A 2020 Vision

By: Larry Zhang, Senior Editor

 

At the 2015 Global Poverty Reduction and Development Forum, Xi Jinping vowed to eradicate poverty in China by 2020. At first, it seems like a ridiculously unrealistic, overly optimistic preposal. But over the past 30 years, 600 million people in China have been helped out of poverty. Much of the economic success occurred in an indirect manner, through building roads, factories, and hospitals, which increased employment and income. This made China the first developing country in the world to attain the first Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of reducing poverty in half by 2015, and represents the single largest effort made by any country to eradicate poverty.

However, not all is done. President Xi remarked that “Despite the achievements, China remains the world’s biggest developing country, and narrowing the urban-rural gap remains a big challenge for us.” Precisely, there are still more than 70 million in China living below the poverty line of 2,300 yuan, or $362 US dollars. In order to execute the 2020 plan, the Chinese government and China’s Office of Poverty Alleviation & Development have developed a plan that includes introducing more effective and specific measures to reducing poverty, such as educational campaigns, which will prioritize, well, education. This should be most beneficial to those in the remote, rural areas of China’s poorest provinces, where children struggle with receiving a proper education. If given such opportunity, escaping poverty will be much more of a reality than it is currently.

Other measures include new financial programs designed to educate people about money specifically. The Chinese government plans on teaching people living in poverty how to better manage their money through financial specialists. The last big measure involves raising publicity to inform people not living in poverty, especially those in urban areas. This should promote middle class Chinese to aid in fighting against the poverty experienced largely by their rural counterparts.

Speaking of rural poverty, those in the most remote parts of China face some of the worst economic conditions. For example, people living in Dayinghan, the poorest village in central China’s Shanxi province, are often unable to work and sustain a living because of old age or other disabilities. For younger villagers, rural isolation from any major economic opportunities is obviously the largest obstacle, which is not a huge issue for those in urban China. Because of this, China has in place a “subsistence guarantee” program, known as dibao in Mandarin. Dibao allows for those who make below the minimum “adequate comfort level” to receive government payments to make ends meet, and between 2006 and 2013, recipients in rural areas tripled in number.

The problem with dibao, however, is that many of China’s poorest are not even benefiting from the very program designed to help them. A study conducted by the World Bank in August found that between 2007-2009, only 10% of those in poverty received dibao payments, and that 75% of those who did lived above the poverty line. A large reason for this is the rampant corruption within not the national government, but local authorities that preside over these rural villages. For instance, a report found that only ten households in Dayinghan received dibao payments, and all of them happened to be friends of the village’s party chief.

Meanwhile, China’s Communist Party recently banned its 88 million members from playing golf, which was passed on October 21st as part of the Central Committee’s anti-corruption campaign. Its goal is to “uphold the principle that Party discipline is stricter than the law,” and also bans party members from “excessive eating and drinking.” Interestingly enough, Mao Zedong himself is said to have denounced it as a “sport for millionaires,” even though the elite in China have taken it up as another one of its hobbies as quickly as any other. Much of the proliferation of golf in China is also a result of a boom in the construction of golf courses during the 1990s and 2000s.

The “anti-corruption” program, however, is severely misguided. Banning golf won’t prevent corruption anytime soon, no more than if the government were to ban anything else that the powerful and corrupt might indulge in—such as “excessive eating and drinking.” The real focus should be on ensuring the just distribution of dibao in China’s poorest areas, where corruption is most detrimental to the citizens of China, and to the Chinese government’s plan of eradicating their very poverty by 2020.