A New Chapter in the Fight Against Poverty*
February 12, 2018
At its 18th National Congress in 2012, the CPC vowed to achieve moderate prosperity in all respects throughout the country. Accordingly, the CPC Central Committee has included development-driven poverty alleviation in the Five-sphere Integrated Plan and the Four-pronged Comprehensive Strategy, and made it one of the key tasks for realizing the First Centenary Goal. We have produced a raft of major strategies for the fight against poverty on all fronts. This is a fight of unprecedented intensity, scale and influence. But we have made decisive progress, significantly improving the working and living conditions of poor areas and poor people, and in so doing we have written a new chapter in the history of the fight against poverty.
First, we have set records in the history of poverty reduction in China. The rural poor population living under the current poverty line fell from 98.99 million at the end of 2012 to 30.46 million at the end of 2017, a decrease of 68.53 million and about 70 percent. The incidence of poverty fell from 10.2 percent at the end of 2012 to 3.1 percent at the end of 2017, a decrease of 7.1 percentage points. The average annual decrease was 13.7 million in the five years, which is more than double the annual decrease of 6.39 million during the Seven-year Priority Poverty Reduction Program (1994-2000)1 period, and double the annual decrease of 6.73 million during the 2001-2010 period when the first Outline for Development-driven Poverty Reduction in Rural Areas was implemented. This is a departure from the old pattern that the population escaping poverty would decrease after new standards were adopted. The number of impoverished counties has dropped for the first time, with 28 emerging from poverty in 2016, and it is estimated that 2017 will see around 100 more such cases when the final evaluation is complete. This shows our solid progress in addressing regional poverty.
Second, we have promoted faster development in poor areas. We have strengthened poverty alleviation by developing industries and businesses that leverage local strengths, including new models of poverty alleviation such as tourism, photovoltaic technology, and e-commerce programs. This approach has strengthened poor areas' endogenous vitality and motivation for development.
By promoting eco-environmental protection, relocating the impoverished population from inhospitable areas to places with better economic prospects, and returning farmland back to forest, poor areas have seen significant improvements in the environment and good results achieved in poverty alleviation through environmental protection.
The development of infrastructure and public services has greatly improved basic conditions in poor and especially rural areas, breathing new life into them.
By identifying those living under the poverty line, helping them escape poverty, and carrying out poverty alleviation projects, grassroots governance and management in poor areas have seen significant improvement, and rural grassroots Party organizations have strengthened their cohesion and vitality.
By dispatching first Party secretaries and resident working teams to impoverished villages, we have trained government officials and produced competent people working in the countryside. To date, we have dispatched a total of 435,000 officials to work as first Party secretaries and 2,778,000 working team members resident in poor villages. Right now the corresponding figures are 195,000 first Party secretaries and 775,000 working team members. Shouldering heavy responsibilities, these officials fight side by side with their local peers in leading villagers to emerge from poverty. These officials work hard to bring happier lives to the poor, and some have even given their lives to this cause, demonstrating their strong sense of responsibility and deep love for the people.
Third, we have formed a strong synergy by pooling all social forces to fight poverty. Government investment is the major input and plays a guiding role. We have strengthened collaboration between the eastern and western regions. We have reinforced the efforts of Party and government institutions directed towards designated regions, buttressed the role of the military and armed police forces, and extended the participation of social forces.
The state budget allocated to poverty alleviation grew at an average annual rate of 22.7 percent, and provincial funds for poverty alleviation at 26.9 percent. Impoverished counties have integrated agricultural development funds totaling RMB529.6 billion for poverty alleviation. Government financial departments have arranged loans of RMB350 billion for relocation of the poor, and granted small loans of more than RMB430 billion and re-lending loans of more than RMB160 billion for poverty alleviation. Local governments of poor areas brought in more than RMB46 billion by transferring surplus land quotas for urban construction.
In cooperation between the eastern and western regions, 342 more-developed counties in the east paired up with 570 impoverished counties in the west, contributing to poverty alleviation in western China and promoting coordinated development between regions. By providing poverty alleviation assistance to designated targets, Party and government institutions, particularly central Party and government departments, are able to gain a better understanding of rural and impoverished areas, and improve their working practices and train their officials in the process.
All sectors of society have participated widely in poverty alleviation. State-owned enterprises directly under the central government have provided targeted assistance to more than 10,000 impoverished villages in around 100 counties in former revolutionary base areas. Private enterprises have participated in the pairing-up program to help more than 10,000 poor villages. By the end of 2017, 46,200 private enterprises had provided assistance to 51,200 villages, investing RMB52.7 billion in poverty alleviation projects through support for local businesses and donating RMB10.9 billion to programs for public benefit. These endeavors have benefited more than 6.2 million registered poor. The China Glory Society organized more than 500 well-known entrepreneurs to participate in targeted poverty alleviation activities in Liangshan Prefecture, Sichuan Province. Cooperation agreements were reached on 149 projects with a contract value totaling RMB203.7 billion, and more than RMB40 million was donated for public welfare in the prefecture. These activities have not only helped impoverished villages and people to escape from poverty, but also promoted the great Chinese tradition of helping the poor and assisting those in difficulty.
Not long ago, I received a letter from 20 young Party members of the China Railway Tunnel Group who were working on the Chengdu-Kunming Railway expansion project. They said that more than 50 years before, the fathers or grandfathers of many of them had been involved in constructing the Shamulada Tunnel, the most difficult section of the Chengdu-Kunming Railway. Builders of the previous generations feared neither danger nor death, and dared to break through natural barriers; with this heroic spirit they turned natural chasms into thoroughfares, and their achievements are unsurpassed in the history of railway construction anywhere in the world. Now these young people have taken on the mantle from previous generations, and accepted the mission of building the Xiaoxiangling Tunnel, the longest and most difficult run on the new Chengdu-Kunming Railway. Determined to match their predecessors and remain true to their mission, they are working hard to complete the expansion project as quickly as possible. Once complete, the railway will become an "accelerator", helping people along its route to escape poverty. Reading the letter, I am very pleased to see that the younger generations take responsibility for and are loyal to the country and the people.
Fourth, we have established an institutional framework with Chinese characteristics for the fight against poverty. While strengthening CPC leadership, we have included in the framework the following systems:
• a responsibility system where every party fulfills their own duties and functions;
• a working system where targets of assistance are accurately identified and targeted efforts are made to help them out of poverty;
• a policy system where policies at all levels are coordinated;
• an investment system to guarantee financial support and provide human resources;
• an assistance system where targeted measures are implemented for different regions, villages, households, and individuals;
• a social mobilization system to elicit extensive participation and build synergy;
• a multi-channel and omni-dimensional oversight system; and
• a stringent evaluation system.
This framework provides a strong institutional guarantee to back up the fight against poverty. The most fundamental element of this framework is a working mechanism whereby the central leadership makes overall plans, provincial authorities take overall responsibility, and city and county authorities take charge of implementation – authorities at all levels sign written pledges so that clear goals are set, accountability is ensured, and implementation measures are adopted. With these achievements, we have contributed China's vision and approaches to the global cause of poverty reduction.
We have gained valuable experience in the following respects from the practice of fighting poverty.
Firstly, we uphold CPC leadership to provide a strong organizational guarantee. Strong leadership is vital to the fight against poverty. We have given play to the role of Party committees at all levels in exercising overall leadership and coordinating the efforts of all. In addition, we have put in place a system whereby top leaders of the Party and government at the provincial, city, county, township and village levels take full responsibility for this work. This provides a firm political guarantee for poverty alleviation.
Secondly, we uphold the strategy of targeted poverty alleviation to improve effectiveness. Targeted efforts are essential to the fight against poverty. We must take targeted measures to reduce and eradicate poverty, including:
• identify the poor accurately,
• arrange targeted programs,
• utilize capital efficiently,
• take household-based measures,
• dispatch first Party secretaries based on village conditions, and
• achieve the set goals.
We identify the targets of poverty alleviation, determine who will carry out the work and how they should do it, and make clear how to apply an exit mechanism for those who have emerged from poverty. We do not spray preferential policies indiscriminately or "kill fleas with a hand-grenade". Instead, we adopt targeted measures for different villages, households and individuals according to their specific conditions, so that we can address the root causes of poverty.
Thirdly, we increase investment and strengthen financial support. Funding is a key guarantee for the fight against poverty. We have ensured multi-channel funding and diversified investment: government funding is the main source and plays a guiding role; input from financial institutions is increasing; the capital market's role in supporting poverty alleviation is tapped; and private funds are going into poverty alleviation on an extensive basis.
Fourthly, we mobilize people from all quarters. To fight poverty, all parties should combine in a joint effort. Both the government and society play their roles to the full, with government-sponsored projects, sector-specific programs, and corporate and societal assistance supplementing each other. We have mobilized all sectors and coordinated the market and society, so a poverty alleviation framework with extensive social participation is now in place.
Fifthly, we have strict requirements to encourage hard work and concrete results. This is essential to the fight against poverty. We must exercise full and rigorous Party self-governance throughout the process, and implement regular inspections and stringent evaluation, so as to ensure that concrete efforts are made in poverty eradication, and that the results are genuine, can prove their worth in practice, and will also withstand the test of time.
Sixthly, we ensure the principal role of the people in poverty elimination and arouse their enthusiasm in fighting poverty. Impoverished people's self-motivation is the foundation of the fight against poverty. We must rely on the people. We stimulate the enthusiasm, initiative, and creativity of the poor, help them access education and build aspirations. We must balance the relationship between external assistance and the poor's own efforts. To this end, we foster among the poor an awareness of escaping poverty through self-reliance, conduct training programs to improve their skills and abilities in work and business, and organize, guide and support them in their efforts to escape poverty through their hard work. Through these endeavors, our fight against poverty gains traction from the motivation of the people.
All of this valuable experience should be carried forward and developed further.
* Part of the speech at the Seminar on Targeted Poverty Elimination.
1 The State Council launched the Seven-year Priority Poverty Reduction Program in April 1994. The program set forth the goal, to be achieved within the seven years up to 2000, of concentrating human, material, and financial resources and mobilizing all sectors of society to help 80 million impoverished rural residents meet their basic needs of life.
(Not to be republished for any commercial or other purposes.)