November 17, 2000
China announced Friday that it had eliminated "absolute poverty" but admitted hundreds of millions still faced grim living conditions. Under Beijing's definitions that means almost none across the vast country with a population of 1.13 billion has an annual income of less than 635 yuan (77 dollars). "At present, except for some 26 million disabled people or those living in extremely bad natural environment areas, we have succeeded in eliminating absolute poverty in the country," said Gao Hongbin, a leading poverty alleviation official, quoted by Xinhua news agency.
Only three percent of the rural population remained impoverished or living below the 635 yuan standard, making China's rural poverty rate the lowest among developing nations, Gao said. He maintained an annual income of 635 yuan, or 22 US cents a day, was enough money in rural China to enjoy basic necessities, "that is, to have enough to eat and wear and to have a place to dwell." But the United Nations and other international organizations such as the World Bank usually define the poverty threshhold as an income of one dollar a day or less.
Rural per capita income among China's 870 million rural residents in 1999 was 2,210 yuan, or some 75 US cents a day, according to the national bureau of statistics. According to the UN Development Program, China's poverty alleviation strategy only applies to the rural population and so far there is no cohesive central government program aimed at alleviating urban poverty. In 1994, the central government mandated that poverty be eradicated by the year 2000, and through "hard work and huge investment" the government had succeeded, Gao said. "This is the first time in history for China to solve the food and clothing problem for all its citizens on the whole, it is a marvelous achievement and of great epoch making meanings," he chimed.
The Chinese government spent 24.8 billion yuan (3 billion dollars) on poverty alleviation in 1999, 30 times more than in 1980, the official said. "Eliminating absolute poverty on the whole doesn't mean that China's battle against poverty has come to an end... China will have to cover an even longer way to ultimately delete poverty within its territory," Xinhua said.
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