NO ONE LEFT BEHIND

China’s lessons on fighting poverty for Africa and the world

The country stands as an excellent example of how countries can achieve SDGs

In Summary

•In a small village in central China's Hunan Province, the whole village was lifted out of poverty through rural tourism in 2018.

•The country will meet the UN's poverty alleviation goal 10 years ahead of schedule.

The skyscraper tower of Huaxi village is seen in Huaxi village, Jiangsu province. Huaxi is also known as China's richest village.
The skyscraper tower of Huaxi village is seen in Huaxi village, Jiangsu province. Huaxi is also known as China's richest village.
Image: REUTERS

China is well on its way to eradicating absolute poverty in rural areas by the end of this year, despite the Covid-19 epidemic. While efforts are being made to ensure "no single poor area or individual shall be left behind" – as President Xi Jinping puts it – people that have recently shaken off poverty are striving for a better life.

In a small village in central China's Hunan Province, the whole village was lifted out of poverty through rural tourism in 2018, and the average annual income of the residents reached about USD 2,060 in 2019, way above the national poverty line of about USD 340.

Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, is usually hands-on, visiting villages to learn about poverty relief industries and progress in consolidating poverty eradication, particularly through modern agriculture and tourism.

Put forward at the 19th CPC National Congress in 2017, the poverty elimination strategy aims to build rural areas with thriving businesses, pleasant living environments, social etiquette and civility, effective governance and prosperity.

Since the 18th CPC National Congress in late 2012, China has achieved remarkable results in poverty reduction. More than 93 million rural people shook off poverty between 2013 and 2019. But with 5.51 million remaining to get out of poverty by the end of 2019, the coronavirus pandemic threw a spanner in the works.

President Xi Jinping
President Xi Jinping
Image: Reuters

China has adopted a targeted approach in in its poverty alleviation campaign, which means taking tailored relief measures to fit different local conditions. The story of Shazhou is a prime example of that approach. The village boasts the beautiful scenery of the Luoxiao Mountains and the unique Yao ethnic culture. Tourism has played a significant role in Shazhou's battle against poverty.

The village has promoted rural tourism and high-quality fruit planting, and arranged training programmes to help villagers obtain job skills such as restaurant cooks and rural tourism industry employees. Hundreds of local jobs have been created through the efforts.

With all its residents lifted out of poverty, Shazhou is now a benchmark on poverty alleviation initiatives, and has been variously honoured countrywide as the "village of beauty and leisure," "role model for ethnic unity and progress," "key village for promoting rural tourism" and "traditional Chinese village."

Speaking at a symposium on poverty alleviation in March, Xi described the goal of ending absolute poverty by 2020 as a "solemn pledge" made by the CPC Central Committee to the Chinese people, urging authorities at all levels to deliver on that promise.

Being lifted out of poverty is not an end in itself, but the starting point of a new life and a new pursuit"
President Xi

In addition to increasing poor people's incomes, China is also striving to improve the quality of poverty relief. Xi has repeatedly called for efforts to ensure rural poor people do not have to worry about basics like food and clothing, education, basic medical services and safe housing.

But poverty alleviation is just one part of the bigger picture. Xi has stated on many occasions that "being lifted out of poverty is not an end in itself, but the starting point of a new life and a new pursuit." This calls for consolidating achievements in poverty alleviation and advancing the rural vitalisation strategy.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, and the fifth year since the global body adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). With less than 10 years left to meet these goals, the world is struggling with a myriad of challenges including the Covid-19 pandemic that has triggered the greatest world recession since the Second World War.

A woman takes a selfie with a statue of late Chinese chairman Mao Zedong in Shazhou village, Rucheng county, Hunan province, China December 3, 2018.
TOURISM IN VILLAGE: A woman takes a selfie with a statue of late Chinese chairman Mao Zedong in Shazhou village, Rucheng county, Hunan province, China December 3, 2018.
Image: Reuters

China stands as an excellent example of how countries can achieve SDGs. Over the past 40 years since its reform and open up to the market economy, China has lifted more than 700 million people out of poverty. The number of impoverished people in China fell to 5.51 million at the end of 2019 from 98.99 million at the end of 2012, a reduction of the poverty headcount ratio from 10.2 percent to 0.6 percent.

On completion of the country’s anti-poverty tasks this year, the country will meet the UN's poverty alleviation goal 10 years ahead of schedule. These achievements are closely connected with China's leadership and international collaborations. The UN has played a role in China's anti-poverty cause that should not be underestimated, but China is always ready to reciprocate with concrete actions.

In the words of a top CPC official Huang Kunming during a recent forum on the "UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals & China's Experience on Poverty Reduction, "It has always been an important tradition in Chinese culture to help the poor, and a virtue to return a favour. We cherish the valuable achievements of poverty alleviation led by the Party and will never forget sincere support and help we have received from international society on this endeavour."

The writer is a communication expert and international affairs columnist specialising in Sino-Africa relations.