Sen. Bernie Sanders Promotes China’s Poverty Alleviation Claims

August 28, 2019 Updated: September 7, 2019

In an interview with The Hill, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) spoke on the future relationship between the United States and China if he were to be elected president.

Sanders criticized China, acknowledging it as becoming more authoritarian. Some China experts say the communist nation looms closer to becoming a full surveillance state and teeters near a repeat of the Tiananmen Square Massacre in Hong Kong.

However, Sanders also commented on what appears to be China’s success in targeting and ending poverty. “If I’m not mistaken they have more progress in addressing extreme poverty than any country in the history of civilization,” Sanders told The Hill on Aug. 27.

However, addressing extreme poverty has been not much more than a political slogan used by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to boost the country’s international image.

In reality, some Chinese officials have been found guilty of pocketing and embezzling funds that are intended for the impoverished. Meanwhile, individuals living at subsistence levels—just enough to survive—are considered above the national poverty line, earning $320 (2,300 yuan) per year.

The CCP’s Poverty Campaign

One stated objective of Chinese leader Xi Jinping is to turn the country into a place where people lead comfortable lives and are free from material want by 2020. Also, Chinese leadership touted their efforts as the “largest poverty alleviation campaign in history,” according to state-run media outlet Xinhua News in March 2018.

Instead, officials tasked with alleviating poverty have taken the money for themselves in many instances.

During a major political meeting in Beijing on March 2018, abuse of poverty funds was brought up as a nationwide problem, exposing officials from 874 counties in 28 provinces for engaging in such corrupt practices, according to state-run media The Beijing News.

Reports of communist cadres embezzling funds intended for citizens living below the poverty line have continued into July of this year. The most recent example involved the poverty assistance director of Shanxi Province, Liu Kunming, who was caught taking nearly $1.5 million (10.4 million yuan) in bribes, according to The Beijing News. Furthermore, 216 people altogether handed him these bribes, and just under half of those people were also poverty assistance directors from other counties and cities.

China’s National Audit Office stated that officials in 145 poverty-stricken counties embezzled about $582 million (4 billion yuan), according to a June 2018 report.

Despite the CCP’s rhetoric about alleviating poverty, many mainland Chinese experience just the opposite.

Survival

About one third of China’s population lives on $5.50 or less a day, according to World Bank data. Chinese city dwellers are also earning more than those in the countryside, according to the report “China 2020” by World Bank.

In China, people only receive government benefits in the part of the country where they are registered to live. Migrant workers or those from the poorer areas who relocate to another part of the country for a job would no longer be eligible for government assistance. About one third of Chinese workers move from their homes to find work in richer provinces, according to the China Labour Bulletin.

One woman living in Beijing, surnamed Wang, spends more than 12 hours a day collecting plastic bottles to sell for recycling, supporting her ailing husband and granddaughter, who was abandoned by her parents. Since she is registered to live in a different area, the Chinese regime provides no assistance to her, according to a Reuters report.

Wang is officially over the poverty line with her meager income of $227 (1,500 yuan) per month, according to Reuters. She can barely feed herself and her family after paying rent, which is half her income, and paying for her granddaughter’s education.

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