Beijing’s mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, has described the ruling Communist Party’s poverty alleviation efforts in an article on April 7 as “fulfilling a solemn commitment and creating a miracle on earth.”
The message from state media came a day after the State Council Information Office of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) released a white paper titled, “Poverty Alleviation: China’s Experience and Contribution.”
In announcing the paper, Xu Lin, deputy head of the CCP’s publicity department, said, “The most important reason why China has eliminated absolute poverty is the CCP’s sentiment toward the people—from the Party leaders to ordinary Party members and cadres, who all put the people in the highest position in their hearts.”
While the CCP’s propaganda sounds very noble, it cannot hide the reality of poverty still facing many of China’s citizens, which is very embarrassing to the Party.
What Do the CCP’s Official Figures Tell Us?
On Feb. 25, state-run Xinhua News Agency published an article titled, “How Did China Achieve Such a Miracle?”
The article claims that according to a 2013 World Bank report: “From 1981 to 2010, the top 3 countries and regions in the world in terms of the extreme poor population were: Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), India, and China. Of these, the total number of the extreme poor in SSA and India has increased over 30 years as a percentage of the world’s extreme poor, while the percentage in China has dropped significantly from 43 percent in 1981 to 13 percent.”
Please note that, according to the figures quoted in the article, from 1981 to 2010, which is 31 to 60 years under the CCP’s rule, China had the third-highest number of extremely poor people in the world for nearly 30 consecutive years, while the actual number of people in extreme poverty accounted for nearly half of the world’s extremely poor. For the ruling Party, is this a merit or a disgrace?
The CCP has always boasted about its greatness, glory, and correctness, but why have hundreds of millions of people been living below the poverty line for decades under its rule?
From the time the CCP took power to the late 1970s, it carried out all sorts of political campaigns incessantly. Its policy of grasping revolution and promoting production did not activate the economy but led to the tragedy of the great famine from 1958 t0 1962, which was later referred to as “Mao’s Great Famine” by historian Frank Dikötter. Mainland Chinese scholars such as Tan Song found out from their investigations that the bloody land reform in the early 1950s wiped out the elite class (the gentry) in rural China, killed a large number of wealthy landlords, destroyed rural harmony, and changed traditional rural values. Therefore, the CCP can hardly absolve itself from the blame for the huge number of poor people in rural China.
The CCP’s propaganda organ disclosed some figures. According to a report by Xinhua, “China’s poverty population has been reduced from 98.99 million at the end of 2012 to 5.511 million at the end of 2019, reducing poverty by more than 10 million a year for seven consecutive years. By 2020, all rural poverty population under the current standard will be taken out of poverty, and all 832 poverty-stricken counties will be removed from the poverty list.”
The CCP is referring to the removal of absolute poverty under its current standards, not the relative poverty. Moreover, the so-called poverty reduction of more than 10 million people per year has been achieved under the strong mobilization at the highest level and carried out at all levels. Therefore, the data is questionable.
The Harsh Standards of Poverty Alleviation
The adjustments to the poverty standards in China have been summarized in this Xinhua report: “In 1986, the National Bureau of Statistics and the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and development (LGOP) cooperated to establish the first official poverty line based on data from the 1984 rural household survey, determining the absolute poverty line to be 206 yuan per capita net income per year or less than 1 yuan per person per day. At that time, the World Bank proposed a minimum poverty line of $1 per person per day and a poverty line of $2 per person per day.”
In other words, the CCP used the extremely low standard poverty line to keep out a large number of people who should have been on relief, which simultaneously reduced the number and proportion of the country’s poverty-stricken population and relieved the CCP of its rightful responsibility.
The article continues to say, “In 2000, considering that the standard poverty line in China was too harsh and excluded many poor people from the threshold of policy support, the National Bureau of Statistics established another low-income line, which is 865 yuan per year.” And according to the article, in 2015, the standard was raised to 2,855 yuan per year.
2,855 yuan was equivalent to $439.9 at the time, or $1.20 per capita per day, while the World Bank raised the extreme poverty line to $1.90 in October 2015.
Relative Poverty Beyond Absolute Poverty
The CCP’s high-profile achievements in poverty eradication refer to absolute poverty, not relative poverty, and a much larger number of Chinese people are trapped in chronic poverty.
Premier Li Keqiang revealed last May that 600 million Chinese earned only 1,000 yuan (about $140 a month). Although these 600 million people have very low income, they were not included among those people to be supported in the fight against poverty. Have the CCP authorities ever considered how to help them move towards a moderately prosperous and harmonious society?
In October 2018, the World Bank issued the report “Poverty and Shared Prosperity 2018: Piecing Together the Poverty Puzzle,” and in its questions and answers section, the World Bank introduced two complementary global poverty lines: the lower-middle-income poverty line, which is $3.20, and the upper-middle-income poverty line, which is $5.50 per person per day. These lines are designed to complement the international poverty line, which is $1.90 per person per day, the report said.
Based on the CCP’s official national income per capita information, China is now an upper-middle-income country. However, according to the World Bank’s standard, the 600 million Chinese people that Li referred to are actually living below the international poverty line.
Does the CCP Care About the Poor?
On April 7, People’s Daily said in a report that the “problems such as difficult access to roads, drinking water, electricity, and communication have been historically solved” in poverty-alleviated areas.
One has to ask why hundreds of millions of Chinese people are still stagnating in poverty after 71 years of the CCP’s rule, and why it is still difficult for many areas to have access to roads, drinking water, electricity, and telecommunication. How many leaders and CCP members have shared the hardships of the people in poverty-stricken areas?
According to the CCP’s National Bureau of Statistics, there are altogether 14 concentrated poverty-stricken areas, or contiguous destitute areas, in the country, based on “geographical connectivity, causes of poverty, and similarity of resource conditions.”
Lyuliang city of Shanxi Province is one of the 14 contiguous destitute areas. One of its former vice mayors, Zhang Zhongsheng, embezzled as much as 1.04 billion yuan (about $158 million), which is more than the combined annual revenue of the bottom nine poor counties in Shanxi.
Daming of Hebei Province is a destitute county. Its former CCP general secretary Bian Fei was punished for embezzling 101 million yuan (about $15.4 million). A few years later, Bian’s successor, Fang Yansheng, was placed under investigation for corruption.
These two examples alone show that it is an outright lie of the CCP to say that Party leaders and ordinary Party members and cadres care about the people.
On April 4, a commentary in the People’s Daily claimed, “Today’s China dares to do and can do the world’s most important projects: the Three Gorges Dam, the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, the South-to-North Water Diversion project, the West-East Gas Pipeline project, the West-East Power Transmission project, hosting of the Olympic Games, World Expo 2010 Shanghai, and China International Import Expo (CIIE). China is creating one miracle after another on earth.”
The so-called “world’s most important projects” are actually image projects of the CCP, by which it strengthens its internal rule and global infiltration, with the ultimate goal of creating more benefits for the CCP’s plutocrat cliques. These massive projects always cost the Chinese taxpayers a lot of money and they open the door for collusion between the government and enterprises.
Tragedies Caused by Poverty
The CCP touts its so-called victory in the war against poverty, but it doesn’t dare acknowledge the tragedies in everyday society in China. The following are just a few tragic cases.
In January 2020, Wu Huayan, a university student in Guizhou, died of severe malnutrition. She couldn’t afford good nutrition, and consequently she suffered from stunted growth and other health problems.
In the early morning hours of Jan. 9, 2018, 8-year-old Wang Fuman, from Yunnan Province, walked for more than an hour to school with an empty stomach, braving the cold weather. When he walked into the classroom, his hair and eyebrows were covered with frost. The news spread widely on the internet, and Wang’s poor family received media attention, which exposed the failure of the government’s so-called “targeted and precise poverty alleviation.”
In Aug. 24, 2016, Yang Gailan, a 28-year-old resident from Agu village, Gansu Province, killed her four children and then committed suicide by taking poison. Soon after, Yang’s husband, Li Keying, also took his own life. According to the neighbors, the family was in a desperate situation after local authorities cut off their government assistance.
In the summer of 2003, the daughter of Jing Tongshi, a farmer in Yulin County, Shaanxi Province, was admitted to Northeast Normal University with high grades. The cost of her first-year tuition and fees was approximately 10,000 yuan (about $1,525), which her family couldn’t afford. Jing, 53, was already in a lot of debt and he took his own life by drinking pesticide.
The so-called liberated New China, as always proclaimed by the CCP, has given rise to numerous corrupt officials and hundreds of millions of dirty money. An image of poverty described by Du Fu, a renowned poet from the Tang Dynasty, has now become a common reality in China, as quoted from Harvard University professor Stephen Owen’s English translation: “Crimson gates reek with meat and ale, while on the streets are bones of the frozen dead.”
Are these tragedies what the CCP calls “miracles on earth?” Or are they a disgrace to the CCP?
Tian Yun, M.A., specializes in education management and historical-cultural research. She has published articles on China-related current affairs in The Epoch Times since 2018.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.