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Everyone must matter

By DANIEL LEMUS-DELGADO | (China Daily) | 2021-06-15

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JIN DING/CHINA DAILY

China has proved that where there is the will there is the way to eradicate poverty

President Xi Jinping stated that abject poverty had been eradicated in China. This is a milestone in contemporary history and one of the greatest achievements of the Communist Party of China since its founding 100 years ago. Since the beginning of reform and opening-up more than four decades ago, the Chinese government has lifted more than 770 million people out of poverty. This was the main reason China's extreme poverty rate fell to 1 percent in 2019, from 88.3 percent in 1981. Over the past eight years, China has lifted 98.99 million poor rural residents under the current poverty line out of poverty. These achievements have allowed China to contribute to 70 percent of the global poverty reduction goal.

The fact that China has eradicated extreme poverty shows that with the necessary resolve it is possible to achieve the goal of zero poverty. Although it is certainly not a simple task, China's success is a call to the international community not to perceive extreme poverty as a heavy burden that millions of people must inevitably suffer. Lifting people out of poverty requires dedicated efforts and political will, as well as a model that can be adapted to local conditions. In the Chinese case, the model emphasized the development formula of infrastructure, trade, employment, innovation, technologies, education and public services.

China's triumph over extreme poverty is so remarkable that this victory cannot be ignored by the countries of the Global South. Although each country is unique in its trajectory and has a particular political system according to its historical circumstances, it is possible to find in China's success ideas that can inspire others to overcome extreme poverty. Each country must forge its route toward reducing poverty. No model can be just copied and pasted. However, the Chinese experience provides some general pointers on how to reduce poverty and how it is an achievable goal when there is adequate leadership, strong political will, both a medium and long-term vision, and adequate public policy to identify vulnerable groups, analyze the factors behind poverty and design and implement the appropriate public policies to overcome them.

The most important lesson of the Chinese program to eradicate abject poverty is that this task is so important that no one can be ignored in this effort. To end extreme poverty, everyone matters. While the government established the goals and proposed the tools to solve this problem, it was not an exclusive task of the Chinese government. In China, the CPC was the conductor of an orchestra. In addition, it was a task in which millions of volunteers participated.

The Chinese government recognized that it could not undertake this complex mission alone. China has always persisted in fighting against poverty by uniting the government, business and the public. In addition to providing full financial support, the government established a national award for outstanding private companies, social organizations and individuals in the fight against poverty.

In turn, important entrepreneurs contributed resources and invested in programs that linked their activities with the disadvantaged regions to increase economic growth. Thus, reducing poverty included a peculiar internal sponsorship system, with the leading role of the most developed regions in the East of the country and even many companies, especially State-owned, but also private. All these actors, for years, allocated part of their resources and benefits to sponsoring the development of the most impoverished areas.

The assistance and investments, both governmental and private, had the principal objective of increasing the self-development capacity of poor areas. The government always recommended aid through industrial assistance for the population capable of working and learning production techniques. In 2016, a pilot project was launched in 30 counties nationwide to lift locals out of poverty by developing the photovoltaic industry. Later, this initiative was extended to 35,000 registered villages in 471 counties, reaching a total of 2 million needy families. Other projects involved the promotion of ecotourism, as well as training programs, generating greater opportunities.

To eradicate extreme poverty, some communities experimented with the establishment of rural cooperatives, which allowed families to increase their productivity by sharing labor and resources. Also, State-owned banks provided microloans for poor residents who have benefited from the rise of e-commerce, selling custom-made clothing and other products online. These examples show how the private sector and members of society have joined hands to overcome poverty under the leadership of the CPC.

If we want to eliminate extreme poverty in the Global South, we must remember that it is a task that requires everyone's participation. As President Xi said during a speech at the 19th National Congress of the CPC, we have the duty to "leave no one behind in the march toward common prosperity".

The author is a professor at the School of Social Science and Government of Tecnologico de Monterrey and invited researcher at Fudan Development Institute. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.