China’s success in eradicating poverty offers valuable lessons to the world

Since 1978, when China started a series of policy and economic reforms known as Reform and Opening-up, it achieved rapid economic growth and steadily improved overall agricultural production capacity. More than 850 million people have been lifted out of poverty.

China was the first developing country to achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goal 1 – halving poverty by 2015.  Today, less than 1 percent of the population lives in extreme poverty. The year 2020 is expected to mark China’s achievement of eradicating absolute poverty in the country. This is a milestone. China will become the first country to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 1 – ending poverty – 10 years ahead the global target.

It is an extraordinary achievement if we consider that in the 1980s China’s GDP was only one-third of that of Sub-Saharan Africa. No other country has managed to bring such a large number of people out of poverty in such short period of time – in just two generations.

By reducing the absolute number of people living in poverty, China is not only contributing to global poverty reduction efforts, it is also setting an example for other developing countries.

What is remarkable – and often overlooked – is that poverty reduction has not only been achieved through increases in the income level of the population, but it has also been accompanied by improvements in all dimensions of human development. For example, life expectancy has increased and access to education improved while malnutrition and undernourishment rates have dropped.

Lifting 850 million people out of poverty is linked to a series of factors: economic and policy reforms, a multi-sectoral and integrated approach to development, and precise targeting. Lastly, but perhaps more important, a consistent focus on poverty reduction, which started from a long-term vision and political commitment, and translated into intermediate results, adequate allocation of resources, and a clear responsibility and accountability system.

It is also important to mention the mobilization and engagement of almost every sector of the Chinese society to achieve poverty reduction.

IFAD has accompanied the Government of China in this journey. 2020 marks the 40th anniversary of IFAD-China cooperation. IFAD was the first international financing institution that provided a loan to China in 1981. Since then, IFAD has worked in the most remote and poor areas supporting the Government in its poverty reduction efforts, increasing the income and food security of about 20 million rural people, half of which are women.

I visited the IFAD-funded Liupan Mountain Area Poverty Reduction Project in Northwest China’s Qinghai province in 2017, a few months after I was elected President of IFAD. I was impressed by how the project helped increase the income of poor farmers by better linking them to markets and providing additional livelihoods for rural women.

 I would like to highlight the government’s strategy of rural revitalization which aims to achieve the modernization of agriculture and rural areas, strengthen the agricultural industry, improve rural living conditions and the environment and increase farmers’ incomes – putting the development of rural areas at the centre of China’s future.

 In this regard, I believe that IFAD can continue to accompany China in its efforts to revitalize rural areas and pursue a more environmentally sustainable development in order to achieve a more prosperous and equitable society.

China’s success in eradicating poverty offers valuable lessons and experiences that can be shared with other countries that are striving to reduce and ultimately eliminate poverty.  I believe the most important lesson that China can share with the rest of the world is that poverty eradication is not a utopia: it can be achieved.

I would like to highlight China’s contribution to recent replenishments as one the top donors to IFAD, and the strong commitment to further strengthen the strategic partnership with IFAD in the context of eradication of extreme poverty in China and globally, and ultimately, in achieving SDGs.

China has been actively promoting its poverty reduction experience through international cooperation and bilateral and multilateral engagement. As an example of this cooperation, China and IFAD established the China-IFAD South South and Triangular Cooperation (SSTC) Facility in February 2018 with a $10 million supplementary fund contribution from China. The Facility pursues the overarching goal of exchanging and mobilizing knowledge, technologies and resources to accelerate poverty reduction, enhance rural productivity, advance rural transformation and promote investments among countries of the Global South. Since its establishment, the Facility has approved 15 grant projects, awarding a total of $6.7 million. These grants strongly support the agricultural and rural development of developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

China and IFAD share the common goal of a world free of poverty and hunger and we both believe that SSTC provides innovative solutions to development challenges, such as poverty reduction.

Gilbert F. Houngbo is the President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)

 (Source: People’s Daily)