Alleviation Becomes Vitalization
The goal of helping the entire impoverished population escape poverty according to the current standard by 2020 has reached its final two years. With more and more impoverished people rising out of poverty and many poverty-stricken counties and villages falling off the list, the focus of targeted poverty alleviation in China has gradually shifted to ensuring high-quality growth, eradicating absolute poverty and realizing sound integration between targeted poverty alleviation and rural vitalization.
Since 2018, targeted poverty alleviation has reached a period in which large numbers of poor households, villages and counties are being removed from the country’s poverty list. The delisting mechanism includes a strict evaluation system, and all poor households, villages or counties undergo this evaluation before being taken off the list to ensure the quality of the poverty eradication program. However, during the process of fighting poverty, manipulation of data and false reporting still exist, and even when people are successfully lifted out of poverty, they may fall back again.
To prevent the proliferation of fraudulent poverty alleviation, a strict responsibility system has been adopted for poverty delisting evaluation. Governments at all levels are held to the strictest standards during evaluations and assessments of poverty delisting. Furthermore, social supervision and third-party evaluation mechanisms have also greatly reduced the incidence of faked poverty alleviation reports.
To effectively prevent relapse into poverty, the Chinese government has clearly announced that support policies for impoverished people remain unchanged even after they escape poverty. The government must ensure that the income growth rate of impoverished households is higher than the average level of local farmers.
Poverty evaluation mechanisms involve not only delisting impoverished households, villages and counties, but also the systematic inspection and promotion of the quality of poverty alleviation.
Since the implementation of targeted poverty alleviation in China in 2013, the number of poverty-stricken people in rural areas has decreased dramatically, leaving only about 20 million in need of help over the next two years.
Although the remaining impoverished are relatively few, they are some of the hardest to be lifted out of poverty because so many live in deeply impoverished areas, namely the “three geographical areas and three autonomous prefectures” as the Chinese government has noted. These areas are primarily located in minority areas of Tibet and Xinjiang Uygur autonomous regions as well as Sichuan and Yunnan provinces.
These areas are mostly cold, remote mountainous regions or drought-stricken areas with poor geographical conditions and limited natural resources, making industrial development particularly difficult. Furthermore, most of these places are heavily inhabited by people from ethnic minorities with lower education levels, and their long-term struggles with poverty have exacerbated their available resources and diminished their confidence.
Therefore, over the next two years, the central battlefield of China’s poverty alleviation efforts will shift to the deeply impoverished areas, which require not only greater resources but also updated mechanisms of poverty alleviation. To reach its goal, the Chinese government will develop new tools for poverty eradication by promoting ecological conservation, exploring assets income and improving the employment situation.
Although absolute poverty has been eliminated in many areas through targeted poverty alleviation, some areas are still developing slowly, and local people are still struggling with poverty even when basic needs like food, clothing, compulsory education, basic medical care and housing have been met. Thus, following the targeted poverty alleviation drive, the Chinese government introduced the rural vitalization strategy and outlined an aim to promote sound integration of the two strategies.
Vitalization of impoverished rural areas should continue the policy of promoting industrial development to further consolidate local industrial bases while protecting the ecological environment to improve living conditions and enhance rural social governance. Thus, in a sense, the rural vitalization strategy involves institutionalizing the most effective and successful mechanisms for targeted poverty alleviation.
In the next two years, China will focus on poverty delisting, poverty alleviation of deeply impoverished areas and vitalization of poverty- stricken rural areas, which will be advanced and integrated to achieve more coordinated and sustainable development in poverty-stricken regions.
The author is a research fellow at the Institute of Sociology and director of the Center for Rural Environmental Social Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.