By Zhou Pingjian
Today, October 17, is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.
In his message for the Day 2019, the Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres stresses, “Ending extreme poverty is at the heart of the world’s efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and build a sustainable future for all. But success in leaving no one behind will remain elusive if we do not target the people who are farthest behind first.”
According to the UN Secretary-General, this year’s observance focuses on “acting together to empower children, their families and communities to end poverty”, as we mark the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The observance of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty can be traced back to October 17, 1987. On that day, over a hundred thousand people gathered at the Trocadéro in Paris, where the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed in 1948, to honour the victims of extreme poverty, violence and hunger. They proclaimed that poverty is a violation of human rights and affirmed the need to come together to ensure that these rights are respected.
Through resolution 47/196 adopted on December 22, 1992, the UN General Assembly declared October 17 as the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty and invited all States to devote the Day to presenting and promoting, as appropriate in the national context, concrete activities with regard to the eradication of poverty and destitution.
China was one of the poorest and most backward countries in the world when the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was founded on October 1, 1949. Since the founding of the PRC, the Communist Party of China has led the people in fighting poverty. Over the past 70 years, China’s GDP has averaged an annual growth rate of around 4.4% for the first three decades and 9.5% for the last four decades, lifting hundreds of millions people out of poverty.
Between 1978 and 2018 the number of rural poor fell from 770 million to 16.6 million calculated against China’s poverty line set in 2010, and the incidence of poverty in rural areas dropped from 97.5 percent to 1.7 percent. More than 10 million people rose and remained above the poverty line every year from 2012 to 2018. China has built the world’s largest social security system, with the basic old-age pension covering more than 900 million people and medical insurance covering over 1.3 billion people. With the highest number of people moving out of poverty, China was the first developing country to realize one of the UN Millennium Development Goals for poverty reduction. This achievement represented 70 percent of the global poverty reduction effort.
By 2020, all people in China living below the current poverty line will be taken out of poverty, i.e., the rural pool will be guaranteed food, clothing, compulsory education, basic medical care, and safe housing; in poverty-stricken areas, the growth rate in rural per capita disposable income will surpass the national averaged growth rate, and major indicators of basic public services will approach the national average.
It is fair to say that China has actively explored a poverty reduction path with Chinese characteristics and scored remarkable achievements in poverty reduction during the past seven decades. As Chinese President Xi Jinping once remarked, “This achievement deserves to be recorded in the annals of human social development, and it proves the worth of the CPC’s leadership and Chinese socialism.”
What are China’s major efforts in poverty reduction? Why they work wonders? I would like to share China’s practices with Nigerian friends from four aspects.
First, proceeding from the prevailing national conditions and exploiting its institutional advantages. Development is the paramount task of the ruling CPC in governing and rejuvenating China, which is essential to addressing the country’s existing problems. By exploiting its political and institutional advantages, China has formed a trans-regional, trans-departmental, and trans-industrial poverty reduction process to which all social sectors contribute through the mechanism of “Party leadership, government guidance and social participation.”
Second, accelerating economic development and promoting poverty reduction. Taking poverty reduction as a major element of economic development, China promotes poverty reduction alongside economic growth, combines development-oriented poverty alleviation and socio-economic development, treats poverty alleviation through development as the main focus of the economic and social development plan.
Third, adhering to multi-form poverty reduction, and focusing on effect. Development is the fundamental approach to poverty eradication. China addresses poverty reduction by enhancing the skills of the impoverished population and improving their capacity for self-development, and acts to prevent the transfer of poverty across generations. The government adds preferential policies to its general welfare policy, devising preferential policies for the impoverished population on the basis of the general welfare policy for the rural areas, agriculture and farmers. It takes targeted poverty reduction and elimination as the basic strategy, with differentiated and targeted measures, and provides aid and guarantees for all those who qualify.
Fourth, prioritizing social fairness and justice, and striving to bring benefits and common prosperity to all. Focusing on ensuring and improving public well-being, China encourages institutional and organizational innovation, and promotes social fairness and justice. It is establishing a social fairness guarantee system applying to rights, opportunities and rules, protecting the people’s right to equal participation and equal development with the rule of law, and bringing the benefits of reform and development as well as common prosperity to the whole population.
Despite the achievements we have made, there are still challenges ahead. To fulfill the commitment to build China into a moderately prosperous society in all respects by 2020, there are more than 10 million people still to be lifted out of poverty, and we are fully aware that our development is unbalanced and inadequate. Moreover, winning the war against absolute poverty doesn’t erase the fact that relative poverty will still exist for a long time.
China’s battle against poverty has entered the final but the toughest stage. To win the battle, we are carrying on the fight with firmer resolve, clearer thinking, more targeted measures, unique intensity, and concerted action, leaving behind no single poverty-stricken area or individual. We have the full confidence to bring reasonable prosperity to all poverty-stricken areas and individuals by 2020.
As President Muhammadu Buhari points out in his statement delivered at the general debate on the theme of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York last month, “Poverty in all its manifestations remains one of the greatest challenges facing our world. Its eradication is an indispensable requirement for achieving sustainable development.” President Buhari also said in his Democracy Day speech in June, “With leadership and a sense of purpose, we can lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years.”
We highly appreciate and commend Nigeria’s firm commitment to making greater contribution to the global cause of poverty eradication. Nigeria can do it.
China stands ready to work with Nigeria and the international community to promote the eradication of poverty and march ahead on the path to shared prosperity.
(Dr. Zhou Pingjian is Ambassador of China to Nigeria)