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How Can China Help the World Beat Poverty?

Since the late 1970s, China has lifted 200 million rural poor out of extreme poverty. The rural poverty rate has been slashed from more than 30 percent to 3 percent in a 30-year time span, and that is a remarkable achievement.

Ma Xiaohe, a poverty alleviation official from the State Development Planning Commission, says that first of all, this was accomplished by China's tremendous efforts to develop the economy to provide more opportunities for more people. Moreover, the government has mobilized all sorts of social resources to provide financial aid to poverty-stricken people.


The central government encourages more prosperous regions to help those that are underdeveloped by sending monetary aid and personnel and by implementing development projects. Special assistance in the form of financial aid and projects dealing with transportation, drinking water, public health and personnel are offered to populations in extreme poverty. Most of China's poor live in the central and western regions, and the central government provides preferential policies for these regions.


Since China's reform and opening up drive began, and especially since the 1990s, poverty relief programs were implemented with a "teach a man to fish" strategy. Such programs are geared toward helping the poor pull themselves out of poverty--learning to fish--rather than merely giving them handouts--feeding them for a day with one fish.


World Bank Vice President Franny Léautier says she is impressed with how China has systematically reduced the scale of poverty over a number of years.


"I think if you look at how China has been able to do it, looking not only at the eastern provinces, which are now beginning to contribute to the development of western provinces, you can see they are not only sharing ideas, but also financing and opportunities between the eastern and western provinces. You see an example of how the world should function in the question of poverty reduction, where the countries that are more advanced could help those that are less developed. You can see what is happening in China from one province to the next, the east helping the west. So I would say the contribution of China to poverty reduction first of all is in the scale of how that has happened; secondly in the way in which the ideas can be transferred from China into other countries and within China itself from one province to the next."


Léautier says that through a nine-month learning process in China, delegates from developing countries have seen with their own eyes how Chinese people are involved in the decision-making process to fight poverty. She believes that what people can learn from China is the pragmatism of experimentation and how to expand the scale of successful experiments.


(CRI.com May 27, 2004)

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