Targeted strategy helps China win battle against poverty white paper

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China’s Poverty-alleviation strategy has been a resounding success, with the country lifting over 800 million people out of poverty since the start of its economic reforms in 1978. The targeted approach, which focuses on identifying and assisting the most vulnerable populations, has been a key factor in this achievement. This white paper will examine the various aspects of China’s poverty-alleviation strategy, its impact, and the lessons that can be learned from its success.

The Evolution of China’s Poverty-Alleviation Strategy

Early Reforms (1978-2000)

China’s poverty-alleviation efforts began with the economic reforms initiated by Deng Xiaoping in 1978. These reforms focused on:

  1. Agricultural reform: The introduction of the Household Responsibility System allowed farmers to keep a portion of their crops, incentivizing them to increase productivity.
  2. Township and Village Enterprises (TVEs): The growth of TVEs in rural areas created non-agricultural employment opportunities and helped reduce poverty.
  3. Infrastructure development: Investments in rural infrastructure, such as roads and electricity, improved living conditions and access to markets.

During this period, the poverty rate in China fell from 97.5% in 1978 to 49.8% in 2000, according to the World Bank’s $1.90 per day poverty line (in 2011 PPP).

The New Century (2001-2012)

In the early 2000s, China’s poverty-alleviation strategy shifted towards a more targeted approach. Key initiatives included:

  1. The “Eight-Seven Poverty Alleviation Plan” (1994-2000): This plan aimed to lift 80 million people out of poverty in seven years by focusing on poor counties and villages.
  2. The New Socialist Countryside Construction (2006): This policy aimed to improve rural infrastructure, public services, and living conditions.
  3. The “Outline for Development-Oriented Poverty Reduction for China’s Rural Areas (2011-2020)”: This plan set the goal of lifting all rural residents out of poverty by 2020 and established a targeted poverty-alleviation system.

During this period, the poverty rate fell from 49.8% in 2000 to 11.2% in 2012.

Targeted Poverty Alleviation (2013-2020)

In 2013, President Xi Jinping introduced the Targeted Poverty Alleviation strategy, which focused on:

  1. Precise identification: Identifying poor households and individuals based on income, living conditions, and access to basic services.
  2. Targeted assistance: Providing tailored support, such as skills training, microfinance, and relocation assistance, based on the specific needs of poor households.
  3. Accountability: Assigning officials at all levels of government the responsibility for poverty-alleviation targets and holding them accountable for results.

The poverty rate fell from 11.2% in 2012 to 0.6% in 2019, with China achieving its goal of eliminating absolute poverty by 2020.

Key Components of the Targeted Poverty-Alleviation Strategy

Industrial Development

China has promoted industrial development in poor areas by:

  1. Developing local specialty industries based on regional comparative advantages, such as tourism, agriculture, and handicrafts.
  2. Encouraging private sector investment and public-private partnerships in poverty-stricken areas.
  3. Providing skills training and financial support to help poor households participate in industrial development.
Year Number of Poor People Employed in Industry (millions)
2015 12.27
2016 13.68
2017 15.23
2018 16.94
2019 18.83

Source: National Bureau of Statistics of China

Education and Human Capital Development

Improving access to education and developing human capital has been a key focus of China’s poverty-alleviation efforts:

  1. Providing financial assistance for poor students, such as scholarships, grants, and free textbooks.
  2. Improving school infrastructure and teaching quality in poor areas.
  3. Offering vocational training and skills development programs for adults.
Year Number of Poor Students Receiving Financial Assistance (millions)
2015 33.84
2016 36.22
2017 38.76
2018 41.49
2019 44.41

Source: Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China

Health and Social Security

China has strengthened its health and social security systems to protect the poor:

  1. Expanding health insurance coverage and reducing out-of-pocket expenses for poor households.
  2. Improving healthcare infrastructure and access to medical services in poor areas.
  3. Providing targeted social assistance, such as the Minimum Living Standard Guarantee (Dibao) program, to support the most vulnerable populations.
Year Number of Poor People Covered by Basic Medical Insurance (millions)
2015 55.14
2016 58.90
2017 62.93
2018 67.24
2019 71.87

Source: National Healthcare Security Administration of China

Infrastructure and Living Conditions

Investing in infrastructure and improving living conditions in poor areas has been a priority:

  1. Upgrading rural roads, electricity, and water supply systems.
  2. Renovating dilapidated houses and relocating households from inhospitable areas.
  3. Improving access to basic public services, such as education and healthcare facilities.
Year Number of Poor People Benefiting from Housing Projects (millions)
2015 4.32
2016 4.74
2017 5.20
2018 5.70
2019 6.24

Source: Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development of China

Impact and Lessons Learned

China’s targeted poverty-alleviation strategy has had a profound impact on the lives of millions of people, contributing to:

  1. Improved income and living standards for poor households.
  2. Narrowing the urban-rural development gap.
  3. Promoting social stability and inclusive economic growth.

Key lessons learned from China’s experience include:

  1. The importance of a targeted, data-driven approach to identifying and assisting the poor.
  2. The need for a comprehensive strategy that addresses the multidimensional nature of poverty.
  3. The value of strong political commitment and accountability at all levels of government.
  4. The potential for public-private partnerships and market-oriented solutions in poverty alleviation.

Challenges and the Way Forward

Despite China’s remarkable progress, challenges remain:

  1. Ensuring the sustainability of poverty-alleviation efforts and preventing people from falling back into poverty.
  2. Addressing relative poverty and inequality, particularly in urban areas.
  3. Adapting poverty-alleviation strategies to the changing nature of poverty in the post-2020 era.

To build on its success and address these challenges, China will need to:

  1. Continue to refine its targeted approach based on evolving poverty dynamics.
  2. Strengthen its social security system and promote inclusive growth.
  3. Foster innovation and collaboration among government, the private sector, and civil society organizations.


China’s targeted poverty-alleviation strategy has demonstrated the power of a comprehensive, data-driven approach in the fight against poverty. By focusing on the most vulnerable populations and addressing the multidimensional nature of poverty, China has achieved a historic reduction in poverty and improved the lives of hundreds of millions of people. As the country enters a new phase of development, it will be crucial to build on these successes while adapting to new challenges and opportunities in the pursuit of a more prosperous and inclusive society.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  1. Q: What is the main focus of China’s targeted poverty-alleviation strategy?
    A: China’s targeted poverty-alleviation strategy focuses on identifying and assisting the most vulnerable populations through precise identification, targeted assistance, and strong accountability mechanisms.

  2. Q: How has China’s poverty-alleviation strategy evolved over time?
    A: China’s poverty-alleviation strategy has evolved from broad economic reforms in the early years to a more targeted approach in recent decades, with an emphasis on industrial development, education, health, social security, and infrastructure improvement.

  3. Q: What are some of the key achievements of China’s poverty-alleviation efforts?
    A: China has lifted over 800 million people out of poverty since 1978, with the poverty rate falling from 97.5% in 1978 to 0.6% in 2019. The country achieved its goal of eliminating absolute poverty by 2020.

  4. Q: What lessons can be learned from China’s experience in poverty alleviation?
    A: Key lessons include the importance of a targeted, data-driven approach; the need for a comprehensive strategy addressing multiple dimensions of poverty; the value of strong political commitment and accountability; and the potential for public-private partnerships and market-oriented solutions.

  5. Q: What challenges does China face in its future poverty-alleviation efforts?
    A: China faces challenges in ensuring the sustainability of poverty-alleviation efforts, addressing relative poverty and inequality, and adapting strategies to the changing nature of poverty in the post-2020 era. Continued refinement of the targeted approach, strengthening of the social security system, and fostering innovation and collaboration will be crucial in addressing these challenges.