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Economist on China's Human Development

On October 1, the 56th anniversary of the People's Republic of China, a Tsinghua University economics professor spoke about the UN Development Program (UNDP)'s human development measures for China, the most recent of which were published a month ago.


Dr. Hu Angang said, "Fifty-six years are a flash in history, but it's been a period worth underlining in China, from 1949 when its 540 million population had extremely low quality of life to 2004 when its 1.3 billion people enjoyed a world average level of human development."


"This is really a miracle and may be regarded as China's contribution to the world," Dr. Hu commented.


According to Dr. Hu, China's Human Development Index (HDI) in 1950 was 0.159, ranking extremely low in the world. It rose to 0.525 in 1975, a medium-low level, and to 0.683 in 1995, joining the medium-high group.


The UNDP's Human Development Report 2005, released on September 7, said that in 2003 the measure was 0.755. This was higher than the average of 0.694 for developing countries, as well as that of medium-development countries (0.718) and the world average (0.741). 


The report also said the number of Chinese living on one dollar or less per day fell 50 percent between 1990 and 2001, making China the first developing country to reach its Millennium Development Goals, 14 years before schedule.


Despite these achievements problems and contradictions remain in China's development, said Dr. Hu, who identified four as being fundamental: social lagging behind economic development; disparity in urban and rural development; regional disparities; and a huge number of people living in poverty.


The UNDP report said the HDI of urban China was 0.81, but 0.67 in rural areas, about 61 ranks lower on the world list. Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai and some coastal provinces also enjoyed high HDIs while those in western China were relatively low.


According to the government, 60 million people live below its definition of the poverty line, and 200 million live on one dollar or less per day.


Dr. Hu said emphasis should be given to development in rural areas and central and western regions in the near future, and that the government should pay more attention to social development, especially in public health.


The UNDP has commissioned an annual Human Development Report by an independent team of experts since 1990 to gauge not only income and basic needs but factors such as human freedom, dignity and agency through the HDI.


The organization's website said this year's report argued that development is ultimately "a process of enlarging people's choices," not just raising national incomes.


(China.org.cn October 9, 2005)

UN Report Highlights China's Progress in Development
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