FIGHTING POVERTY IN THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA

When it comes to learning how to fight poverty, almost all the experts agree that The Peoples’ Republic of China is the best place to begin.

“China has set an example internationally for reducing poverty, raising hundreds of millions of people out of poverty in twenty years,” said Yukon Huang, Chief of the World Bank’s Resident Mission in the Peoples’ Republic.

The Chinese Government embarked on a poverty reduction campaign in 1978 and by 1993, the number of poor people in China was reduced from 250 million to only 80 million, thereby reducing the incidence of poverty among the people by more than 30% – a very impressive achievement indeed.

With a US$35 billion support from the World Bank, the government of The Peoples’ Republic of China launched a carefully planned and monitored campaign, consisting of over 220 projects scattered around the country-side to address the problem of poverty.

Although many western experts believe that China’s success comes from her abandoning the Socialist path of development, especially after the celebrated failure of The Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, and that it was easy for China to pick up the pieces left by these campaigns to fight poverty. It is my contention that those who want to learn how to fight poverty from the Peoples’ Republic must start by learning about the revolts of the poor peasants in feudal China, the gains of the Great Proletarian Revolution, the Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward.

These lessons should help those who want to learn from China, that the pieces picked up to build the anti-poverty struggle did not drop from heaven but were the result of years of hard struggle. They must stop the petty bickering that usually hinders our search for solutions to our pressing problems.

The main weakness of the current poverty alleviation projects in China is that they are based on income- improvement. Putting money in the pockets of poor people can only help improve their lives if they do not live in ecologically fragile environments. In such areas, immediately disaster strikes, the people revert back to poverty. Quoting a report by Xu Yinlong an expert with the Chinese Accademy of Agricultural Sciences, Yu Tianyu of China Daily says “Climate change has emerged as the main reason for poverty in the Peoples’ Republic of China as more than 95% of poor people live in ecologically fragile environments.”

Let us join forces to eliminate poverty in our communities.

By Ezrom Serame Mokgakala

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