Suvam Pal talks about China’s poverty alleviation 28-08-20 02:28 Updated BJT
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By Zhou Fujing/

"The best part of China's targeted poverty alleviation strategy is that it's not 'one size fits all' as the government and officials made the 'horses for courses' approach. Different regions have taken their own ways of uplifting impoverished people."                                                                                                                                                                                  ─Suvam Pal

Suvam Pal, from India, is a Beijing-based journalist, writer and documentary filmmaker and he has been living in Beijing for nearly five years. He has traveled to many Chinese regions and witnessed the country’s practices and achievements in improving people’s lives. He shared his opinion on China’s poverty eradication efforts as China has set 2020 the target year to eliminate absolute poverty. 

The springs at Tingri County, Xigaze City, Tibetan Autonomous Region provide clean water for 80 poverty-hit local households.

The springs at Tingri County, Xigaze City, Tibetan Autonomous Region provide clean water for 80 poverty-hit local households. Over the past four decades, about 800 million Chinese citizens have overcome dire impoverished circumstances, among which more than 93 million people in rural regions had shaken off poverty from 2013 to 2019. What do you think of China’s efforts for eradicating poverty?

Suvam Pal: It has been phenomenal. I have been closely following China’s various poverty alleviation measures and it’s been heartening to see such a significant number of an erstwhile impoverished population getting catapulted to have a better life with better resources and a higher income per household. The large-scale urban development and rural reconstruction drives across China and its policies to reach the poorest of the poor have bolstered poverty eradication efforts in the world’s most populous nation. The Chinese leadership has taken a top-down approach to implement some of their game-changing policies while it wasn’t possible without government officials working hard at the grassroots level to transform the lives of the millions. Chinese President Xi Jinping unveiled the targeted poverty alleviation strategy in November 2013 during his visit to Shibadong, a village of the Miao ethnic group in central China’s Hunan Province. What is your understanding about it?

Suvam Pal: It is a strategy of drafting up plans based on identifying local conditions. 

The strategy has been resoundingly sound and its implementation has been quite meticulous and methodical. The outreach of the Chinese system has been mammoth and wide-spread but also pin-pointed. The central government and local governments synergized to act decisively. It’s always been a top-down approach and officials at every level played a key role. The best part is that it’s not ‘one size fits all’ as the government and officials made the ‘horses for courses’ approach. Different regions and areas have taken their own approaches to uplift impoverished people. That variation and dynamism of the plan worked out well in a country with a population of 1.4 billion. It has resettled villagers in “cliff village,” developed rural tourism for villagers living on the “Roof of the World, ” and offered Qiang ethnic-style embroidery techniques for residents in Hanzhong, Shaanxi Province. Have you noticed the changes that have taken places in China’s villages or provincial regions? Can you explain with examples?

Suvam Pal: I have noticed the changes over the past few years and it has always been quite glaring, as well as evident. I have extensively traveled across Gansu, one of China’s poorest provinces in 2017 and all over the northwestern province one can easily spot the ongoing urban development and rural reconstruction. I was surprised by the scale of poverty alleviation programs and measures while crisscrossing through Gansu and its prominent cities, such as Lanzhou, Zhangye, Jiayuguan and Dunhuang. 

I visited Tibet in 2019 and saw developments in far-flung villages on the ‘Roof of the world.’ Right from the modern-day engineering marvel of the Qinghai-Tibet railway to high-quality expressways, the Chinese government has left no stone unturned to carry forward poverty alleviation in the high-altitude region. For example, the eco-tourism drive inside Mount Qomolangma National Reserve made the tough lives of local tribes in an adverse terrain less-strenuous and helped them economically better off by getting them involved with various tourism activities. Your home country, India, is fighting poverty as well. Do you think China’s efforts in the aspect is helpful for other countries?

Suvam Pal: Yes, like China, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi put special emphasize on eradicating poverty and implemented a slew of social welfare schemes to replace wood-based cooking with LPG-based kitchens, to expand affordable access to financial services, and to build 20 million affordable houses by 31 March 2022. 

One of his first and foremost decisions is to disband the archaic planning commission and replace it with a dynamic think tank of Niti Ayog to achieve sustainable development goals, using a bottom-up approach. But, the complexities of the Indian quasi-federal structure made it practically impossible for any central government in India to take a China-like top-down approach. The Chinese efforts have been a grand success and it can be a great case study for any poverty eradication programs in different parts of the world. 

2020 marks the decisive year in China’s fight against poverty. Many observers believe that China’s achievements in poverty eradication will make a significant contribution to the development of global poverty reduction.

(The views don't necessarily represent those of the

Editor: Zhang Jianfeng
28-08-20 02:28 BJT
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