China meets poverty goals ten years early as rest of the world goes the other way

What does it take to build a better future for humanity? Conference answers: cooperation, empowerment, technology transfer, people-centred development.

Proletarian TV

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On Monday 13 October, the international department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) hosted a significant international seminar to celebrate China’s enormous successes in poverty reduction and to enable countries from around the world to share their own experiences in the field.

The video above was produced by the CPC and played to the delegates at the opening of the conference in celebration of the country’s huge achievement.

The seminar was held in Fujian province in eastern China – the province formerly led by now president Xi Jinping, and the place where many of his groundbreaking poverty alleviation strategies were worked out.

The seminar included representatives from more than 100 countries, some of whom were in the room and many more of whom joined online. Its particular focus was on the role played by political parties in formulating poverty-reduction policies and facilitating their implementation.

Messages were delivered by or on behalf of the heads of state of China, Laos, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Central African Republic, Malawi, Argentina and Suriname, as well as by party leaders and high officials of ruling parties in Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, South Africa, Kenya and Gabon. Discussion included party leaders from progressive and socialist parties in many more countries.

All were united in praising the tremendous achievements of China in lifting 700 million people out of poverty. From 2012 to 2019 alone, China lifted 94 million of its people out of extreme poverty.

It is on target to achieve the goal of having ensured that every single Chinese citizen has been lifted out of extreme poverty by the end of this year, despite the obstacles created by the Covid-19 pandemic.

China’s definition of extreme poverty is where a person does not have access to all of the following: adequate food and clothing, secure housing, work and (in the case of children) education. In monetary terms, it has always set itself a target higher than that used by the World Bank (set at $1.90 per day in 2015).

Common themes touched upon by the distinguished delegates included the importance of international cooperation, both between states and between progressive parties, and of developing decent infrastructure to enable good transport links, consistent power delivery etc.

China’s example was widely extolled, as was the country’s role in helping parties and governments draw up and implement their own poverty-reduction and food security programmes. For instance, China has been assisting the Central African Republic in growing edible fungi, transferring relevant technologies in order to help the country with food security.

Many poor countries thanked China for its true, all-weather friendship: its investments in infrastructure projects, its transfer of vital technologies, and its assistance in the fight against Covid-19. The role of China’s belt and road initiative in promoting economic and trade growth, improving cooperation and creating infrastructure was also highlighted.

Practical help in fighting poverty

Another common theme touched on by the speakers was the need to fight against corruption and against the acceptance of poverty as something insurmountable. The ambassador of Malawi, for example, speaking on behalf of his president, explained that his countrymen have become so used to poverty that they no longer see it as an emergency.

Previous poverty-alleviation programmes, he said, had had their funds milked by corrupt officials and had delivered very little to the people. And of course, the country has had to deal with the legacy of colonial and post-colonial imperialist looting.

Overcoming these problems requires the people and leaders of Malawi to let go of their pervasive mindset of dependence, said the ambassador, especially dependence on foreign aid organisations, which promise much but which have not effected any meaningful change in the people’s wellbeing.

He also pointed to the problem of foreign loans being directed at projects that have no real value to the people, only serving to bankrupt the country with debt repayments.

The ambassador pointed to a fight on three fronts: first, the need to cancel foreign debt so that Malawi can use its resources to build the country’s industry; second, the need to re-educate the people so they see themselves as builders of their own economy; and third, the need to shift domestic policies away from aid dependence and towards encouraging friendly foreign investment into local agriculture and industry so as to build these vital sectors and create both self-reliance and useful work.

These themes: debt reduction, infrastructure development, fraternal cooperation between countries and parties, empowerment and education of the masses, self-reliance and the development of local industries were touched on by many speakers, and China’s role in assisting with these processes was highly praised by governments and parties from all corners of the world.

Work in China’s poorest areas

The secretary of the Fujian Communist party, which hosted the conference, outlined the struggle against poverty that has been going on in the province for many decades. President Xi when he served the party there had been concerned with rural poverty, and it was there that many of his poverty-alleviation strategies began to be worked out.

These included coordinating development between the remote mountainous areas and the more accessible coastal regions; sending technical experts to remote areas; developing industry, infrastructure, agriculture and tourism; and building beautiful villages in harmony with nature.

All registered poor people in the province have been able to work themselves out of poverty, reported the party secretary proudly, giving the example of Xiadang village, which was formerly almost inaccessible from outside, lacking roads, running water, electricity or a school. It also had no party office, so comrades converted a cowshed in order to set to work in helping the people to change their mindset and develop their local economy.

The party put forward the slogan ‘A weak hatchling can be the first to take flight’, inspiring people in undeveloped areas to believe in their ability to catch up with and even overtake their compatriots in more developed regions. The party followed a strategy of basing all its measures on local conditions, taking into account the realities on the ground and doing their best to ensure that agriculture and industry were developed in tandem, setting up local processing plants for agricultural produce for example, and generally aiming to use local resources for maximum benefit.

Local party workers took a people-centred approach, said the secretary, emphasising the importance of making poverty alleviation a shared priority for all in the region. He also underlined the need for perseverance and long-term thinking, of consistently working towards big goals one step at a time, reminding this writer of Comrade Mao Zedong’s dictum that “a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step”.

Forward to prosperity for all

While poverty in the rest of the world is increasing, China is one of the few countries significantly working in the opposite direction, accounting for 80 percent of all poverty reduction in recent decades. If China is removed from the picture, the statistics show that the world’s masses almost everywhere else continue to become poorer, and that the number of those in absolute poverty continues to rise.

Seen in this context, China’s achievements are all the more remarkable. China’s leaders have made it clear that they are not content to rest with this achievement alone, however. The CPC plans to move in 2021 towards realising the goal of eradicating relative, or subjective, poverty – aiming to find ways of raising low incomes, increasing health and education spending for the poor, reducing insecurity and enhancing life satisfaction.

We wish the Chinese people every success in this tremendous endeavour.