Full Text: China's Epic Journey from Poverty to Prosperity

White Paper
The State Council Information Office of the People's Republic of China on Tuesday released a white paper titled "China's Epic Journey from Poverty to Prosperity."

XinhuaUpdated: September 28, 2021

III. Prosperity for All

A moderately prosperous society in all respects is a society in which all people share the fruits of development, a society where no individual, region or ethnic group is left behind, and a society that promotes the well-rounded development of all. Each of these is essential for achieving common prosperity, a major goal of socialism. China has now succeeded in creating such a society, where the people from all 56 ethnic groups enjoy a happy and comfortable life in every corner of China's vast land.

1. Prosperity for Every Individual

China is the largest developing country in the world. The country was long plagued by weak foundations, uneven development, and poverty. Unless every poor person and all poor areas could rise out of poverty, moderate prosperity in all respects would be impossible.

Led and united by the CPC, the Chinese people have fought a steadfast war against poverty. After its 18th National Congress in 2012, the CPC made the elimination of regional poverty and absolute poverty in rural areas its basic objective and the defining indicator for achieving the First Centenary Goal, and has secured a complete success.

China adopted a targeted strategy to help poor people rise out of poverty and achieve moderate prosperity along with the rest of the country. Targeted efforts have been made in six areas:

• identifying the poor accurately;

• arranging targeted programs;

• utilizing capital efficiently;

• taking measures targeting individual households;

• dispatching officials based on conditions in individual villages;

• achieving the set goals.

Five measures for poverty eradication have also been taken:

• boosting the economy to provide more job opportunities;

• relocating poor people from inhospitable areas;

• compensating for economic disadvantage associated with reducing environmental damage;

• improving education in poor areas;

• providing subsistence allowances for those unable to escape from poverty through their own efforts.

By the end of 2020, all of the 99 million rural poor, and all of the 832 counties and 128,000 villages classified as poor under China's current poverty line, had emerged from poverty.

The government has substantially reduced poverty in ethnic minority groups and areas. By the end of 2020, a total of 31.2 million people had been raised from poverty in the five autonomous regions of Inner Mongolia, Guangxi, Tibet, Ningxia and Xinjiang, and the three provinces of Guizhou, Yunnan and Qinghai, where many ethnic minorities live. All members of the 28 ethnic groups, with populations below 300,000, had risen out of poverty, and the ethnic groups which made the direct transition from a primitive to a socialist society in the early years of the PRC experienced another dramatic transformation – from absolute poverty to moderate prosperity.

The incomes and welfare of the registered poor in rural areas have improved substantially. Adequate food and clothing, and access to compulsory education, basic medical services and safe housing have been guaranteed for them. Improvements in education, health care, housing, and access to safe drinking water and other amenities have met their basic needs and also laid the foundations for their future development (Panel 8).

Since 2016, more than 9.6 million people registered as living below the poverty line have been lifted out of poverty through relocation from places that are inhospitable for them to make a decent living.

Panel 8 A Substantial Rise in Living Standards for the Poor

Incomes have increased rapidly. The per capita disposable income of rural residents in poor areas reached RMB12,588 in 2020. This represents a compound annual growth rate of 9.2 percent in real terms from 2013 to 2020, 2.2 percentage points higher than the average growth for rural residents nationwide. Formerly impoverished households now have adequate food, clothing and bedding for every season and all weather conditions.

Their ability to keep themselves free from poverty has steadily increased. The government has created more jobs through multiple channels and carried out large-scale vocational skills training, helping over 30 million impoverished people to find jobs. In all, 93.8 percent of registered poor households have benefited from employment assistance policies. More than two thirds of registered poor people emerged from poverty by entering the workforce, and their number rose from 15.3 million in 2016 to 32.4 million in 2020.

Compulsory education is available for all school-age children. The 200,000 children from registered poor households who dropped out of compulsory education were all identified and helped back to school in a timely manner. The chronic dropout problem among the registered poor had thus been solved. In 2020, the nine-year compulsory education completion rate in poor counties reached 94.8 percent. Since 2012, a total of 5.1 million students from registered poor households have received higher education, with millions of these households seeing the first family member ever to attend a university. During this period, key universities recruited a total of 700,000 students from rural and impoverished areas through a targeted program.

Basic medical services are guaranteed for the poor. The three-tiered medical services system at village, township and county levels has been steadily improved. Measures have been taken to provide medical treatment to those with major illnesses, and ensure contracted health care for those with chronic illnesses. Almost all now have access to basic medical insurance, major illness insurance, and medical assistance. Under these arrangements, approximately 80 percent of the hospitalization and outpatient expenses for treating chronic or special illnesses can be reimbursed. These developments have increased the availability and lowered the cost of medical care and effectively reduced health-related poverty.

Safe housing has been guaranteed. Through a poverty-alleviation program to renovate substandard rural houses, 25.7 million poor from 7.9 million households have had their dilapidated dwellings renovated. Meanwhile, housing improvement assistance has been provided to 10.8 million rural households experiencing economic difficulties, including households entitled to subsistence allowances, people cared for in their homes with government support, and families with members suffering from disabilities. A total of 23.4 million registered poor households have moved into safe homes which are more comfortable and offer better protection against earthquakes and other natural disasters.

Access to safe drinking water has been ensured. An upgraded program to improve drinking water safety has been launched in rural areas, providing adequate supplies of drinking water that meet the relevant standards to 382 million people, including 28.9 million formerly living in poverty. Tap water coverage in poor areas increased from 70 percent in 2015 to 83 percent in 2020.

The battle against poverty has inspired people to strive for a better life and built up their confidence and determination. Those who have risen out of poverty are inspired to seek prosperity through hard work, self-reliance, thrift and entrepreneurship.

After eradicating absolute poverty, China has been conducting follow-up monitoring for those areas and people who have newly escaped poverty, and has set a grace period during which assistance and other supportive policies will continue. Through regular inspections and dynamic management, problems can be spotted as soon as they arise, and intervention and assistance can be carried out promptly. These areas have been equipped to generate their own capacity for development, and people recently emerging from poverty have been motivated to invest their own efforts, so that they will not fall back into poverty.

The rights of special groups to subsistence and development have been effectively guaranteed. Preferential policies have been adopted to reinforce support, improve their welfare, and increase their access to development opportunities.

The basic national policy of gender equality has been universally applied. Women have been a prioritized target group for poverty alleviation and reduction. China has adopted preferential policies, allocated funds, and implemented targeted measures to help poor women address their pressing problems. Women account for about half of the 99 million people who have emerged from poverty.

China has implemented the National Development Plan for Children in Poor Areas (2014-2020) to ensure the education and health of children in poor areas and make any necessary interventions. The Nutrition Improvement Program for Children in Poor Areas has been implemented. In 832 counties formerly classified as impoverished at national level, the government provides a free daily pack of dietary supplements rich in proteins, vitamins and minerals to every baby aged 6-24 months, benefiting a total of 11.2 million children. Volunteers have been organized to provide paired care and assistance to orphans, left-behind rural children, and other children in need. The government has strengthened the guarantees for the basic needs of orphans and improved care for all children in need.

China has promptly increased the premium of basic old-age insurance and pension for both urban and rural residents. A system of care and services for left-behind rural seniors has been established. Care for poor seniors who cannot carry out essential self-care has been strengthened. The government has ensured seniors' basic living standards and their access to essential services.

China has guaranteed basic needs and services for people with disabilities, helping more than 7 million poor disabled people out of poverty. Their special needs are now better met, and significant progress has been made in providing better nursing services for poor people with severe disabilities.

2. Integrated Urban-Rural Development

In a moderately prosperous society, urban-rural development is more balanced and people-oriented urbanization is advancing, while the salient problems of agriculture, rural areas and rural people are being addressed. The urban-rural divide is being narrowed, the development gap between urban and rural areas continues to shrink, and integration has increased. Like two wheels of a cart, urban and rural areas complement each other and advance side by side.

Rural areas are becoming increasingly prosperous. With the implementation of the rural revitalization strategy, agriculture is being upgraded, rural areas are developing, and rural people are experiencing improvements in every aspect of life. Agricultural modernization is accelerating, and the supply of grain and other important agricultural products has been secured. China's annual grain output has remained above 650 million tonnes for the last six years. Its output of fruits, vegetables, tea, meat, eggs and fish all rank top of the world. Its comprehensive agricultural production capacity has been steadily increasing, and the contribution of scientific and technological advances to agricultural production has surpassed 60 percent. The overall level of mechanization in tilling, sowing and harvesting has reached 71 percent. The Chinese Farmers' Harvest Festival has been created so that farmers have their special day. The grain-dominated agricultural economy has been replaced with a more diverse rural economy featuring agriculture, forestry, animal husbandry and fisheries, and integrated development of primary, secondary and tertiary sectors. The roles of agriculture and rural areas continue to expand. Emerging industries and new business forms, such as eco-agriculture with distinct local characteristics, rural e-commerce, rural tourism, leisure agriculture, cultural experiences, and health care for seniors, are growing faster and bringing all-round development to the rural economy.

Rural infrastructure has been strengthened. Almost all administrative villages have access to surfaced roads, three-phase electric power, and 4G cellular networks. Rural logistic services are steadily improving. Express delivery stations have been set up in every town and township; they are spreading quickly into villages. More and more villages have purified water sources, surfaced roads, street lighting, clean energy, and a beautiful environment (Panel 9). The modernization of rural houses and villages is continuing, and the "toilet revolution" has produced obvious results. Many remote and once-impoverished villages have been completely transformed. Graced with village parks and home gardens, they have become better places to live and work in.

Illiteracy among rural youth and the middle-aged has been eliminated. Nine-year compulsory education has been consolidated, with the quality improving steadily. Rural people are significantly better educated. The Healthy Villages program has been rolled out, and village clinics have become more standardized and their health management ability has improved. The health level and life expectancy of rural residents have significantly increased. Rural cultural activities have become more colorful, and villagers can enjoy the facilities in rural reading rooms, cultural halls and fitness spaces.

Rural people are more open-minded, and are increasingly familiar with modern concepts such as innovation, science and technology, law and the market. They now pursue scientific, healthy and civilized new ways of life which are simple, thrifty, eco-friendly, and hygienic. Good social practices, including modest weddings and funerals, practicing filial piety, and helping the needy, the weak and the disabled, have been promoted. A new society blending rural traditions with modern style is taking shape. More beautiful, harmonious, livable and flourishing villages across the country are benefiting from a cleaner environment. The goals to make agriculture strong, rural areas beautiful, and rural people prosperous are being realized.

Panel 9 Achievements in Rural Infrastructure

High-quality rural roads that are properly built, managed and maintained, with well-operated passenger and freight services, have made a solid contribution to eliminating poverty and creating moderate prosperity in rural areas. By 2020, all the villages, towns and townships where conditions permit were accessible by surfaced roads and served by buses. Now 62.6 percent of rural households are supplied with purified tap water, 46.2 percent of rural households use gas or liquid gas for cooking, and 68 percent of rural households are equipped with sanitary toilets. More than 90 percent of administrative villages have access to domestic waste collection and disposal facilities. More than a quarter of rural households have their domestic sewage effectively treated. Some 80 percent of administrative villages have agriculture-related information service stations.

Urbanization is increasing. Urbanization is the only route to modernization and moderate prosperity. Before the founding of the PRC, cities and towns, usually declining and rundown, were few and far between. Today, they are spread across the country, bustling with life and modern amenities.

China has gone through the broadest and fastest urbanization process in the history of the modern world. From 1949 to 2020, the percentage of permanent urban residents in the overall population rose from 10.6 percent to 63.9 percent, and the number of cities grew from 132 to 687, while the number of administrative towns soared from 2,000 to more than 21,000. Widely distributed, these cities and towns are of various sizes, each with its own characteristics. They include modern and internationalized metropolises, grandiose ancient capital cities, glamorous cultural destinations, and towns with unique features. As urbanization accelerates, tightly-knit city clusters have formed, each covering a large area and inhabited by a large population. They are becoming powerhouses driving economic development, modernization, and the improvement of urban operational efficiency and their residents' living standards.

A multi-tiered modern urban system has taken shape, composed of city clusters, metropolitan areas, cities of all sizes, and towns, all developing in tandem.

People-oriented new urbanization is accelerating. As places where people can enjoy high-quality life, Chinese cities are becoming more livable, innovative, smarter, greener, more people-centered and resilient. With advanced water, electricity, gas, road, internet and other infrastructure, cities are safer and better able to ensure that residents' basic living needs are met (Panel 10). Employment is more diverse and opportunities are more equitable, education resources are better and more balanced, the medical care system is more mature and advanced, and shopping and traveling are easier and smarter. Many more people are settling in cities and the living standards of urban residents continue to improve.

Libraries, museums, art galleries, exhibition halls, gymnasiums and stadiums, culture centers, cinemas and theaters have grown in numbers and quality. Public reading activities, urban public cultural spaces, and the application of digital, internet and smart technologies in public cultural services and products have all developed at a faster pace. Basic public cultural services in cities have become more accessible, better in quality and more customized. People's diverse and higher-level needs are satisfied. During the day, cities are abuzz with activities, while at night they glitter with color. Night markets, night performances, late-night bookstores, light shows, and round-the-clock convenience stores have mushroomed, fueling night life, night culture, and the night economy, so that people can enjoy quality after-work life.

The urban environment is improving. Urban dwellers' dreams of living in places with mountains and waters reminiscent of their pastoral roots have come true. Urban planning is more people-oriented. Working, living and environmental spaces are divided more clearly and more rationally. City planning attaches greater importance to the preservation of historical sites and cultural traditions. The Chengdu-Chongqing economic circle is taking shape and growing fast, becoming an important engine driving the country's high-quality development. The construction of the Xiong'an New Area has picked up speed, and it is emerging as a future city vital to the country's long-term development and an icon of socialist modernization.

A new urban-rural relationship is taking shape. Urban development has boosted rural development, and vice versa. The flow and transfer of factors of production between urban and rural areas, including labor, capital, technology and data, has become smoother. Cities have gradually lifted restrictions on household registration, while policies to promote the flow of talent, capital and technology from urban to rural areas have been formulated or improved. The development potential of rural areas and agriculture is being unleashed. Reform is under way to establish a uniform urban-rural household registration system. It is becoming easier for people moving from rural to urban areas to gain permanent urban residency. From 2016 to 2020, about 100 million people were granted permanent urban residency. A residence permit system has been implemented, under which permanent urban residents are increasingly covered by basic public services such as compulsory education, medical and health services, skills training, and social security.

Panel 10 Achievements in Urban Infrastructure

By 2020, there were 459,200 km of urban roads, and 704,000 buses and trolley buses in service. Meanwhile, 99 percent of China's urban residents had access to tap water and 97.9 percent to natural gas; centralized heating covered 9.9 billion sq m; urban sewage pipelines stretched 803,000 km. The sewage treatment rate reached 97.5 percent, and 99.7 percent of domestic waste was subject to harmless disposal; vegetation coverage was 2.4 million ha in urban built-up areas, with a coverage rate of 42.1 percent.

Rural residents have more options in both urban and rural areas. They can either stay in the rural areas where they have fields to till and homes to live in; or go to cities where they can find work and enjoy other benefits. Later they can return to their hometowns to start their own businesses assisted by favorable policies.

The income gap between urban and rural residents has been further narrowed. The urban-rural disposable income ratio has declined steadily for 13 years since 2008, to 2.56:1 in 2020. Urban and rural infrastructure has become better connected and integrated, and transport between urban and rural areas is smoother and more convenient. Unimpeded delivery of manufactured goods into rural areas and agricultural products into cities has effectively boosted rural incomes.

Measures have been taken to make up for deficiencies in county seats, as more and more rural residents choose to become urbanites in nearby county towns. Flourishing agritainment, eco-tourism, and village home stays are attracting many more urban residents to spend holidays in rural areas, while a growing number of migrant workers have returned to their hometowns to start businesses, injecting new momentum into rural revitalization.

Nowadays, cities and towns boost rural and agricultural development with talent, capital and technology, meet the mounting rural consumer demand, and provide rural migrants with more job opportunities and better basic public services. The rural areas supply better and healthier produce to urban residents, provide a big consumer market and labor supply for urban development, and attract a larger number of urban residents to work and start businesses there. A new type of urban-rural relationship is taking shape, featuring mutual benefit, common prosperity, and coordinated and integrated development.

3. Coordinated Development Across Regions

China has a vast territory and a large population, and its natural resources vary greatly from region to region, resulting in developmental imbalances. Following decades of hard work, substantial progress has been made in coordinating the development of different regions. Major initiatives have been implemented to support the pioneering role of the eastern region, develop the western region, revitalize the northeast, and spur the rise of the central region. In addition, new regional strategies – to coordinate development in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Region, develop the Yangtze River Economic Belt, build the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, integrate development in the Yangtze River Delta, and strengthen eco-environmental conservation and high-quality development in the Yellow River Basin – have achieved substantial success. The strategic and institutional framework for functional zoning has improved.

These initiatives and strategies have resulted in a better configuration of China's territorial space, with clearly defined functions for each area, and reinforcing connectivity and complementarity between the regions.

The new regional strategies have yielded concrete results in coordinated regional development. China has taken solid steps to coordinate development in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Region. To this end, it has carried out the following initiatives:

• developing the Xiong'an New Area in Hebei and the Beijing Municipal Administrative Center in eastern suburban Beijing;

• building an integrated rail network in the region;

• integrating the prevention, control and treatment of pollution;

• facilitating industrial upgrading and relocation;

• optimizing the regional mechanism for coordinating development;

• providing equal access to basic public services.

Orderly progress has been achieved in relieving Beijing of functions that are not essential to its role as the national capital. Spatial and economic configuration has been improved to make the region more dynamic.

In developing the Yangtze River Economic Belt, China has prioritized eco-environmental conservation and green development, and stepped up joint efforts to prevent overdevelopment. It has applied measures of unprecedented intensity, scale and impact to restore ecosystems and make economic and social development more eco-friendly in the Yangtze River Basin. As a result, the region's eco-environment has improved considerably, as has its economic and social development.

China has made steady progress in developing the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, and in expanding infrastructure and policy connectivity between the three locations. The composite strength of the area has been reinforced through expanding regional cooperation and building an open economy aligned with international standards.

The integration process in the Yangtze River Delta involves policy coordination, industrial cooperation, co-development of infrastructure, a rational division of functions, and shared access to public services. The region has developed into a dynamic growth pole in China and a national pacesetter in high-quality development, integrated regional development, modernization, reform and opening up in the new era.

The Yellow River Basin has made solid initial progress in eco-environmental conservation and high-quality development through restoring ecosystems and transforming growth drivers. The region is reinforcing its role as a major ecological shield and forming a distinctive economic configuration that taps into local strengths.

The eastern, central, western and northeastern regions of the country are developing in tandem, and land and marine development is better coordinated. The western region has significantly improved its infrastructure and eco-environment. It actively takes over industries relocated from the eastern region. Priority has been given to areas with comparative strengths and to the protection of eco-environmental functional zones. In 2020, the share of China's GDP contributed by the western region was 3.1 percentage points higher than in 1999.

Northeast China has moved faster to modernize its economy and transform resource-exhausted cities. The region has expanded high-quality agriculture and equipment manufacturing, and boosted ice and snow tourism and eco-tourism. It has brought new vitality to old industrial bases, and improved the business environment.

The central region has seen a further increase in its contribution to the national economy. It has consolidated its status as a base for grain production, energy resources, modern equipment manufacturing, and high-tech industries, and also as a comprehensive national transport hub. The region is playing a greater role in new urbanization and industrialization, and fostering new drivers of growth for China's economic modernization.

The eastern region has continued its role as a testing ground for reform and opening up, and maintained its strengths in innovation, modern manufacturing, and high-end services. It has increased investment in scientific and technological innovation, expedited the transformation and upgrading of industries and growth drivers, and accelerated the growth of strategic emerging industries. It has made remarkable progress in building pilot free trade zones and pilot reform zones for all-round innovation, modernizing its economy and society, and strengthening its international competitiveness.

China's marine economy continues to strengthen through better planning. New breakthroughs have been made in indigenous innovation in marine science and technology. The marine eco-environment is better protected. Opening up and cooperation in marine development is expanding. All this has laid a solid foundation for developing China's marine economy.

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