CHINA — With nearly 100 million people within China living below the poverty line, international development organizations and officials have called upon this East Asian nation to provide more material support in combatting this issue.
Senior Chinese official Zheng Wenkai, who serves as the Assistant Director of the state Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development, argues if international standards were applied to the economic assessment of China’s population, statistical data would indicate over 200 million citizens are currently living on less than one dollar per day.
“The poverty-stricken population not only suffer from low income but also face various difficulties in getting drinking water, roads, electricity, education, medical care, and loans. It’s a tough nut to crack. Poverty is a weak point for our goal of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects by 2020,” Zheng stated in a recent press conference discussing economic development efforts within China.
Zheng proceeded to describe the commonality of impoverished Chinese citizens residing within inadequate structures, which are often constructed in rural areas prone to natural disasters. A massive earthquake within the Sichuan Province of China in 2008 resulted in the loss of nearly 90,000 lives and the displacement of over four million Chinese citizens. Investigators and development officials subsequently determined that the majority of structural collapses were due to an inadequate infrastructure, an occurrence closely linked to the prevalence of impoverished rural populations within this region.
Wei Shangjin, Chief Economist of the Asian Development Bank, argues in a recent report that the figures presented by Chinese officials are significantly underestimated and that the number of Chinese citizens currently living under the poverty line is over 400 million people, or 30 percent of the total population.
A reflective example of poverty across China can be found within the impoverished community of Hardin, which is currently suffering from major de-industrialization and subsequent adverse economic impacts. Located in the North Eastern province of Heilongjiang, Hardin is a decaying residential urban center, which has witnessed significant increases in the prevalence of community poverty in recent decades.
In order to combat the persistence of poverty and underemployment within this region of China, officials implemented the Jixi-Nehe Highway Project in 2006, which describes the intention to upgrade and construct a 459-kilometer section of highway across the Heilongjiang Province. This project includes the initiative to construct 21 additional rural road links into this region, which official’s hope will provide stronger integrated public works and transportation systems for an area suffering from a high rate of poverty.
The implementation of this major infrastructural initiative demonstrates the dedication of the Chinese government to decreasing the incidence of poverty within the Heilongjiang Province, as these advancements will decrease the limited accessibility currently experienced within this impoverished region. Chinese officials must continue to pursue infrastructural advancement programs in communities such as Hardin in order to encourage additional successes in poverty reduction.
– James Miller Thornton