A senior official from the Chinese government Thursday declared that China, with the world's largest population of 1.25 billion, has rid itself of absolute poverty on the whole according to the standard set by China in accordance with its unique situation and characteristics.
Gao Hongbin, General Director of the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development, told Xinhua during an exclusive interview that China's poverty rate in its rural areas is now below 3 percent, the lowest among world developing countries.
"At present, except for some 26 million disabled people or those living in extremely bad natural environment areas, we have succeeded in eliminating absolute poverty in the country," Gao said.
According to Gao, the Chinese definition of being above "absolute poverty" refers to an annual income above 635 yuan (about US$77), which, though relatively low, is enough in China for a person to enjoy basic life necessities, that is, to have enough to eat and wear and to have a place to dwell.
China was reported as having 250 million people living in absolute poverty in 1978 when the reform and opening-up policy was adopted. Seven years later, the figure dropped to 125 million, mainly as a result of successful rural reform advocated by late leader Deng Xiaoping.
In 1994, when China's absolute poverty population dropped to 80 million, the central government launched a "seven year poverty alleviation plan" which vowed to basically eliminate absolute poverty by the end of the year 2000.
"We are now just at the expected point," said Gao.
"This is the first time in history for China to solve the food and clothing problem for all its citizens on the whole, it is a marvelous achievement and of great epochmaking meanings."
He attributed China's poverty alleviation achievement mainly to the government's hard-work and huge investment as well as to the participation of the wider society.
"The Chinese central government alone spent 24.8 billion yuan (nearly US$3 billion) in poverty alleviation in 1999, 30 times more than in 1980," the official said.
Peter Sullivan, vice president of the Asia Development Bank, viewed China's poverty relieving efforts as the most impressive in Asia, and China "should feel pride for this."
Mats Karlsson, vice president of the World Bank, said that China's poverty alleviation will deeply influence the international community.
According to Kerstin Leitner, resident representative of the United Nation's Development Program to China, China has set up a model for the world's developing countries in helping the poor.
However, local observers pointed out that "eliminating absolute poverty on the whole" doesn't mean that China's battle against poverty has come to an end.
They pointed out, China will have to cover an even longer way to ultimately delete poverty within its territory. As a matter of fact, China will come to a new start point to continue helping those still in poverty and those needed to be further economically and socially developed.
According to Gao, China is now drafting another poverty alleviation and development strategy plan for the 21st century, which will be issued and initiated at the end of this year or the beginning of next year.
(People’s Daily 11/17/2000)