Experts and Citizens Skeptical About Chinese Regime’s Poverty Eradication Claim

March 1, 2021 Updated: March 1, 2021

The Chinese communist regime recently put out high-profile propaganda claiming success in “Comprehensive Poverty Alleviation,” resulting in public outcry. Experts and Chinese citizens expressed their skepticism with The Epoch Times.

On Feb. 25, the regime held a National Poverty Alleviation Summary and Commendation conference. Xi Jinping, the leader of the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP), claimed at the conference, “Our country has achieved a comprehensive victory in the fight against poverty. Under the current standards, 98.99 million rural poor people have all been lifted out of poverty. All impoverished counties and villages have been lifted out of poverty.” He called it a “miracle on earth.”

However, the poverty line set by China is in question.

Hu Ping, a well-known U.S.-based China research expert and political commentator, said in an interview with The Epoch Times on Feb. 26, “[The CCP’s] poverty alleviation standards are actually lower than the internationally recognized poverty alleviation standards. Li Keqiang [China’s premier] also said that China still has 600 million people with an average monthly income of 1,000 yuan [$155] or lower. So according to this standard, in fact, strictly speaking, China is still far away from removing poverty.”

According to mainland Chinese media reports, the CCP defines its poverty alleviation standards as “one, two, three.” “One” means “one income” of about 4,000 yuan ($617) annually. “Two” means “two things that people don’t need to worry anymore,” which are food and clothes. “Three” means “three guarantees” which refers to the compulsory education, basic medical care, and housing guarantees.

The 2020 poverty line in the United States is an annual income of $12,760 per person.

Mr. Zhou, a retiree in Shanghai, told The Epoch Times, “An annual income of 4,000 yuan ($617) is equivalent to a bit more than 300 yuan ($46) a month. How can it be considered above poverty?” He revealed that a person in Shanghai needs at least 500 yuan ($77) to buy food every month. “There is also at least 200 yuan ($30) for transportation and at least 2,000 yuan ($300) to rent a place to live each month.”

Epoch Times Photo
People eat dinner on the streets of a migrant village on the outskirts of Beijing, on Aug. 17, 2017. (Nicolas Asfouri/AFP/Getty Images)

Mr. Wu, a resident in Wuhan city, told The Epoch Times that even if the income standard set by the government is reached, according to the current prices, it will not be able to meet the “two no worries and three guarantees” that the government promised. He recalled that Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said last summer that 600 million Chinese have a monthly income of only 1,000 yuan ($155), which makes it hard to afford rent in cities.

While the CCP claims to “eradicated poverty completely,” CCP’s central policy of the year “Document No. 1”, which set the prime focuses of the regime each year, stated that poverty alleviation and food shortages are the top concerns for 2021. It also sets “a five-year transition period” for the counties that have been lifted out of poverty to stay out of poverty.

Hu Ping commented that on the one hand, authorities are praising themselves and claiming that they have ended poverty; on the other hand, they have to issue some warnings that reveal the actual situation in China, especially in rural areas.

“China’s food reserve is not abundant, including some agricultural products, China has a significant shortage, coupled with last year’s pandemic and floods, and the negative impact on China’s agriculture is considerable,” Hu said.

Feng Chongyi, a professor at the University of Technology Sydney and an expert on China, told The Epoch Times, “All poverty alleviation in China now involves temporarily transferring money to give to [the people in poverty] and making the books look decent. Next year, the people will return to poverty. This is what they [CCP officials] have been doing for decades to deceive the outside world.”

Epoch Times Photo
A man preparing beans outside his house in a village near the Yellow River in Lankao County, Henan Province, on Sept. 28, 2017. (Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images)

Hu Ping said that the problems in China’s rural areas are still very serious. Many areas in the countryside are very poor. Current serious social problems such as returning waves of migrant workers and left-behind children are parts of a phenomenon that has not been seen in other countries.

He explained that many mainland peasants have moved to cities to seek work as migrant workers, but because of China’s discriminative household registrations, various restrictions, and the gap between urban and rural and wealth disparity, they have to leave their children and elderly parents behind in the countryside. The Chinese government has not resolved these problems.

Ms. Wang, who lives in a mountainous area in Taohe Township, Xichuan County of Henan Province, told The Epoch Times on Feb. 25, “You can’t believe the CCP’s words, you can’t believe anything it says.” She said that the area is still extremely poor.

“They don’t even have enough money to go out the mountain. They are very frugal. They eat the vegetables they grow. Basically, they don’t have any meat to eat. My dad’s house can’t even afford electricity, let alone sanitation facilities, bathing, etc. They cannot even meet the basic living conditions, not to mention having internet.” Ms. Wang added that the locals cannot afford to go to a hospital to treat diseases, and just stay at home to wait for the illness to disappear or die of it.

Luo Ya and Zhang Yujie contributed to the report.