Hu Angang*and Li Meng
UN Sustainable Development Goals and China´s achievements
Poverty eradication is at the core of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the biggest challenge as well. In 2019, the Nobel Prize in economics was awarded to three development economists for their theoretical contribution to reducing global poverty through field experiments. China has created the largest scale of poverty alleviation miracle in human history. Over the past four decades, it has pulled some 874 million people out of absolute poverty (surviving on less than $1.9 per person per day). This accounts for 74.5
percent of the world's absolute poverty reduction (1,173 million people) during the same period.
China has made a great contribution to world poverty reduction and its poverty eradication strategies - especially the practices and theories of the Targeted Poverty Alleviation Methods - have critical implications for the world. China's experiments with poverty alleviation continue. In 2020, China will put an end to thousands of years of absolute poverty. Over the past six years, the number of rural residents living in poverty has reduced from 98.99 million to 16.6 million. The incidence of rural poverty has decreased from 10.2 percent to 1.7 percent. Altogether, 436 out of 832 poverty-stricken counties have been lifted out of poverty. By the end of this year, 95 percent of the country's poor and 90 percent of the poverty-stricken counties are expected to be lifted out of poverty.
In 2020, China will eliminate absolute poverty, build a moderately prosperous society in all respects and take the lead in achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals ten years in advance. Such achievements have contributed Chinese wisdom to global poverty governance.
President Xi´s Theory of Targeted Poverty Alleviation
In 2013, President Xi Jinping put forward the theory of Targeted Poverty Alleviation, which became the fundamental strategy for tackling poverty. Targeted Poverty Alleviation mainly includes "six targets", namely, targeted objects, targeted projects, targeted use of funds, targeted measures for each household, targeted village-based poverty relief cadres and targeted poverty alleviation results. It also requires the implementation of "five groups of poverty alleviation", poverty alleviation groups through production development, relocation, ecological compensation, education, and social security. Targeted Poverty Alleviation has been an effective strategy for China to pull the remaining impoverished households out of poverty, and also a major innovation in the theory and practice of poverty alleviation.
Key challenges remain
First, 16.6 million poor people in China still live in extremely poverty-stricken areas. The causes of poverty are complicated and it is difficult to lift them out of poverty.
Second, there are subjective factors, such as difficulties faced by the poor in the process of poverty alleviation, which might impede the progress of poverty alleviation.
Third, even if absolute poverty is completely eliminated, there will still be relative poverty or some households may fall back into poverty. The ability of the poor to be "self-sufficient" needs to be cultivated.
Eliminating absolute poverty is the ultimate goal of poverty alleviation measures. In the face of various subjective and objective causes of poverty, China must further implement the Targeted Poverty Alleviation strategies. Successful poverty alleviation requires "favorable time, favorable place and harmonious people", in which the most important aspect is the power of the people. In the face of multiple factors of subjective and objective poverty, China must further refine poverty alleviation measures.
Further refine poverty alleviation measures
First, it is better to teach a person how to fish than to give him/her fish. Poverty alleviation cannot always rely on "giving money". It is necessary to change the old, outmoded production methods and business operations, and promote new technologies, new projects, and new ideas.
Second, poverty alleviation should guarantee the bottom line for the poor and let them dare to try. There should be a more comprehensive insurance mechanism to enhance the fault tolerance rate of the poor, reduce their risk aversion, so they can dare to try.
Third, we should go "hand in hand" to help the poor. The process of poverty alleviation leads to all kinds of unforeseen problems. It is critical to provide sufficient guidance and timely solutions to ensure poverty alleviation programs are successful.
Fourth, poverty alleviation requires aspirations and confidence. There should be a deeper understanding of the difficulties and emotions of the poor from their own perspectives.
Fifth, it is essential to introduce scientific measures, such as commitment mechanism, supervision, and reminding system to help the poor. These measures have proved effective in helping people pursue long-term interests, resist immediate temptation, increase the participation rate and reduce the withdrawal of poverty alleviation projects.
Prof. Hu Angang (Second from Right) and Prof. Heinz Dieterich with colleagues at Tsinghua University, Beijing, July 2019
As a large country with a population of about 1.4 billion, China is the most important experimental field for global poverty reduction. Starting as a povertystricken country, China has become the world's second-largest economy and is about to build a moderately prosperous society in all respects. The success of Chinese poverty alleviation measures provides the world with Chinese example, Chinese experience and Chinese strategies for global poverty reduction.
* Hu Angang, Director del Centro de Estudios de China, Tsinghua-CAS