BEIJING: Attendees applaud during the ceremony at the Great Hall of the People on Thursday.—AP
BEIJING: Attendees applaud during the ceremony at the Great Hall of the People on Thursday.—AP

BEIJING: Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday declared his country had achieved the “human miracle” of eliminating extreme poverty, though questions continue to surround the Communist Party’s criteria for making the claim.

In a glitzy ceremony in Beijing, Xi bestowed medals on officials from rural communities, some wearing traditional ethnic-minority attire, and promised to share this “Chinese example” with other developing nations.

“No other country can lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty in such a short time,” Xi said.

“A human miracle has been created that will go down in history.” China last year claimed it had achieved its long-trumpeted goal of lifting all of its people above a poverty line of $2.30 in daily income.

President Xi terms it ‘human miracle’

That is slightly above the World Bank’s lowest threshold of $1.90, but below what is recommended for higher income countries.

The World Bank says China has lifted more than 800 million people out of extreme poverty since turning to market reforms in the 1970s, after decades of state planning and ill-advised Maoist campaigns that had stifled the economy.

China is now “providing help to developing countries” still struggling with poverty, Xi said.

In 2015, Xi vowed to eradicate extreme poverty by 2020, a pillar of the Communist Party’s goal to build a “moderately prosperous society” by the 100th anniversary of its founding later this year.

Ahead of the deadline, the government poured billions of yuan into infrastructure like roads and modern apartment buildings, and offered tax incentives and subsidies to impoverished rural communities.

The standard of living in China has indeed changed dramatically since the 1970s, with hundreds of millions living consumer lifestyles that past generations could not have imagined.

But Beijing’s claims have met with scepticism.

Critics have pointed to the relatively low poverty line, claims of corruption cases linked to poverty funds, and perennial questions over whether official data is massaged to meet party political objectives.

Published in Dawn, February 26th, 2021

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