China’s advantage of eradicating poverty challenged by a new study

The Chinese Communist Party’s claim that it had eliminated extreme poverty has been challenged by a new study that argues that Beijing has adopted a limited and inflexible definition of what it means to be poor.

Late last year, the party announced that extreme poverty had been successfully eradicated, despite negative economic growth in the first half of the year caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The hit of the target on the calendar sent a propaganda coup for President Xi Jinping ahead of the party’s centenary celebrations in July this year.

Beijing has also offered its approach as a worthy study in the developing world and has published a white paper describing how China has achieved its “final victory” against poverty.

However, research published Tuesday by Bill Bikales, a former UN economist in China, said China has not done enough to claim the final victory over poverty.

“China has not eradicated poverty – even extreme poverty. And it will not be until it has viable systems in place that identify the poor everywhere… And as long as the country provides a safety net for all. and I know people [including] those affected by death, serious illness, loss of employment or other shock, ”he wrote in the report, which was funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

Bikales agreed that last year’s stage was “indisputably a success of great historical significance” and that all available evidence suggested that China did what it intended to do.

But that success remains distinct from having eliminated poverty, because the static definitions used by Beijing were in contrast to the international realities of poverty, which are changing.

The Chinese government did not respond to a request for comment

In the April white paper, China described the targeted system adopted under Xi as “the strongest weapon” to achieve “complete victory” and “eliminate general and extreme poverty for the first time in [China’s] history of thousands of years ».

China considers poverty as a purely rural phenomenon, even though more than 60 percent of its population stay in urban areas.

Launched in 2013, Xi campaign identified all rural poor – 89.98 m in 2015 – and recorded them in a national database. He then mobilized the state’s vast resources to ensure that they are no longer below the poverty line by the end of 2020.

The rigid approach meant that even when the coronavirus pandemic broke out declining economic growth, anti-poverty work in China is focused on helping the remaining 5.51m of rural poor registered in the original list. Few resources have been directed to mitigate the shock for vulnerable families who were not originally among the registered poor.

“To accurately capture the impact of Covid-19 on poverty anywhere other than in already identified counties and countries would require systems that were simply not in place,” Bikales wrote.

The debate over how to interpret China’s achievements in poverty alleviation also has ramifications for the future of the country’s social welfare programs.

Some economists have argued that the country would benefit from setting a much higher absolute poverty line or using a measure of relative or multidimensional poverty, all this would require before recognizing that poverty still exists in China.

China’s poverty line is just above the World Bank’s global extreme poverty line of $ 1.90 per day, but below the recommended $ 5.50 per day for middle-to-high-income countries.

“China is now a middle-income country,” said Martin Raiser, the World Bank’s country director for China. “It will be important. . . that poverty alleviation efforts are increasingly changing to address the vulnerabilities faced by the large number of people still considered poor by the standards of middle-income countries, including those living in urban areas. ”

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