The Chinese Communist Party’s claim to have eradicated extreme poverty has been challenged by a new study claiming that Beijing used a limited and inflexible definition of the meaning of poverty.
At the end of last year, the party announced that extreme poverty had been successfully eradicated, despite negative economic growth in the first half of the year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
By achieving the goal on schedule, prior to the party’s 100th anniversary ceremony to be held in July this year, Xi Jinping claimed a major propaganda coup.
Beijing also proposed their approach as worth studying across developing countries and published a white paper explaining how China achieved a “final victory” over poverty.
However, in the study, China hasn’t made enough efforts to claim a final victory over poverty, according to a statement released Tuesday by former United Nations senior economist Bill Baikares.
“China has not eradicated poverty, even extreme poverty, and it will only happen if there is a viable system in place to identify the poor around the world, while providing a safety net to the people, [including] people who have been killed, seriously ill, unemployed, or otherwise shocked,” he wrote in a report funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.
Mr. Baikares agreed that last year’s milestone was “achieving unmistakable historical significance” and that all available evidence suggests that China did what it intended.
However, the static definition used by Beijing is incompatible with the changing reality of international poverty, so its success remains different from eliminating poverty.
The Chinese government did not respond to request for comment
In a white paper in April, China described the targeting system adopted under President Xi as the “strongest weapon” for a “complete victory” and “for the first time in the world to eliminate overall and extreme poverty.”
China considers poverty to be a purely rural phenomenon, although more than 60% of its population considers it to be a purely rural phenomenon.
Inaugurated in 2013 Xi’s campaign Identified all rural poor (89.98 million in 2015) and recorded them in a national database. It then mobilized a huge amount of state funding to get below the poverty line by the end of 2020.
“To accurately capture the impact of Covid-19 on poverty outside of the already identified counties and villages, we simply needed an undeveloped system,” Baikares wrote.
The debate on how to interpret China’s poverty alleviation outcomes will also affect the future of China’s social welfare programs.
Some economists claim that the country benefits by setting absolute poverty thresholds much higher or by using relative or multidimensional poverty measures. It needs to be recognized first of all that poverty exists in China.
China’s poverty line is slightly above the World Bank’s global poverty standard of $1.90 per day, but below the $ 5.50 per day recommended for top middle-income countries.
“China is now a high- and middle-income country,” said Martin Riser, China’s director at the World Bank. “It will be important … Poverty alleviation efforts are directed towards addressing the vulnerabilities faced by a large number of people who are still considered poor by middle-income country standards, including those living in urban areas.”