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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Chine. Pékin déclare la guerre à la pauvreté


China: Beijing Declares War on Poverty

Translated Tuesday 4 April 2017, by Arwen Dewey

China: Beijing Declares War on Poverty


Migrant worker housing in Hangzhou, a province of Zhejiang. Photo: William Hong/Reuters

Starting today, two major institutions of the People’s Republic will be focusing part of their attention and time on the implementation of the thirteenth five-year plan. By the year 2020, China intends to become a "moderately prosperous society."

The fuerdai are famous for their high jinks. They are "second-generation rich kids" who have been creating scandals in China for the past several years by displaying themselves on social media, driving luxury cars and swimming in bundles of cash. These wealthy, arrogant young people have a gift for heightening tensions in a country already rampant with inequalities. To ensure stability and create a "moderately prosperous society," the thirteenth five-year plan (2016-2020) emphasizes poverty reduction. Accomplishing that goal on time is the subject of the two annual sessions of the 12th National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, beginning today, and the 12th National People’s Congress, which begins Sunday.

The central authorities have chosen to focus on reducing inequality between the coastal territories of the east, which have been benefitting from the opening up of the country since the 1980s, and the underprivileged central and western regions of China. “That’s what’s happening today, for instance with projects like the initiative ’1,000 Companies Helping 1,000 Villages’ in which successful companies take poor villages under their wing, for example by investing locally," explains Dong Guoping in China Today. Dong is head of the international affairs department in the information bureau of the State Council. In the past four years over 55 million people have risen from poverty, and the government has compiled databases to help pinpoint the causes of impoverishment by region, including a precise timeline for the 40 million Chinese people still living below the poverty line.

Migrant workers from rural areas present population challenges

Specific projects are being developed; housing and training in new techniques and modern industries have been proposed. The issue of the children left behind when migrant workers go to the city for work is also the subject of particular scrutiny in terms of providing education and care. This rebalancing is urgent; rural society is losing its young people, who are drawn to urban employment. One problem is that large fluctuations of migrant workers from rural areas are difficult for urban populations to absorb. Another is that migrant workers who have moved permanently to the city but have no residence, permit remain second-class citizens in terms of access to health care, housing and education. These factors aggravate poverty. By planning reforms to the residence permit system, the central authorities hope to also do away with the lingering issue of urban poverty.

Last Sunday offered an example of success; Jinggangshan (in the province of Jiangxi), which prides itself on being the "cradle of revolutionary activity of the Chinese Communist Party," was finally removed from the list of poor regions. According to the news agency Xinhua, "Today, people living below the poverty line represent 1.6% of the total population, which is lower than the national statistic of 2%." In the village of Shibadong (Hunan), inhabited by the Miao minority, the annual net earnings per resident have gone from 320 euros four years ago to 1,148 euros today. A study was done there on the development of crops, livestock, embroidery, the providing of services and rural tourism, which helped the village to emerge from poverty. Liu Hekui, Deputy Director of the Office of Reservoirs, Ecology and Immigration of the Huishui district (an autonomous county in Guizhou), spoke to the underlying logic of the approach. "Most of the residents we relocated were living in poor, isolated regions that are both inaccessible and unlikely to experience growth. The new industrial park where they are now living offers them many employment opportunities. Equity and stability depend, more than anything else, on employment." This year, China plans to relocate 3.4 million people from the communities hit hardest by poverty to more developed sectors.

Two Key Sessions

These two sessions of the National People’s Congress and the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference are crucial moments prior to this autumn’s 19th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The deputies of the National People’s Congress and the political advisors will also be discussing the development goals set by the central government and Xi Jinping’s proposals on governance.

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