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Number of Rural Poor Down in 2004

By the end of 2004, the number of rural residents classified as living in absolute poverty shrank by 2.9 million from the previous year, according to a report released Thursday by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

The number of rural residents living in absolute poverty was 26.1 million at the end of 2004, or 2.8 percent of the total rural population. The number living in relative poverty, or those who have primarily solved food and clothing problems, was 49.8 million, 6.4 million fewer than at the end of 2003, and accounting for 5.3 percent of the total rural population.

In 2004, China's annual per capita income standard defining "abject poverty" was raised to 668 yuan (US$81) from 637 yuan (US$77) the previous year. The standard for "low income" was increased to 924 yuan (US$112) from 882 yuan (US$107).

Currently in China, the annual average income for urban citizens is 6,500 yuan (US$793); in rural areas, the annual average income of a farmer is around 2,400 yuan (US$289).

The World Bank and other international organizations draw the poverty line at the equivalent of about US$1 per day. The United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) include halving, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people living under that poverty line.

A 2003 UN report on China's progress toward attaining its MDGs indicates that although the standard international poverty line yields a substantially greater number of absolute poor than the Chinese standard, the country's success in reducing rural poverty was dramatic.

The NBS stated that progress in 2004 was largely attributable to government policies designed to benefit rural residents. Agricultural taxes were reduced or rescinded nationwide, and the establishment of a rural social security system was accelerated.

(Xinhua News Agency April 22, 2005)

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