HONG KONG – In the past eight years, around 100 million people in rural China have emerged from poverty, a sign of economic progress voiced by President Xi Jinping.
After taking power in 2012, Xi launched an initiative to help China meet the World Bank’s 2030 goal of eradicating extreme poverty. The People’s Daily, the official Chinese Communist Party (CCP) newspaper, called eradicating poverty a “historic leap”.
Xi “was at the strategic height of building a wealthy society in a comprehensive manner,” the newspaper said. The report pointed to the propaganda value for Xi in an economic advance that some suspect may be due in part to skewing the numbers.
At a ceremony on Thursday broadcast to millions by official media, Xi said China has invested 1.6 trillion yuan, or about $ 246 billion, in fighting poverty over the past eight years.
“I insisted on looking at real poverty, understanding real efforts to reduce poverty, helping people in real poverty and realizing poverty reduction,” said Xi, emphasizing his personal involvement in the program.
“All of the 98.99 million people who are the rural poor have been lifted out of poverty,” said Xi, who has amassed more personal power than any other leader since Mao Zedong, the founder of communist China.
Translating the statistics into human terms, Xi said these people no longer have to worry that they will be able to afford food and clothing – the so-called “two worries” – and that the government will also meet its “three guarantees” on health and housing going to, and education.
Xi described the party’s leadership and the Chinese political system as “fundamental guarantees against risks, challenges and difficulties”.
In a “No. 1 Policy Document “released on Sunday promised China to maintain its poverty reduction policy and make some adjustments for a five-year transition to what Beijing calls” rural revitalization. ”
The next steps include consolidating and expanding the “Poverty Reduction Achievements” in line with the policy. Experts quoted in China’s official tabloid Global Times say a major problem is improving the ability of people in poor rural areas to feed themselves.
In the past, road construction was a government-backed project that provided jobs, and future projects could include water projects to improve agricultural processing and transport, according to the experts.
The giant screen shows the state CCTV media broadcasts of Chinese President Xi Jinping in a shopping complex in Beijing on March 2, 2021.
Beijing continues to use the World Bank’s standards for the world’s poorest nations, despite being classified as an upper-middle-class country.
According to Reuters, China defines extreme rural poverty as having an annual per capita income of less than $ 620, or around $ 1.69 per day at current exchange rates.
This corresponds to the World Bank’s global threshold of $ 1.90 per day.
“In 2021 … measuring progress using the official poverty lines of the world’s poorest countries as a benchmark could be the definition of underperformance,” wrote Indermit Gill, an economist at the Brookings Institution.
The ceremony “and the associated party propaganda aim to portray Xi Jinping as the victorious commander who is leading China to success in its millennia-long struggle against poverty and enabling him to personally appreciate this achievement,” said Carl Minzner, professor at Fordham Law A school that specializes in Chinese law and governance, Bloomberg said.
“This will have a dramatic impact on Xi’s personal power as to whether a personality cult surrounding Xi is tacitly or directly promoted,” he said.
Xi and the official media remained largely silent about more than four decades of market economy reforms that began with China’s opening to foreign investment after the Cultural Revolution.
At the end of 2020, World Bank’s Martin Raiser told the New York Times: “We are fairly certain that China’s eradication of absolute poverty in rural areas has been successful. Given the resources mobilized, we are less certain that it will be sustainable or inexpensive. ”
The government subsidized farm labor through poverty reduction projects, gave animals to farmers, and pumped money into poor provinces through loans and grants, according to the Times.
This aerial view shows people shopping for groceries at a farmers market in Jishou, central China’s Hunan Province.
The money flows through China’s rural livelihood system based on an application, its review and approval, and the distribution of funds. This process goes through three basic levels of rural governance in China – village to county to county.
Rural households apply for subsidies by providing community officials with household registration, disability documents and certification from their village governments. The paperwork goes to grassroots administrative offices such as the Civil Affairs Department.
Community officials review the applications and submit them to county government officials for approval.
When approved, an applicant’s money is distributed monthly to a designated account with a rural bank or credit union, which does not charge any administration fees. Each recipient receives an authorization card that works like a debit card and can withdraw cash if necessary.
Temporary or one-off subsistence subsidies – for example, vacation allowances – are paid out to households in full if all requirements are met.
Huang Xiaomin, a lawyer in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, told VOA Mandarin that in some places the records used by Xi and other top officials can be inflated.
For example, in Sichuan Province, many residents of Heshu City, Peng’an County appear to have received social security and health benefits. However, the activist said the reality is different because several people in a family share the money that arrives in cash or wire transfer.
According to Huang, the minimum one-month life allowance for a person is between $ 42 and $ 56. If split up among four or five family members in a household, each person got about $ 11, he said.
“It is definitely not enough to get out of poverty. But under government pressure [unless the poor people] Sign their names to claim everyone has the full amount, they won’t get any money, ”he told VOA’s Mandarin Service.
Xi’s messaging Thursday contrasts with a statement made by Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang last May.
“There are over 600 million people whose monthly income is barely 1,000 yuan (US $ 140), which is not enough to rent a room in Chinese cities,” he said at his annual press conference.
Xia Ming, a political science professor at the City University of New York, said he now expects CCP loyalists to re-enact and possibly work to generate supporting evidence, and possibly work to generate supporting evidence, Xi’s questionable claims about the success of China’s poverty reduction efforts.
“Of course, since Xi Jinping wants to focus on poverty reduction as his core work, officials at all levels and propaganda departments are desperate to put feathers in his hat,” he said.
Prior to Thursday’s ceremony, several Chinese state news outlets described the poverty alleviation as “an epic picture of the Chinese campaign to fight poverty.”
Wu Qiang, a former lecturer in the political department at Tsinghua University, told VOA that Xi’s statement shows that he has nothing else to highlight in his eight years in power. He said declaring the end of poverty was one way to maintain stability in the face of income inequality.
In the past, poverty reduction campaigns in China, such as increased spending on rural schools and health care, have sought to bridge the gap between a visible minority who have benefited from economic reforms and the majority of people who have not, press They.
“In the market economy, China’s rich and poor are divided to an unprecedented degree,” said Wu. “… Xi’s efforts to reduce poverty are indeed for political security and the need for stability. Xi’s advertising is indeed intended to show other party leaders that he is capable of solving the pressing problems of instability through poverty reduction and possible effects to prevent the party. ”
Adrianna Zhang and Jing Zhang from VOA Mandarin contributed to this report.