China's targeted poverty reduction and the UN's 2030 sustainable development goals

By Wang Peng
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, March 14, 2019
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An aerial photo of Yunqi poverty alleviation settlement in Yuping Dong autonomous county of Tongren, southwest China's Guizhou province. [Photo/Xinhua]

From early 2014, China started a new and wide-ranging program to reduce the nation's poverty. This grand endeavor can also be viewed as a key part of the global plan to lift people out of poverty.

In the past 40 years, since the era of "reform and opening up" began in 1979, China has made remarkable progress in poverty reduction. Its massive efforts in this area have also inspired other countries around the world to accelerate their work to alleviate poverty.

From a global perspective, extreme poverty rates are at an all-time low. Since 1990, the total number of people living in extreme poverty fell by more than 1.1 billion. The UN's "Millennium Development Goals" (MDGs) to reduce the world's poverty rate by half – between 1990 and 2015 – was met ahead of schedule. China also made its own contribution to the UN's MDG in a significant way. 

China is also eager to share and leverage its experience internationally. On the basis of its expanded South-South cooperation programs, China launched its new global platform – the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). With its heavy investment in infrastructure building, energy exploitation, industrialization and other social sector needs, the BRI has the potential to act as a global poverty reduction accelerator across a number of low income countries facing economic turmoil.

However, despite the significant progress it has made, there are still millions of people living in poverty in China. As a result, the Communist Party of China (CPC) and local and regional governments, are now devoting additional resources and shaping policies to improve poverty alleviation efforts. Because of its extensive work, China can share its experience in poverty reduction with other members of the international society within the framework of the UN's "Sustainable Development Goals 2030" (SDGs 2030). 

The UNDP has stated that it is crucial to see development as a process that depends on economic growth, in which the nature of economic growth will ultimately determine how successful people are in eradicating poverty. What should be noted, however, is that the economic growth alone is not enough to effectively alleviating poverty. That is why China, the UNDP as well as governments in many other countries are now trying an "all inclusive" model to lift people out of poverty.

In recent years, both China and the world have been enjoying rapid reduction in poverty, which have come alongside economic growth and technological innovation. However, the distribution of wealth and social justice are still serious problems. In addition, there has also been a breakdown in the relationship between increasing labor productivity and income levels of a median household. For example, according to the UN's official report, the typical family in a number of developed countries has not shared in the gains of expanding economies since the early 20th century. Similar problems of income distribution are even worse in developing countries, in which economic benefits are rapidly accumulating at the top. 

Numerous reports in the U.S. have warned repeatedly that in both developing and developed countries, political processes have interacted with economic ones in ways that have led to the vast accumulation of income at the top. This comes as a result of the weakening of trade unions' bargaining power, the deregulation of the financial sector as well as the weakening of social protection due to fiscal policies that have made transfers for those "left behind" more difficult. These inequalities have caused a series of "chain reactions" and has caused the global underclass widespread suffering. 

Massive projections on Sustainable Development Goals are seen on the north facade of the Secretariat building, and west facade of the General Assembly building at the United Nations headquarters in New York, the United States, Sept. 22, 2015. [Photo/Xinhua]

Given this, people should understand the paramount importance of China's "targeted poverty reduction" and the UN's "SDGs 2030" program. Both programs aim to narrow the growing gap of rapid economic development and the increasingly severe social problem of an accelerating wealth gap. Whether people can solve this chronic social problem in a systemic and institutional way directly determines the sustainability of economic development. 

Fortunately, aside from China, a growing number of states with the assistance of the UN's SDGs 2030 are recognizing the serious problem of unequal wealth-distribution and imbalanced economic development, and have begun to include new policies to narrow this gap. 

In conclusion, both China's "targeted poverty reduction" and the UN's "SDGs 2030" program contain the central goal of "leaving no one behind and reaching those furthest behind first." The Chinese government and the UN have shown a strong will and developed pragmatic approaches, not only to reach this goal, but also to provide the world a new roadmap to achieve it. Now we are confidently looking forward to seeing an integrated and indivisible future world, in which, the sustainable development model and the "all-inclusive principle of common prosperity" will transform the world by enabling people to eradicate poverty for the first time in human history.

Wang Peng is an associate research fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China, and a researcher at the Charhar Institute.

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