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Review of Poverty Alleviation Work in Rural Areas in China and Its Future Prospects
November 03,2017   By:CSHRS
Review of Poverty Alleviation Work in Rural Areas in China and Its Future Prospects

LI Yunlong*
 

Abstract: Since the launched of reform and opening up, the Chinese government has made great efforts and provided a lot of funds to promote poverty alleviation and development in rural areas. China has made great achievements in the cause of poverty alleviation and these have been recognized by the international community. The infrastructure in poverty-stricken areas has also been continuously improved, and industrial activities have been encouraged in poverty- stricken areas to help promote self-reliance. As a result of the governmentˇs actions the poor rural population has been greatly reduced, and rural peopleˇs living standards have been greatly improved. Since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, the central government has put forward a strategy of accurate poverty alleviation, implemented poverty alleviation projects in areas where poverty has stubbornly persisted and enhanced its efforts to finally eliminate poverty. Under the vigorous leadership of the CPC, China is expected to achieve the goal of eliminating absolute poverty nationwide ahead of schedule.

Keywords: development-oriented poverty alleviation  ♦  human rights  ♦  poverty alleviation  ♦  poor rural population

Since the launch of reform and opening up, China has made great efforts to eliminate rural poverty and improve the basic living conditions of people living in rural poverty-stricken areas. The great achievements it has made in the cause of poverty alleviation have been praised by the international community. But despite the progress that has been made, there is still a large poverty-stricken population in underdeveloped and remote rural areas in China. As a result, since 2015, the country's leadership has stepped up the nation's poverty alleviation efforts and accelerated the pace so as to eliminate poverty nationwide by 2020.

Ⅰ. History of Poverty Alleviation in Rural Areas in China

Before the founding of the People's Republic of China, China was semi-colonial and semi-feudal, the rural economy was extremely underdeveloped and the rural poverty situation was very serious. The vast majority of rural residents were poor. At that time, China was one of countries with the highest poverty rates. After 1949, Chin carried out thorough reform of the land system, distributing arable land to farmers for free. Land reform liberated rural productivity and greatly improved the living conditions of farmers. By 1957, China’s rural poor population had been significantly reduced. However, the Chinese government's economic strategy of giving priority to the development of heavy industry in the late 1950s impacted on the rural development process, causing widespread poverty in rural areas. At the end of the "cultural revolution" (1966-1976), the poverty in China's rural areas was shocking: According to statistics, the per capita calorie intake of farmers was less than 2,100 kcal/day, in terms of nutritional standards, 40 to 50 percent of China's rural population was living in poverty.1

Since reform and opening up was initiated, China has effectively addressed the issue of rural poverty. In 1978, according to the poverty standard established by the Chinese government, the poverty-stricken population was 250 million, accounting for 30.7 percent of the total rural population. With the launch of rural economic reform, including the household contract responsibility system in the early 1980s, which allowed households to contract land, machinery and other facilities from collective organizations, rural poverty was greatly alleviated. From 1978 to 1985, the per capita grain production in rural areas increased 14 percent, and the per capita net income of farmers increased 2.6 times. The rural poverty-stricken population decreased from 250 million to 125 million, accounting for 14.8 percent of the rural population. The poverty- stricken population declined by 17.86 million annually on average.2

In the mid-1980s, the central government put the issue of solving rural poverty on the agenda. In 1986, the central government established development-oriented poverty alleviation as the basic guideline for rural poverty alleviation, providing special funds each year and developing a variety of preferential policies aimed at helping the rural population out of poverty. By 1993, the per capita net income of farmers in the national key poverty-stricken counties had increased to 483.7 yuan from 206 yuan in 1986. The rural poverty-stricken population had fallen to 80 million, with an annual reduction of 6.4 million on average, an average annual decline of 6.2 percent, and the proportion of the poverty-stricken population in the total rural population fell to 8.7 percent.3

In March 1994, China formulated and promulgated its National Plan for Poverty Alleviation, with the aim of the ensuring the rural poverty-stricken population enjoyed the basic necessities of life by the end of 2000. By then, the rural poverty-stricken population with a lack of basic life necessities had decreased to 30 million, the incidence of rural poverty had fallen to about 3 percent and the per capita net income of farmers in the national key poverty-stricken counties had increased from 648 yuan to 1,337 yuan, an average annual increase of 12.8 percent.4

In 2001, the Chinese government formulated the National Program for Rural Poverty Alleviation and Development (2001-2010), which called for a solution to the problem of basic life necessities for the small number of social security targets and the poor population living in the areas with a harsh natural environment, along with people with disabilities that were still living in poverty as well as further improving the basic living conditions in poverty-stricken areas. It called for the achievements in providing basic life necessities to be consolidated, the quality of life of the poor population to be raised, the infrastructure in poverty-stricken rural areas to be improved, the ecological environment to be meliorated, and the economic, social and cultural backwardness of the poverty-stricken areas to be gradually eliminated. The highlight of this document was to extend the scope of government poverty alleviation to include the population that had solved the problem of basic life necessities but still had low incomes. By the end of 2001, there were 29.27 million absolute poverty-stricken people in rural areas, 23.65 million by the end of 2005, and 14.79 million by the end of 2007. As the number of people living in absolute poverty declined during this period, people living on low incomes began to become the main object of support. In 2001, China had a low-income poor population of 61.02 million, which was down to 40.67 million in 2007. In December 2008, China raised the poverty alleviation standard to extend the poverty alleviation policy to include the rural population with per capita income of less than 1,067 yuan. This meant 43.2 million people, 4.6 percent of the total rural population, were covered by the poverty alleviation policy of the central government. In 2009, China lifted the difference between the absolute poverty line and the low income line, taking the low income line as the poverty line. In this way, China's rural poverty standard was raised to 1,196 yuan. According to this standard, there were 40.07 million poverty-stricken people in China.5

In 2011, the Chinese government issued the National Program for Rural Poverty Alleviation and Development (2011-2020), raising the per capita rural poverty line to an annual income of 2,300 yuan. According to the new poverty alleviation standard, the number of people affected by poverty alleviation policy increased significantly, increasing from 26.88 million at the end of 2010 to 128 million at the end of 2011, accounting for about 13.4 percent of rural residents.6 The program put forward higher requirements for poverty alleviation and development, and expanded the content of poverty alleviation to public services, such as compulsory education, basic medical care and housing. It clearly stipulated what the overall goal of poverty alleviation over the next 10 years was to be: "By 2020, the problem of basic life necessities of the poverty-stricken population should have been solved and they should have been provided with compulsory education, basic medical care and housing; the increase of average per capita net income of farmers in poverty-stricken areas should have been higher than the national average level, the indicators of basic public services should have been close to the national average level and the widening tendency of the development gap should have been curbed"7 In 2016, the poverty-stricken population under the revised standard was 43.35 million.8

With 30 years of efforts, the poverty situation in rural areas in China has been greatly alleviated and the living standards of the rural poor have been significantly improved.

Ⅱ. The Characteristics of Rural Poverty Alleviation in China

The reason why China's rural poverty alleviation efforts have achieved the success is that they adheres to the principle of seeking truth from facts and have unwaveringly taken into account the reality of the rural situation.

First, the government plays a pivotal role in rural poverty alleviation. The central government does the overall planning to formulate poverty alleviation programs. Since the 1980s, the central government has incorporated rural poverty alleviation into the national overall development strategy. In the Seventh Five-year Plan for Development (1986-1990), one chapter was devoted to planning the economic development of the former revolutionary base areas, ethnic minority areas, remote areas and poverty-stricken areas, and clearly stipulates that in terms of funds, the state should implement support policies in those areas. Since then, poverty alleviation has been incorporated into each of the five-year plans. At the same time, the government has formulated special poverty alleviation programs, such as the National Plan for Poverty Alleviation (1994), the Program for Rural Poverty Alleviation and Development (2001-2010), the National Program for Science and Technology Poverty Alleviation Planning (1996-2000), the Program for Supporting the Development of Ethnic Minorities with Less Population (2005-2010), the National Program for Rural Poverty Alleviation and Development (2011-2020), and the 13th Five-Year Plan for Poverty Alleviation (2016-2020). In addition, based on these, many departments, industry organizations and local governments at various levels have also developed their own poverty alleviation programs.

In order to promote rural poverty alleviation, the central government has established leading institutions for poverty alleviation and development at all levels. In 1986, the State Council set up a leading group for the development of poverty-stricken areas, renaming it the Leading Group for Poverty Alleviation and Development of the State Council in 1993. The agency's role is to organize and lead poverty alleviation and development efforts in poverty-stricken areas. Those governments at the provincial, municipal, and county levels with huge poverty alleviation tasks have also set up leading groups and offices for poverty alleviation and development, and the township governments have nominated poverty alleviation officials to be responsible for the local rural poverty alleviation. The responsibility system of executive leadership being responsible for poverty alleviation at corresponding levels has been adopted in poverty alleviation and development, with provincial governments playing the leading role.

Governments at various levels have invested huge sums of money to carry out rural poverty alleviation. For more than 30 years, with the increase in the country's financial resources, the government's poverty alleviation investment has steadily increased: From 1980 to 2000, the central government's poverty alleviation investment totalled more than 168 billion yuan, of which more than 80 billion yuan was financial investment (including labour relief funds of more than 39 billion yuan), and 88 billion yuan poverty alleviation credit funds.9 According to the matching requirements (30 percent to 50 percent after 1996), local governments'poverty alleviation investment has increased accordingly. From 2001 to 2010, the central government invested a total of 144 billion yuan for poverty alleviation (including labour relief funds), and guided nearly 100 billion yuan in poverty alleviation loans through a discount policy. In 2015, more than 150 billion yuan of the central budget funds were invested in poverty-stricken areas, accounting for about one-third of the total investment in the central budget throughout the year.10 In the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015), the central government's special funds for poverty alleviation increased significantly, from 27.2 billion yuan to 46.745 billion yuan per year.11 The central government invested 23.1 billion yuan of the central budget into poverty alleviation relocation.12 The Ministry of Transport invested 550 billion yuan in the construction of highways in poverty-stricken areas, and promoted highway construction investment of nearly 2 trillion yuan.13 And the central government invested 237.5 billion yuan in water conservancy facilities in poverty-stricken areas.14

Second, a development-oriented poverty alleviation policy has been adopted. The traditional way of poverty alleviation is direct aid. Poverty alleviation by way of direct aid not only places a heavy burden on the state's finances, it also does not solve the problem of how to permanently lift people out of poverty without assistance. China has chosen a development-oriented poverty alleviation strategy because of the low level of economic development of a large number of poor people and the inability of the government to solve the problem of poverty through direct aid. This means that China will tackle poverty mainly through helping and promoting economic and social development in poverty-stricken areas. Facts have proved that this poverty alleviation strategy is more in line with China's national conditions. Since 1986, the central government has made development-oriented poverty alleviation the core and foundation of its poverty reduction policies, requiring governments at all levels to support and encourage in the people in poverty-stricken areas to improve the conditions for production, develop the production of commodities, and develop local resources, so the poor mainly rely on their own efforts to improve their standards of living. The development-oriented poverty alleviation mainly includes: (1) Carrying out infrastructure construction and further improving the conditions for production. The central government invests funds to comprehensively promote infrastructure construction, improve farmland, water conservancy facilities, build roads, etc. (2) Cultivating and developing industries in poverty-stricken areas according to the local conditions. The central government provides preferential poverty alleviation loans and develops preferential policies to help poverty-stricken areas and poor farmers to develop farming, aquaculture and other processing industry projects to promote production and increase incomes. (3) Carrying out agricultural technical training, improving poor people's knowledge of technology and cultural awareness, and further enhancing the self-development capacity of the poor. (4) Carrying out ecological poverty alleviation by combining poverty alleviation and development with soil and water conservation, environmental protection, and ecological construction to promote the sustainable development of poverty-stricken areas and poor farmers. The National Plan for Poverty Alleviation (1994) contained specific provisions on development-oriented poverty alleviation, and the national special poverty alleviation funds were no longer directly distributed to poor farmers, but were used to help poor farmers develop their production capabilities and enable them to develop sustainable and stable poverty alleviation abilities. From 1980 to 2003, the central government invested a total of 102.6 billion yuan in poverty alleviation, of which 65 percent was used to improve basic production conditions in poor rural areas and carry out practical technical training; the other 35 percent was used for basic farmland construction, drinking water projects and the construction of roads in poverty-stricken areas.15 In addition, poverty alleviation discount loans were provided to support farmers to develop farming, aquaculture and small processing industries, etc. The poverty alleviation documents issued by the Chinese government over the past 30 years, such as the National Plan for Poverty Alleviation in 1994, the Program for Rural Poverty Alleviation and Development (2001-2010) and China National Program for Rural Poverty Alleviation and Development (2011-2020), have all explicitly taken development-oriented poverty alleviation as the main approach of poverty alleviation, requiring governments at all  evels to increase poverty alleviation funds and try every means to promote economic development in poverty-stricken areas so as to help more poverty-stricken population in rural areas out of poverty.

Third, the poverty-stricken areas with the highest concentration of poor people are the focus of poverty alleviation. In order to use poverty alleviation funds collectively and support the poor effectively, the central government has identified a number of poverty-stricken counties with high concentrations of poor people, which was a breakthrough in its poverty-alleviation efforts. In 1986, the state determined the standard for counties considered poverty-stricken: those with a per capita net income of less than 150 yuan, unless autonomous counties, in which case the standard was relaxed to 200 yuan. In 1994, the National Plan for Poverty Alleviation determined the standard of poverty-stricken counties as the annual per capita net income being less than 400 yuan. A total of 592 poverty-stricken counties were identified in 27 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the leadership of the central government, covering more than 72 percent of the poor people in rural areas across the country. The central government formulated a series of policies and measures to support these poverty-stricken counties and poverty alleviation funds including central finance, credit and labour relief were distributed to them. Funds provided by various departments and the relevant provincial and district governments were added to the poverty alleviation funds provided by the central government, and the funds and projects have had to cover poverty-stricken townships in poverty-stricken counties.

Later, the Chinese government took highly concentrated poverty-stricken areas as the focus of its poverty alleviation efforts. China's vast rural poverty-stricken population is concentrated in the central and western regions, distributed in the mid-west mountains, alpine mountainous areas, rocky mountainous areas, the Loess Plateau areas, desert areas, endemic areas and reservoir areas. These areas are remote and the living conditions are harsh, their economic development is weak and they have imbalanced ecologies, inadequate sources of drinking water, poor transport infrastructure, and lack education resources. In these areas, there are a great number of poor people living in a severe and complex poverty situation. On the basis of effectively promoting poverty alleviation in the national key poverty-stricken counties, the Chinese government has further integrated the resources and concentrated efforts to solve the problem of poverty in areas with a high concentration of people living in poverty. Since 2011, China has taken 14 areas as the focus of its poverty alleviation and development drive, including the Wuling Mountain area, Qinba Mountain area, Wumeng Mountain area, Liupan Mountain area, the Yunnan-Guangxi-Guizhou rocky desertification area, and western Yunnan border mountainous areas. It has enhanced its support and investment in these areas, as well the overall planning and development. The central government has formulated a series of special support policies for these areas, including: dedicated newly added poverty alleviation funds; and the central and provincial governments have increased the general transfer payments to these areas. The central government has also increased its investment in these areas. Also in the western areas with concentrated poor populations, local governments are no longer required to provide funds to the state welfare projects, the central government supports the industries in these areas, gives priorities to poverty-stricken areas in terms of the national large-scale projects, new industries and key projects, and is transferring labour-intensive industries to poverty-stricken areas.16 These policies work in conjunction with the western development policy, the policy of benefiting agriculture and the policies of the state in terms of education, medical care and social security, resulting in a multiplier effect and the promotion of the flow of funds into these areas. From 2011 to 2015, for instance, the central government invested more than 500 billion yuan in the Wuling Mountain area.17 And from 2011 to 2014, the central government invested development funds of 805.4 billion yuan in the Yunnan-Guangxi-Guizhou rocky desertification area. 18

Fourth, poverty alleviation in the form of the relocation of residents has been implemented. The root causes of rural poverty, to a large extent, can be attributed to poor natural conditions. In areas where there is a lack of water and useable land, investment alone is not enough to help lift the local residents out of poverty. In these areas, the most effective and economical way of poverty alleviation is to relocate the rural poverty-stricken population to places where the natural conditions are better. The central government encourages and supports poverty-stricken farmers in the areas with extremely poor natural conditions to solve the problem of basic life necessities through relocation and provides them with favourable conditions and subsidies. By 2000, China had relocated 2.6 million poverty-stricken people. From 2001 to 2010, a further 6.2 million rural poor people who used to live in the areas with poor natural resources and harsh living conditions had been relocated with government subsidies. From 2011 to 2015, the central government provided 23.1 billion yuan in subsidies for relocation and another 3.94 million poverty-stricken people were relocated. 19

Ⅲ. Major Changes in China's Poverty Alleviation Strategy Since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China

Development-oriented poverty alleviation has been the basic poverty alleviation strategy of the Chinese government since the task of poverty alleviation was put forward in the 1980s. The central government has taken 592 national poverty-stricken counties as the main target of poverty alleviation, and carried out development-oriented poverty alleviation in various counties. The China Program for Rural Poverty Alleviation and Development (2001-2010) selected 148,000 poverty-stricken villages as the focus of poverty alleviation, requiring the poverty alleviation plan to be made on the basis of the conditions of each village and implemented in an annual manner with the aim of lifting all the people in each village out of poverty. The national program further identified 14 areas with concentrated poverty-stricken population and these have been the main battlefields for poverty alleviation and development, breaking the restrictions of administrative divisions such as county, city and even province. The poverty-stricken areas with concentrated poor populations are treated with unified planning and investment. In these areas, infrastructure has been constructed on large scale, including transportation, electricity, and water conservancy. Efforts have also been made to improve the local ecology and environment and develop industries suitable to the local situation.

The strategy of development-oriented poverty alleviation has been implemented well and made remarkable achievements. The construction of infrastructure including electricity, transportation (including rural roads) and human and animal drinking water, and the production and living conditions in rural poverty-stricken areas have been greatly improved. The economic development of these poverty-stricken areas has been accelerated and characteristic and advantageous industries have been established. Medical, cultural and educational undertakings have been developed in an all-round way. The housing conditions of the poverty-stricken residents have been improved. The trend of ecological deterioration has been initially curbed. And rural poverty has been greatly alleviated. From 1978 to 2014, more than 700 million poor people have been helped out of poverty, an annual average of 19.45 million; the incidence of poverty has dropped by 90.3 percent.20

However, the development-oriented poverty reduction strategy is also clearly flawed. Since this poverty alleviation strategy focuses on solving the problem of poverty at the regional level, it does not address the problem on an individual basis. When the vast majority of people in a region are poor, the development-oriented poverty alleviation strategy centred on regional development is extremely efficient. However, when the infrastructure conditions of the poverty-stricken areas are improved, the economy is relatively developed, and a large number of rural poverty-stricken people are helped out of poverty, the efficiency of development-oriented poverty alleviation declines. As a result, region-based and the development poverty alleviation approach are increasingly showing their limitations. Although more and more poverty alleviation funds have been invested, the effectiveness of the funds in reducing poverty has declined. Over the years, the problems that have arisen in poverty alleviation work include determining how many people are poverty-stricken, poverty-alleviation efforts not being on an individual basis and not being well-targeted. Some poor people do not get the right help and a lot of valuable poverty alleviation resources have been obtained by those for whom it is not intended. In order to help those who are truly poverty-stricken out of poverty as soon as possible, it is necessary to improve the efficiency of poverty alleviation work.

Since the 18th CPC National Congress, the CPC Central Committee and the State Council have put forward the requirement for accurate poverty alleviation and promoted a major change in China’s poverty alleviation strategy. In January 2014, the General Office of the CPC Central Committee and the General Office of the State Council promulgated Opinions on Innovating the Mechanism and Promoting Rural Poverty Alleviation and Development in a Solid Way, requiring an accurate mechanism for poverty alleviation be established, with a certificate for every poverty-stricken village and household, formulating assistance measures for every poverty-stricken village and household and enabling them to achieve the goal of getting out of poverty as soon as possible within the prescribed time.21 In May 2014, seven departments in the State Council and the Central Agricultural Office, jointly issued the Implementation Program for Establishing Accurate Poverty Alleviation Mechanism, putting forward the goal of carrying out poverty alleviation targeted at each poverty-stricken village and household and requiring accurate identification, assistance, management and assessment of poverty alleviation funds. Accurate identification is necessary to ensure that not one poverty-stricken household or village is missed and to remove any household fraudulently claiming to be. Accurate assistance is to develop targeted assistance plans based on the specific situation of poverty-stricken households and villages and take effective measures to support them. The identification of poverty-stricken villages and households must be subject to strict procedures such as personal application, public review, publicity notices and sampling checks. After the identification of poverty-stricken villages and households, the government should put their information on record and keep it updated every year. Accurate assistance requires the establishment of a system of cadres stationed in villages, which means there should be an assistance team stationed in every poverty-stricken village and one assistance person designated for every poverty-stricken household.22 In April 2014, the Office of the Leading Group for Poverty Alleviation and Development of the State Council issued the Work Plan for Putting Information on Record in Poverty Alleviation and Development, elaborating unified standards and methods for identifying poverty-stricken villages and households and providing the reference text for the archives.23

In 2015, the Chinese government began to vigorously promote targeted poverty alleviation. On June 18, the CPC Central Committee General Secretary Xi Jinping pointed out in a panel discussion with some major officials in charge in provincial, district and municipal CPC committees in Guizhou, "[t]he success of poverty alleviation and development relies on accurate poverty alleviation efforts. All the relevant governments should try to ensure the accuracy of the assistance objects, project arrangements, use of funds, households benefiting from the policies, designating cadres to villages (the first secretary) and achieving the effectiveness in poverty alleviation eventually. It's vital to adopt appropriate measures based on the specific situation of individuals and regions, targeting different reasons and types of poverty."24 The Proposal of the CPC Central Committee on the Development of the 13th Five-year Plan for National Economic and Social Development (issued in November 2015) proposes that it is necessary to adopt measures based on the specific situations of individuals and regions and improve the effectiveness of poverty alleviation work. Specifically, it is necessary to give assistance to poverty-stricken households based on their distinct characteristics; to support the poverty-stricken households with the ability to work to develop characteristic industries and transfer employment; to help the poverty-stricken households in areas with poor natural conditions to escape poverty through relocation; to help poverty-stricken households in the areas with ecological importance and vulnerability to escape poverty through social security policy; to provide medical assistance to households suffering from poverty due to illness; to link basic living allowances policy with poverty alleviation policy and incorporate all the poverty-stricken population into the scope of social security.25 In November 2015, Xi Jinping said in a speech at the Conference of the Central Government on Poverty Alleviation that to achieve accurate poverty alleviation, it is necessary to clearly identify the poverty-stricken population, the degree of poverty people are living in, and the causes of poverty, so as to adopt policies based on the specific situations of individual households and persons.26 In the same month, the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee held a meeting to consider the adoption of the Decision on Winning the Fight Against Poverty. According to the Decision, accurate poverty alleviation includes accurate identification of those to be assisted, accurate use of funds, accurate arrangements for poverty alleviation projects, accurate assistance personnel based on the situation of villages, accurate measures targeting individual households and accurate effectiveness of poverty alleviation efforts. In the accurate poverty alleviation strategy, accurate identification and putting information on record are extremely important. It is necessary to regularly check the poverty-stricken villages, households and population that are on record, and carry out dynamic management of the records. It is necessary to support the poverty-stricken population according to the causes of poverty and their poverty alleviation needs.27

Accurate poverty alleviation marks a significant change in China’s poverty alleviation strategy. First, accurate poverty alleviation solves the long-standing problem of those not deserving of poverty alleviation receiving help. All poverty alleviation work is based on the accurate identification of the poverty-stricken population. Without accurate identification of the poverty-stricken population, it's hard to carry out poverty alleviation. An important drawback of the traditional approach to poverty alleviation is that the poverty-stricken people who really need help remain unknown, so it results in a waste of a lot of poverty alleviation resources. The identification procedure of poverty-stricken people established by accurate poverty alleviation, including public review, household surveys, publicity notices, sampling checks and information recording, can effectively identify the poverty-stricken population, thus making poverty alleviation more targeted. Second, accurate poverty alleviation has changed the approach of simple and uniform assistance. Different from the previous regional development-oriented poverty alleviation, accurate poverty alleviation requires diversification of poverty alleviation approaches. It is necessary to formulate different poverty alleviation plans according to the specific situations of poverty-stricken people and their special causes of poverty, designate assistance personnel and invest corresponding resources so that poverty-stricken people can be helped out of poverty on schedule. Third, accurate poverty alleviation requires dynamic management of poverty alleviation targets. The government should grasp the comprehensive information of the poverty-stricken population in real time. Once the poverty situation changes, it is necessary to withdraw them from the poverty alleviation list, while the other poverty-stricken people should be added. The dynamic management of poverty alleviation targets can ensure assistance goes to poverty-stricken people.28

Ⅳ. Prospect of China’s Rural Poverty Alleviation

The Chinese government has always viewed poverty alleviation from the perspective of building a well-off society in an all-round way and realizing socialist modernization. The eradication of absolute poverty is important to realize a moderately well-off society. The report of the 16th National Congress of the Communist Party of China proposed to "vigorously promote poverty alleviation and development, consolidate the achievements of poverty alleviation, solve the problem of basic life necessities for the rural poverty-stricken population as soon as possible, and gradually allow people to lead a well-off life".29 The China National Program for Rural Poverty Alleviation and Development (2011-2020) issued by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council in 2011 puts forward that "by 2020, the poverty alleviation objects should have solved the problem of basic life necessities and been provided with compulsory education, basic medical care and housing, the increase of per capita net income of farmers in poverty-stricken areas should have been higher than the national average, the basic public services indicators should have been close to the national average, and the expanding tendency of the development gap should have been reversed."30 Since the 18th National Congress of the CPC, the CPC and the government have paid more attention to poverty alleviation. The CPC Central Committee and the State Council issued the Decision on Winning the Fight Against Poverty on November 29, 2015, clearly putting forward that by 2020, it's necessary to solve the problem of regional overall poverty and help all rural poverty-stricken people out of poverty by the current standard. On the basis of accurate identification of the poverty-stricken population and putting their information on record, a variety of approaches should be adopted to achieve poverty alleviation goals by the standards of accurate identification of assistance object, accurate arrangements for the project, accurate fund use, accurate measures targeting individual households, accurate assistance personnel based on the situation of villages, and accurate effectiveness of poverty alleviation. The Decision on Winning the Fight Against Poverty requires poverty alleviation in the forms of developing special industries and guiding the movement of labour services, while protecting the ecology, strengthening education, providing medical insurance and medical assistance, implementing rural minimum living security system, exploring assets income, and improving care service system of left-behind children, left-behind women, left-behind elderly and the disabled.31

According to the different situations of the 70 million poverty-stricken people, the Chinese government has formulated a targeted poverty alleviation program. First, for poverty-stricken people with working ability and productivity skills, poverty alleviation is mainly achieved through the development of the means production. The government supports the development of various special industries by poverty-stricken people based on local conditions, and promotes them to take the sustainable development path of economic endogenous growth and self-reliance. This form of poverty alleviation can lift about 30 million poverty-stricken people out of poverty. Second, for the poverty-stricken people living in the areas with harsh natural conditions, fragile ecosystems, and a lack of production and living conditions, the government provides funds to relocate them to the areas with better production and living conditions. This form of poverty alleviation can lift about 10 million poverty-stricken people out of poverty. Third, for poverty-stricken people with working ability, especially young poverty-stricken people, poverty alleviation in the form of employment transfer can be achieved by improving their educational level, providing vocational training and improving their vocational skills to help them to be employed in the secondary and tertiary industries. This form of poverty alleviation can lift about 10 million poverty-stricken people out of poverty. Fourth, for the poverty-stricken people that have lost the ability to work and cannot get out of poverty relying on industrial support and employment assistance, poverty alleviation can be achieved by covering them in the rural minimum living security system. There are about 20 million people who do not have the ability to work. By these four approaches, China can lift 70 million poverty-stricken people out of poverty by 2020.32

The poverty alleviation program is expected to be achieved on schedule. First, the central government has attached great importance to it. The Central Political Bureau of the CPC stated in its deliberations on the Decision on Wining the Fight Against Poverty that "it's necessary to win the fight against poverty by taking extraordinary measures and taking the efforts of the CPC and the whole of society."33 Such a strong tone is rare in the documents of the central government, which means that the Chinese government is giving priority to poverty alleviation and will highlight the theme of poverty alleviation in formulating the national economic and social development plan, and instruct governments at various levels to also focus on achieving the goal of poverty eradication by 2020. The State Council formulated the 13th Five-Year Plan for Poverty Alleviation in 2016, the General Office of the Central Committee of the CPC and the General Office of the State Council formulated ten supporting documents to implement the Decision of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council on Winning the Fight Against Poverty, and 32 leading departments and 77 participating departments have formulated 118 policy documents or implementation plans.34 Various industry sectors have incorporated poverty alleviation into the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020) and given priority to it. Second, local CPC committees and governments have responded positively. As the central government attaches great importance to poverty alleviation, the provincial and municipal CPC committees and governments have also made great efforts to implement the decisions of the central government on poverty alleviation. After the CPC Central Committee issued the Decision on Winning the Fight Against Poverty, the local CPC committees and governments have vigorously studied and implemented it. The local governments have all formulated provincial 13th five-year plans for poverty alleviation based on the national 13th Five-Year Plan issued by the central government, and introduced a document comprehensively promoting poverty alleviation and the "1 + N" series of documents of accurate poverty alleviation including a number of supporting documents. In the CPC committees and governments at all levels, ranging from provinces and cities to counties, major leaders are personally, in charge, must take full responsibility, and are supervised by officials of higher levels. In accordance with the requirements of accurate poverty alleviation, local poverty alleviation programs and poverty alleviation responsibilities are implemented in every poverty-stricken village and household. Third, the government is financially strong enough to support the achievement of the goal of poverty alleviation. At the end of 2014, there were 70 million poverty-stricken people in the country. By the end of 2015, the figure was reduced to 55.75 million, and by the end of 2016, 43.35 million. Since the 20 million poverty-stricken people who have lost their ability to work can be helped out of poverty through social security, the government can achieve the goal of poverty alleviation by helping the 23.35 million poverty-stricken people out of poverty through the development of production and employment transfer from 2017 to 2020. If 23.35 million people are to be helped out of poverty in four years, it means fewer than 5 million people need to be helped out of poverty each year from 2017. This is a fully achievable goal, because during the 12th Five-Year Plan, about 20 million people were helped out of poverty each year.35 It is also a fully achievable goal to help 20 million poverty-stricken people escape poverty by providing social security. According to the poverty reduction standard of 3,000 yuan, to provide social security for 20 million people needs 60 billion yuan. The Chinese government has ample financial resources to pay for this expenditure. Compared with the national fiscal reserves of up to 15.2 trillion yuan in 2015, 60 billion yuan of social security is a relatively small figure, and it can be afforded by the government.36

Its years of poverty alleviation experience show that the Chinese government has the capacity to meet the goal of eliminating absolute poverty by 2020. In 2016, the Chinese government's poverty alleviation investment increased significantly, and the central and provincial financial special poverty alleviation funds for the first time exceeded 100 billion yuan, of which the central government poverty alleviation fund was 66.7 billion yuan, an increase of 43.4 percent; provincial finance exceeded 40 billion yuan, an increase of more than 50 percent.37 Various kinds of financial institutions have enhanced their poverty alleviation support, and a total of 277.2 billion yuan in loans have been issued for poverty alleviation (164.5 billion yuan in 2017), supporting 7.66 million poverty-stricken households.38 New forms of poverty alleviation continue to emerge. In 2016, the State Council Poverty Alleviation Office and the State Energy Bureau jointly carried out photovoltaic pilot poverty alleviation projects in 30 counties in six provinces such as Hebei, Anhui and Shanxi, making a plan for poverty alleviation project construction of 5.116 million kilowatts of PV-generated electricity. The State Council Poverty Alleviation Office and the National Tourism Administration have carried out rural tourism poverty alleviation in 22,600 poverty-stricken villages across the country, 428 poverty-stricken counties have carried out e-commerce poverty alleviation pilots and the Ministry of Commerce, the Ministry of Finance, and the State Council Poverty Alleviation Office have jointly identified 158 poverty-stricken counties to carry out rural e-commerce pilots. Employment transfer and relocation have become the main forms of poverty alleviation. In 2016, the National Development and Reform Commission provided 16 billion yuan out of the central budget in providing resettlement housing construction subsidies for the poverty-stricken population in 22 provinces (autonomous regions and municipalities) including Yunnan, Guizhou, Sichuan, Gansu and Shanxi, whose information was put on record, and 2.49 million people have been relocated.39 In all, 4.8 million poverty-stricken people have been assisted in employment transfer across the country in 2016.40 The number of rural poverty-stricken people decreased to 43.35 million across the country in 2016, a reduction of 12.4 million compared with 2015. 41

In 2017, China's poverty alleviation efforts have been further enhanced. The central government's special poverty alleviation funds increased significantly from 66.7 billion yuan in 2016 to 86.1 billion yuan in 2017, an increase of 20 billion yuan over the previous year and an increase of 30.3 percent.42 According to the National 13th Five-Year Plan for Relocation and Poverty Alleviation, the central and local governments as well as individuals and institutions will invest 946.3 billion yuan to help the 9.81 million poverty-stricken people whose information is on record through relocation from 2016 to 2020. In 2016, 2.49 million people were relocated, and the task of relocating 3.4 million people will be completed in 2017.43 A rural poverty-stricken population of more than 10 million will be helped out of poverty in 2017.44 Judged from the current situation of poverty reduction, the goal of eliminating poverty in China will definitely be achieved ahead of schedule. When 10 million people are helpedout of poverty respectively in 2017 and 2018, the number of poverty-stricken population will be reduced to just over 20 million. The majority of these people do not have the ability to work for various reasons and are unable to escape poverty through their own efforts, so they will be lifted out of poverty through social security provided by the state. Therefore, the goal of tackling poverty is expected to be basically achieved across the country by the end of 2018. And by the end of 2019, poverty alleviation will be completed.

To win the fight against poverty and achieve the goal of poverty eradication means that absolute poverty will become history in China. Rural people will live a well-off life, enjoy compulsory education, basic medical care and housing. This is an unprecedented change in the 5,000 years of Chinese history and a major achievement in China's human rights undertaking. However, this does not mean the end of poverty alleviation. Poverty is a relative concept. After absolute poverty is eliminated, there is the problem of relative poverty. As the income gap, regional disparities and the urban-rural gap will exist for a long time, China's relative poverty problem will not disappear soon. After 2020, the relative poverty problem will become the focus of poverty alleviation in China. Poverty alleviation will continue to be an important task for the Chinese government in its efforts to narrow the gap between the rich and the poor and achieve common prosperity.

(Translated by ZHAO Hongfang)

* LI Yunlong ( 李云龙), professor of the International Strategic Institute at the CPC Central Party School, executive director of the China Society for Human Rights Studies.

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4. Ibid.

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