Beijing, Nov 25 (efe-epa).- China is closer to completing its ambitious task of ending extreme rural poverty that has plagued much of the country for decades after claiming that it has eliminated the last remaining counties from its list of impoverished regions.
The last nine counties to be lifted out of extreme poverty are in the central province of Guizhou, one of the country’s historically least developed regions due to its difficult terrain and related transportation problems.
Removing these counties from the list means, in the words of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences researcher Gao Gang, that the country is close to solving “a thousand-year-old problem,” for which the central government invested nearly 140 billion yuan ($21.24 billion) this year alone.
The projects promoted by the authorities range from relocations to the improvement of road infrastructure, the promotion of ecological tourism or the implementation of vocational training programs.
Thus, the authorities design “tailor-made interventions”, which go through details such as deciding what to plant, grow or who to sell to based on each region’s comparative advantages.
SPREADING MANDARIN IS A PRIORITY
A central aspect of this program is the dissemination in impoverished rural areas of the use of Mandarin (the dialect spoken in the North), one of the priorities of the communist regime since the time of Mao Zedong, although the latest plan dates from September 2020.
According to the Ministry of Education, 80.72 percent of the population speaks “Putonghua” -the official “common language”, based on Mandarin-, while in some regions where ethnic minorities live, using other languages or dialects, it only reaches 61.56 percent.
Historically, some of the country’s ethnic minorities have been reluctant to use Mandarin for a range of cultural or political reasons, making it difficult in the eyes of central authorities to modernize the country.
The goal, at least officially, is to achieve bilingualism so that its residents can have better educational and employment opportunities, although regions such as Inner Mongolia have witnessed protests this year against the imposition of Mandarin as the language in schools.
A MILESTONE TO BE CELEBRATED
Before the country officially declares that it has eradicated poverty, the State Council must verify the data provided by the provinces, according to official Xia Gengsheng on Wednesday on the state channel CCTV.
However, even the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian celebrated the achievement, saying that “China has said goodbye to the history of poverty-stricken counties,” a goal for which the country “received much support and assistance from the international community.
“We will share our experience to help other developing countries and contribute to global efforts in poverty reduction,” said Zhao.
In 2012, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) set the goal of ending extreme poverty by 2020. For eight years, according to official statistics, 93.8 million people have been lifted out of poverty, with only 5 million left at the beginning of this year.
In the last four decades, Beijing has lifted nearly 850 million people out of poverty, according to state figures, through economic reforms. During that same period, China’s contribution to the world economy has increased from 1.5 percent to 15.4 percent.
A DIFFERENT POVERTY LINE
The standard set in 2011 by the Chinese government considers poor people living in rural areas whose income does not exceed 4,000 yuan per year ($1.2 per day, compared to $1.9 per day set by the World Bank) and who do not have “basic access” to housing, food, clothing, health, education and drinking water.
According to the UNDP, the Chinese standard was raised in 2018 to $1.25 per day adjusting for inflation until that year, while Chinese authorities claim that in 2019 it reached $1.6 per day.