New Study Challenges CCP Claim That It Had Eliminated Extreme Poverty in China

By Nicole Hao
Nicole Hao
Nicole Hao
Nicole Hao is a Washington-based reporter focused on China-related topics. Before joining the Epoch Media Group in July 2009, she worked as a global product manager for a railway business in Paris, France.
June 16, 2021 Updated: August 20, 2021

A newly released Swiss-sponsored study reveals that China has not eradicated poverty, a “miracle” that Chinese leader Xi Jinping claims to have achieved.

On Feb. 25, the Chinese regime organized an awards ceremony, in which Xi announced China had eradicated poverty, based on China’s poverty standards.

“[China] created another miracle in the annals of history,” Xi commented on the eradication of poverty. “[It’s a] major historic achievement.”

On April 6, the Chinese regime released a white paper titled “China’s Practice in Human Poverty Reduction.” With this paper, the Beijing authorities want to set China as a role model to the world.

“China has not eradicated poverty—even extreme poverty,” Bill Bikales, former UN lead economist in China, writes in the report Reflection on Poverty Reduction in China (pdf) that was published on June 8.

Bikales pointed out that poverty is dynamic, but the Beijing regime only focuses on the people who were from rural areas and were registered in 2014-5 as poor, without updating the list in the years since nor covering the majority of the Chinese population, which live in urban areas.

“No statistics were ever released [in China] regarding newly poor households due to the income shock that occurred [due to the pandemic] and assistance to non-registered poor households was limited,” Bikales wrote. “To accurately capture the impact of COVID-19 on poverty anywhere other than in the already identified counties and villages would have required systems that were simply not in place.”

If a person’s income reaches 4,000 yuan ($625) a year, he or she would be removed from the list of those considered poor, according to Chinese state media.

In the past months, interviewees from mainland China told The Epoch Times that they still couldn’t obtain clean water, enough food, and public transportation, but the regime refused to pay social security benefits because China had supposedly eliminated poverty.

Chinese state-run media has revealed that even the delisted poor people are still living in extreme poverty, and the local authorities have lied to the central authorities.

Epoch Times Photo
Farmer Liu Qingyou at his residence in Baojing County, in central China’s Hunan Province on Jan. 12, 2021. (Noel Celis/AFP via Getty Images)

People’s Voice

A large number of Chinese in rural areas don’t have clean water to drink and don’t have enough money to buy meat and other foods that are rich in protein and fat, according to interviewees. There are Chinese people in urban areas who also can’t feed themselves and their families.

“My father and his fellow villagers don’t have money. They eat what they planted and don’t have meat in general. My father doesn’t have enough money to pay for electricity, not to mention the sanitation facilities, bathing,” a woman surnamed Wang told the Chinese-language Epoch Times on Feb. 25.

Wang lives in a city and has electricity, water, internet, and telephone. Her father lives in Taohe township in Xichuan County, in central China’s Henan Province, which is in the mountains.

“They don’t have tap water. They rely on a small-size reservoir [which can save the rainwater] and water that is shipped from outside,” Wang said. “They don’t have money to pay for hospitals, clinics, or even medicine. They simply fight diseases by using their bodies’ immune system. Once they are seriously ill, they just wait for death at home.”

Epoch Times Photo
Farmers plant Saxaul trees in Dunhuang, northwestern China’s Gansu Province in China on April 22, 2019. (Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

A different Wang is a Beijing migrant worker who is from northern China’s Hebei Province. He told the Chinese-language Epoch Times on March 2 that farmers in Hebei don’t have money to pay for medical insurance in general, the regime doesn’t supply free medical service, and farmers don’t have money to treat diseases.

“For us, we just visit a small clinic if we have some non-fatal diseases. Once we are very sick, we will try to borrow money from relatives. If we can receive some money, we will visit a hospital. Otherwise, we just stay at home and wait for death,” Wang said.

The majority of Chinese poor people don’t have a phone, nor a computer, and the regime’s censorship doesn’t allow relevant facts to be exposed online.

However, evidence of extreme poverty can be found from what people report in conversation, as well as in the media’s reports on other topics.

On Dec. 12, 2020, a social media account posted a long article on WeChat, in which it talked about children in urban areas who suicided because their families were too poor to pay for their education, feed them, or treat their diseases.

Bikales wrote in his study that 63 percent of Chinese people live in cities, and these people have never been included in China’s poverty list. And, contrary to Xi’s claimes, even the poor people in the list haven’t escaped poverty.

In April, CCTV reported cases in Luonan County, northwestern China’s Shaanxi Province, in which people don’t have a safe home to live in and don’t have clean water to drink. The local officials lied about the situation, and tried to grab the reporter’s cell phone, which the reporter used to record the scene.

Epoch Times Photo
A farmer is working on a field at a bank opposite Zhongba, a small island near southwestern China’s Chongqing city on Nov. 29, 2020. (Noel Celis/AFP via Getty Images)

Removed from Poverty List

Luonan was removed from the poverty list in February 2020, which means all residents in the county are said to earn an income higher than the poverty threshold.

In the middle of April, when CCTV arrived at the county, the reporters found an old man Leng who lived in a small and dilapidated brick one-room house. The house has no kitchen, no bathroom, and no heating.

Leng was on the poverty list. He told CCTV that the brick house used to be a storage space for his relative. Because his mud house is cracked and may fall down at any time, his relative allows him to live in this brick house. Leng has no income and has no money to rent a room.

CCTV visited two villages in Luonan, both didn’t have drinking water. Villagers need to drive a long way to buy water from other towns, and this water needs to be filtered before use.

Because villagers are poor in general, most of them don’t have money to buy water frequently. They save rainwater and in their daily lives try to save any drop of water that they can.

The Shanghai-based news website The Paper reported another case from southwestern China’s Yunnan Province on Nov. 19, 2020.

The local regime in Zhenxiong County, Zhaotong City removed villager Jiang Tongxun from the poverty list in October 2020 because the regime said Jiang’s gross income in 2020 would be 5,811.76 yuan ($908). This is higher than the 2020 income level of 4,000 yuan ($625), under which the person can remain eligible for the poverty list.

Jiang disagreed with the regime and refused to sign the paper to give up his right to receive any more social security benefits.

According to the regime’s data, Jiang earned 3,000 yuan ($465) by working as a migrant worker, received 2,568 yuan ($398) social security benefits from the regime, and 243.76 yuan ($38) subsidies from the regime, which was used to buy farming seeds and fertilizers.

Jiang said he didn’t receive benefits from the regime, and the poverty alleviation funding from the central regime or provincial regime was allocated to the villagers who have good relationships with officials. The report said Jiang lost his poverty qualification and was criticized by the regime.

Chinese people told The Epoch Times in phone call interviews that 4,000 yuan isn’t enough to maintain a basic life.

Zhou, a retired man who lives in Shanghai city, told the Chinese-language Epoch Times on Feb. 25: “The minimum cost of food is 500 yuan ($78) per month per person in Shanghai. You need to spend 200 yuan ($31) for transportation, and over 2,000 yuan ($310) to rent a room … 4,000 yuan per year means 333 per month. You can’t survive with this income.”

Hu Ping, honorary editor-in-chief of New York-based Beijing Spring magazine and China affairs expert, told The Epoch Times on Feb. 26: “China is still extremely poor in this year … How much grain does China have now? Including other agricultural products, China needs much more than it has [to feed people].”

Nicole Hao
Nicole Hao
Nicole Hao is a Washington-based reporter focused on China-related topics. Before joining the Epoch Media Group in July 2009, she worked as a global product manager for a railway business in Paris, France.