By Genc Mlloja
In a messy, pandemic-racked and rudderless world, the eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including extreme poverty, is one of the greatest global challenges and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development in the frame of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). As recalled by the foreword of the 2015 Millennium Development Goals Report, at the Millennium Summit in September 2000, 189 countries unanimously adopted the Millennium Declaration, pledging to “spare no effort to free our fellow men, women and children from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty”.
This major goal has mattered much for China, which confronted with the anti-pandemic struggle and the effort to bring back normalcy under the circumstances of the utmost vigilance to prevent any possibility of a return of the deadly virus in the country, has declared that it has completed the task of alleviating poverty in the new era according to the plan in December 2020.
On December 4, 2020 President Xi Jinping unveiled that almost 100 million poor people had emerged from poverty in China, home of a population of about 1.4 billion people, and that after 8 years of continuous effort it has completed the task of alleviating poverty in the new era according to the plan in December 2020 really carries human history. This event has become the main topic of economic, social and political discourse in that country and around the world. There are many assessments inside and outside China, calling it an ‘historic achievement’.
In short what was announced by President Xi, who is also the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) on December 4, 2020 at a meeting of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee where a summary and an evaluation report on poverty alleviation were unveiled?
The essence is as follows: By current standards all the poor in rural areas and all the poor counties have come out of poverty, eradicating absolute poverty and general regional poverty. Almost 100 million poor people have come out of poverty, marking a great victory and that is quite impressive for the world. In the meantime it was stressed at that meeting that the problem of unbalanced and insufficient development in China is still apparent and the task of consolidating and expanding the fight against poverty alleviation is still arduous. The overall stability of existing aid policies, financial support and aid forces must be maintained; the transfer of large labor-intensive industries from East and Central China to the western regions must be encouraged and supported; the management of capital asset projects should be strengthened and the use of the social security system and the employment of members of families with poor labor force in nearby areas should be promoted.
“Liang bu chou, san bao zhang”…
Among the main stages of the eight-year course of this national enterprise it is mentioned November 2015 when the Central Conference on Poverty Alleviation and Development approved the “Decisions of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council on the Victory of the Battle for Poverty Alleviation” emphasizing the urgency of poverty alleviation in China.
“Liang bu chou, san bao zhang”, in English – solving two concerns about food and clothing as well as guaranteeing education, medical care and housing were among the main objectives of those decisions.
In fact, these have been early concerns of the Chinese leadership since the founding of the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949, turning it into the ‘Chinese dream’. But following the political career of President Xi, which also includes his passion for journalism shown in numerous articles and comments on various issues related to his functions, starting from the party grassroots and local government bodies to the highest hierarchy of the party and state, it is the occasion to quote an article of his in January 1989 when he was party secretary in Ningde district: “If we know the difficulties of the people, if we solve them properly, if we ‘solve people’s problems as we cure stomach and heart diseases’… should we be concerned about social sustainability?” And further on he concluded that there are no small things in the lives of ordinary people – a one cent increase in the price of water, a 10 cent increase in the price of a bus ticket, or a reduction in the procedures for obtaining a license, all of which are things that have a great impact on people.” (The book ‘China, an Albanian Insight’ published in English in Tirana in 2018).
An overview of the course of the economic development and in this frame of the gradual achievements in the fight against poverty in China show that there has never been a place for euphoria, the reality of things has been seen with the aim of achieving well-being for the entire population step by step but steadily.
Thus in 1978, according to World Bank estimates, the poverty line was estimated at $ 3.2 per person per day and according to this data 99.7 percent of Chinese were poor. This percentage fell to 4.7 percent in 2018. However, according to the extreme poverty line of $ 1.9 per person per day set by the World Bank, 93.1 percent of the Chinese people were poor in 1978 and this limit was reduced to 1.4 percent in 2018. According to the calculations of this international banking institution, halving poverty by China from 1990 to 2015 contributed to a 63.9 percent reduction in global poverty. In 2019 alone, 11.09 million people emerged from poverty in China.
In the first days of December this year, Guizhou province in the southwest of the country announced that 9 of its counties that were still registered as poor had emerged from extreme poverty, which marked the moment when the country with the largest population in the world ended the wound of poverty.
Thus over the last 40 years of reform and opening up more than 700 million people have been lifted out of poverty, which means a drop of more than 70 percent of extreme poverty.
In search of the secret of the ‘Chinese miracle’…
Many factors have influenced on this achievement, which can be unequivocally called a vital historical confrontation to ‘defeat’ poverty, and without a doubt this will be the subject of economic and social but also political discourse in China and the world for long. But there is unanimous opinion that the opening up launched in 1978 by the leadership of that time, a hop inspired by Deng Xiaoping, played a decisive role in the course of comprehensive economic and social development throughout the country in the framework of the continuation of thorough transformation reforms in all walks of life.
The opening was called huge because it covered the whole country and all segments of the population without exception and discrimination, and in my opinion fostered the development and innovative initiative and motivation of different strata of the population in urban and rural areas, in metropolises and autonomous regions, where, incidentally, the promoters had a greater support of the central and local government bodies.
The rapid economic development but also careful in taking steps forward in the sense of involving the whole country began to give the expected results since the first years and beyond and if we speak in the language of figures it suffices to mention that since 1978 the economic growth has floated around 10 percent, and in addition to domestic impact it has been an unprecedented international contribution – its value is estimated at about 30 percent of the global economic growth.
Anyone having a constructive predisposition with regard to evaluating things can ask the question: Where China has found all that potential, where the Chinese people have got all that creative and working energy up to self-sacrifice to make history with the giant hop forward as today the country is ranked the second largest economy in the world. Therefore, definitions have been used by scholars, researchers and analysts, as well as politicians which can be summed up in two words: ‘The Chinese miracle!’ This success of China in alleviating poverty was hailed by the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres as a ‘very strong achievement.’
In the meantime it is meaningful what the Director General of the World Labor Organization (ILO), Guy Ryder revealed in an interview with the Xinhua agency on November 30, 2020 saying that the most important thing in the Chinese example is that the country consciously declared that ‘poverty alleviation is the main objective of our strategy’.
And time showed that the pledge of the Chinese authorities was not ‘words in the wind’ but a well-thought-out and carefully weighed-in anti-poverty strategy, it was part of the realization of the Chinese dream.
Thus China has entered the annals of history as the first developing country in the world to meet one of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals in terms of poverty: to free all the people, men, women and children from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty. This achievement becomes even more valuable given that it has happened in the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic crisis when the World Bank expresses concern that an estimated 88 million people are added to the 115 million people living in extreme poverty this year around the world by bringing this figure to the quota of 150 million people.
Even darker are the predictions if a common front is not created in the spirit of multilateralism. ILO chief Ryder made it clear that China’s achievement will help and boost the global economy which will contribute to combating hardships not only in China but across the globe.
As is the case with the structures and institutions of the United Nations system, particularly with the World Health Organization (WHO), Ryder praised China’s commitment to the ILO and multilateralism in general. The ILO, founded in 1919 and based in Geneva, is one of the oldest international organizations and now has 187 member countries, and its platform is the development of decent employment programs.
The Albanian Ambassador to Beijing, Selim Belortaja in an interview with the China Media Group on December 4 on the eve of the China-Central and Eastern Europe gala evening in the Kunshan county of East China in the framework of the 17 + 1 mechanism answering a question on how he assessed this achievement of China, especially against the background when the coronavirus has made it difficult to carry out such a task, and what experience China could offer to other countries in the world in this regard said that the anti-poverty agenda is the most successful and impressive achievement for the whole world and China in these decades.
“If we take a glance at the last decade, from 2012 to 2020, 90 million Chinese have come out of this level of poverty. It is a figure that would surprise everyone; it is a figure twice as large as the entire population of Southeast Europe. This shows the Chinese government’s special care for the people, the standard of living of the people,” Belortaja said. He joined the opinion of many international authorities that other countries should also benefit from this accumulated experience of China, gained in 40 or so years and apply what is possible to be done in their own countries.
It is meaningful the assessment made by the UN Under-Secretary-General, Fabrizio Hochschild according to whom in addition to eradicating poverty, China is helping other developing countries emerge from poverty. “China is playing an important role in South-South cooperation… China is also a world champion of South-South cooperation, which is very important for the development of other regions.”