Experience tackling poverty offers global lessons
Bill Gates is a household name in China. He’s known as a co-founder of Microsoft, a philanthropist and a role model committed to fighting poverty and disease worldwide.
Gates, who is co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has spoken highly of China’s continuing efforts in poverty reduction and its achievements. Goalkeepers: The Stories Behind the Data, the inaugural annual report released by the foundation in September, highlights a steady decline in global poverty since 1990, driven by China and India, from 35 percent in 1990 to 9 percent in 2016.
The billionaire said China’s experience offers lessons for other developing countries and that it is important to the world. “I see China as an indispensable part of the solution to the world’s most pressing challenges,” Gates said. “We need Chinese investment, innovation and commitment to tackle climate change, to wipe out extreme poverty, and to win in the fight against the world’s deadliest diseases.” Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
What do you feel has been China’s biggest achievement over the past five years? What’s the most notable change you’ve observed?
In the past five years, China has been especially ambitious about taking the lessons it has learned about fighting poverty and child mortality and helping other countries apply them in their own contexts. In 2015, for example, China tripled its commitment to African development, pledging $60 billion. As the world sets out on a journey to achieve the sustainable development goals by 2030, we’re at a pivotal moment. China has a crucial role to play in continuing the progress of the past generation, and it is encouraging that it is eager to be a great partner.
What three words would you use to describe China today?
Committed, ambitious and vital. Committed, because as much as any other large country over the past few years, China has shown a commitment to health and development both at home and abroad. Ambitious because of the targets China has set for itself, including wiping out extreme poverty by 2020. And vital because I believe that we need an engaged and responsible China if we are to rid the world of what we call “solvable human misery”. China is very important to the future of the entire world.
What’s the biggest challenge China faces, and how can the country overcome it?
From our foundation’s perspective, infectious disease is a huge challenge facing China, even though few people talk about it. For example, there are 1 million new cases of tuberculosis in China every year, according to World Health Organization estimates. China also has about one-fifth of the world’s cases of multidrug-resistant TB, which is especially difficult and expensive to treat. It is great to see that China has been doubling down on its efforts to fight the disease with a national TB control plan (2016-20), which sets out ambitious targets to reduce
the TB burden significantly.
What is your impression President Xi Jinping?
Melinda and I have had the pleasure of meeting President Xi and first lady Peng Liyuan on more than one occasion. We were happy to welcome them to Seattle in 2015, and Melinda saw Peng on her trip to China this year. It’s great to see how committed China’s leadership is to continuing to make strides against disease and poverty, both in China and overseas. And I’m excited about partnerships our foundation has established with the Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development and the National Health and Family Planning Commission to help improve health in rural areas of China.
How do you view China’s role in today’s world?
I see China as an indispensable part of the solution to the world’s most pressing challenges. We need Chinese investment, innovation and commitment to tackle climate change, to wipe out extreme poverty, and to win in the fight against the world’s deadliest diseases. China has a unique combination of technical expertise and recent experience with rapid development, and so it is a unique resource to developing countries everywhere.
Do you believe that some of China’s experiences or practices could be used to solve pressing global problems? If so, what are they?
Yes, absolutely. British economist who coined the acronym BRIC There
are lots of areas where we could be doing even more to apply China’s experience to global problems. China’s experience of lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty obviously holds many lessons for other developing countries.
What’s more, China has shown interest in leveraging its innovation capacity to address global challenges. For example, China is home to world-class research and development in drugs, vaccines and other medical products.
We have launched a Global Health Drug Discovery Institute together with the Beijing city government and Tsinghua University to tap into such potential and work on new drugs for infectious diseases that disproportionately affect the poor.
“WE NEED CHINESE INVESTMENT, INNOVATION AND COMMITMENT TO TACKLE CLIMATE CHANGE . ... IT IS A UNIQUE RESOURCE TO DEVELOPING COUNTRIES EVERYWHERE.”
What do you think China will be like in five years’ time? How do you view China’s longer-term future?
I would hope that in five years we’ll see a more prosperous China that remains committed to helping the world solve its biggest health and development challenges. Longer term, I hope China will be even more engaged with the rest of the world. I’m a firm believer in globalization as a force for good, and I like to think our foundation’s partnership with China is a good example of what global cooperation can achieve: helping China solve its problems at home while becoming the best development partner it can be for the rest of the world.
“CHINA IS THE ONLY ONE OF THE FOUR BRIC COUNTRIES THAT, SINCE 2011, HAS GROWN IN LINE WITH MY EXPECTATIONS.”