved by capitalist economies because poverty is essential for eroding the strength of the working class, lowering wages, and increasing Wal-Street profits.

    Posted by CitizenPlusPlus, 11/17/2010 12:34pm (7 years ago)

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