Q: Poverty is a common problem that haunts the whole world. However, China has done an impressive job in poverty alleviation. What exactly does China do to help relieve poverty? How many poor people are there still in China? What will the government do to help them escape poverty?
A: There are historical reasons for the poverty of China's rural areas. The situation is crucial in some parts given the extent of the poverty, and consequently, the effort combating poverty will be long-term. China's poverty alleviation efforts over the past two decades have been motivated by system innovation, featuring several large-scale, long-term and effective aid-the-poor projects. China's unique way of poverty relief, which is based on its national conditions, has been highly spoken of by the international community. Statistics are most convincing. For example, 20 years ago, the population of poor in China stood at 250 million, while by 2004, the number had plummeted to 26.1 million.
China's reform, originating in the countryside in 1978, has given great impetus to the development of the rural economy, remarkably improving the living standard in rural areas and leading to a sharp decline in the number of poor people. But due to the complexity of historical, natural, economical and social factors, some areas are still dragging their feet in development and the poverty situation remains serious. In 1986, large-scale poverty alleviation projects were launched nationwide and by the end of 1992, the number of poor had dropped to 80 million from 250 million in 1978. The remaining poor people were mostly living in areas with harsh natural conditions, which made it a tougher task to ensure them adequate food and shelter. Decisive and determined, the Chinese Government launched another comprehensive poverty alleviation campaign in 1994, using all of the country's resources and finances, and with the help of people from every walk of society. This time, the campaign lasted seven years. By the end of 2000, China had by and large fulfilled its goal of being able to feed and shelter all the people, with the poverty-stricken population dropping to 30 million. In 2004, the number decreased to 26.1 million.
The remaining rural poor in China consists of two groups of people—the disabled, who have no laboring ability, and those who live areas with extremely difficult production and living conditions and scarce resources.
China's major tasks for poverty alleviation in the early 21st century include: helping the poor people who still live below the subsistence level have access to adequate food and clothing at an early date; helping those who have solved survival problems further improve their basic living and production conditions, to enhance their life quality and overall capability; and stepping up infrastructure construction in poor villages, improving the eco-system and gradually bring the poor areas out of economic, social and cultural backwardness, thus creating favorable conditions for the people's well-off life.
Enabling poor people to benefit from social progress and achievement of reform and opening up is key to building a harmonious society. China pledged at the Global Conference on Scaling Up Poverty Reduction, held in 2004, that it will basically solve the problem of inadequate food, clothing and shelter of remaining 26.1 million poor population in China by the year 2010, enabling them to ultimately escape poverty and set off for a better-off life.