Unclear module of assessment draws controversy as Xi declares ‘complete victory’ against rural poverty

China’s President Xi Jinping has declared “complete victory” in his government’s effort to eradicate rural poverty, lifting the income of nearly 100 million people over the past eight years.

The Chinese leader made the announcement at a ceremony in Beijing on Thursday to mark what has been described as a signature initiative of his tenure.

Officials say over the last eight years, an estimated 98.99 million people in the countryside have been lifted out of extreme poverty, according to officials.

All of China’s 832 impoverished counties and 128,000 of its villages have also been removed from the poverty list.

Since the launch of the reform and opening up in the late 1970s, 770 million poor rural residents have overcome privation based on China’s current poverty line.

Critics have questioned the poverty bar and project sustainability of Xi Jinping against the backdrop of Chinas claim that over an eight-year period, nearly 100 million people have been lifted out of destitution, joined with his very recent declaration of complete victory against rural poverty in China.

Ending extreme poverty has been a key initiative of Chinese President Xi Jinping which as well is a global concern.

World Bank report that currently, an estimated 700 million people live in extreme poverty, meaning they survive on less than $1.90 a day.

The legendary primatologist, DBE, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute, environment activist and UN messenger of peace, Dr Jane Goodall says the environment will not get better unless poverty is alleviated. “Because when you’re really poor, you just do what you have to do to live,” she tells host Steve Clemons.

Almost a decade later since he came to power in 2012, Xi has announced his country has achieved the “miracle that would go down in history”.

As the country’s Communist Party is preparing to celebrate its 100th anniversary, the government said it has been victorious over the coronavirus pandemic and will lay out its plans for medium-term growth next week.

The controversy also surrounds the timing of the announcement whereby the pandemic is expected to push 150 million people into extreme poverty globally, driving up numbers for the first time in 20 years.

Critics ponder on what the announcement mean for Xi’s legacy and the global economy

Reports say the government is trying to frame the economic achievement as Xi’s gift to the nation as it celebrates the 100th anniversary of the ruling Communist Party in July.

Beijing defines poverty as income levels at or below the rural poverty line of 4,000 Chinese yuan ($619) or less per year, up from 2,625 yuan ($406) in 2012, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

Opponents of Xi’s claim compare this baseline of $406 to the World Bank poverty line is pegged at $693.5.

China also said that it has contributed more than 70 percent of global poverty reduction over the same period.

In a policy pronouncement on Sunday, China pledged to stick with its poverty alleviation policies, while making some adjustments for a five-year transition towards what Beijing calls “rural revitalisation”.

Over the past 40 years, China says it has lifted more than 800 million people out of poverty, a phenomenon that has been described as “unmatched in human history”.

During that time, boosted by reforms and the economic opening launched by former leader Deng Xiaoping after the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, China’s contribution to the world economy increased from 1.5 percent to 15.4 percent, while its gross domestic product (GDP) per capita has multiplied by a factor of almost 65.

According to official figures, in the past five years, 70 million people have been the beneficiaries of poverty alleviation schemes.  And this year, China is looking to do the same for a further 30 million people.

Its poor, rural population is largely located in the southwest, with Sichuan province being one of the country’s most poverty-stricken regions. Out of the approximately 200,000 people living below the poverty line in Sichuan, almost 90 percent live in Liangshan prefecture, which is home to the largest ethnic Yi population in the country.

According to official figures, there were six million people living in poverty in Sichuan seven years ago. Under the poverty alleviation programme, villagers in remote areas are relocated to towns that have been built by the state and are equipped with water and electricity, healthcare facilities and schools while providing the possibility of finding employment and leaving behind the hardship of rural life.

But underneath the silver lining is discomfort for many of the relocated families, as the sudden transition to an urban lifestyle after generations of working and living off the land has been a challenge.

The open air of the fields has been replaced by small, often overcrowded urban dwellings, most of which have portraits of President Xi Jinping on their walls.

The locals are also concerned that their language and culture could be under threat, as the local schools only teach in Mandarin.

The World Bank has made targeted efforts on the global scale to improve the income of the world’s poorest households which it says have benefit nearly 92 million people across 75 countries in the world. according to a World Bank study.

Designed to drive people out of extreme poverty, these programmes usually combine cash or in-kind transfers, training and access to finance, and have seen an “unprecedented surge” in recent years, the lender said in its State of Economic Inclusion report published on Tuesday.

“One of the most stubborn challenges we face in development is positively transforming the lives of the extreme poor and vulnerable – a problem exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mari Pangestu, the World Bank’s managing director for Development Policy and Partnerships, said in a statement.

“This report presents – for the first time – a systematic review of economic inclusion programmes around the world, and sheds light on how governments can best invest in social protection, jobs, and financial inclusion.”

Conducted through 2020, the report examined more than 200 programmes in 75 countries which often involved collaboration between governments and international agencies.

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