The illiteracy rate among people over 15 years old has dropped to 8.72 percent, according to the Ministry of Education.
The illiteracy rate was more than 80 percent in 1949, when the People's Republic of China was founded. In 1990, the rate had dropped to 22.2 percent.
Among people aged between 15 and 50 -- the major targets of efforts to eliminate illiteracy -- the rate has dropped from 10.38 percent in the 1990s to 4.8 percent at present.
The figure for female illiterates has been slashed by more than half. In 1990, 128 million adult women were illiterate and now the number is fewer than 55 million.
In ethnic minority regions of China, where education is relatively backward, the illiteracy rate has fallen remarkably as the central government adopts preferential policies for the development of education in such regions.
For example, the illiteracy rate in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region is now under 7.22 percent, 12.3 percentage points lower than 1990.
The document said despite the progress that has been made, China still faces challenges in addressing the illiteracy issue.
At present, more than 85 million people are illiterate in China, among whom 20 million are aged between 15 and 50.
Each year, 1 million more illiterates appear in the country.
In addition, the fact that these illiterates mainly live in poor mountainous regions and ethnic minority regions adds to the difficulties for those driving the campaign to eliminate illiteracy, according to the ministry.
Between 1990 and last year, more than 46.48 million illiterates in China received education.
(China Daily November 18, 2002)