Better regional efforts needed to eliminate poverty
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang visited Yanchuan county, Shaanxi province, and Liping country, Guizhou province, respectively last week, before the Chinese Lunar New Year.
Yanchuan and Liping are both poverty-stricken regions. The farmers in Yanchuan made about $2.50 a day in 2013, and the farmers of the Pudong village in Liping, where Li visited, lived on less than $1 a day.
Their visit conveyed a strong message that China will continue its unswerving efforts to eliminate poverty, and will never leave poor people behind in fast economic growth.
Visiting the poor regions before the festival is a custom for Chinese leaders. Xi visited Linxia, Gansu province, and Li went to Ankang, Shaanxi province, in February 2013. They called on the poor regions in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region in January 2014.
According to the State Council’s poverty alleviation office, China still has more than 200 million people living on less than $2 a day, a poverty line drawn by the World Bank. By the end of last year, more than 80 million lived on less than $1.25 a day, a poverty line drawn by the Chinese authorities.
The office’s statistics show, nearly 3.8 million people living in 3,917 villages in China, have no access to electricity, and more than 38.62 million farmers did not have clean drinking water by the end of 2014.
China’s poverty shows new characteristics. Take Yanchuan for example. The north region of Shaanxi has rich oil resources. But most of the profits are taken by the monopoly stateowned oil enterprises. The development of the oil industry pollutes the local environment, and does not improve local people’s livelihoods.
The central government vowed to eliminate poverty by 2020. Given the huge size of the poor population, this is really a difficult task. Governments of less-developed regions worry that the slowdown of economic growth and the transformation of the economy’s structure will affect their revenue and local economic growth.
China’s eastern regions achieved fast growth through the development of chemical and other industries but at the expense of the environment and ecology.
That the central authority recently stressed that promoting economic development remains the central task for the government is of vital importance for China’s poverty alleviation projects, reassuring the governors of the poor regions that they still have room to pursue fast growth.
But that does not mean the less-developed western and central regions can compromise their environment to receive the relocation of polluting industries from the eastern region, which is the fastest way to boost local economic growth and create jobs.
The central government needs to better coordinate regional development. The Yangtze River economic belt, the Silk Road Economic Belt, the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road and the Beijing-TianjinHebei regional integration projects are all key measures to promote the free flow of production factors across the country. Cheap labor, rich resources, good natural environment and ecology are all valuable assets for the west and central regions in China.
China’s poverty is partially caused by the government’s different policies, which give different freedom and space to different places, to which various government subsidies are connected.
None of China’s developed regions such as the Yangtze River Delta and the Pearl River Delta have achieved growth without relying on support from the central government and other parts of the country. And they have compromised their natural environment for capital accumulation to grow economically.
To some extent, the affluent eastern regions have an obligation to help their poor counterparts in the country’s western and central parts. That obligation can be materialized with technology, financial support and ecological compensation, like the support for the Tibet autonomous region.