Despite steady economic growth for three decades, China is still a developing country facing daunting poverty alleviation tasks. According to the poverty line of 1,196 yuan ($176) per capita net income in a year set in March 2009, the country still has a poverty population of more than 40 million, mainly living in rural areas.
Since the end of the 1970s, poverty alleviation campaigns have lifted more than 200 million rural poor out of absolute poverty. The reduced population of the poor in China since 1990 accounts for more than 70 percent of the global total and the country has met the UN Millennium Development Goal of halving hunger and poverty ahead of schedule.
Despite impact of the international financial crisis, the Chinese Government increased its input to ongoing poverty reduction in 2009. To help migrant rural laborers who lost urban jobs in the economic slowdown, the government initiated incentives enabling them to start up their own businesses or find work in other sectors.
The Central Government allocated nearly 20 billion yuan ($2.9 billion) to poverty reduction programs in 2009, up 3 billion yuan ($441.4 million) from 2008. These policies have paid off as the per-capita net income of farmers in major poverty-stricken counties nationwide grew by nearly 10 percent during the first three quarters of 2009.
Since China started to implement guidelines for poverty alleviation campaigns in rural areas between 2001 and 2010, strides taken include a noticeable improvement in economic strength and infrastructure in impoverished regions, and the bringing under control of ecological degradation. The country has also made good progress in constructing a social security network in rural areas with the establishment of a basic living guarantee system, the new rural cooperative medical scheme and a pilot insurance plan for the aged.
A lot of work still needs to be done. While overall economic growth is still reasonably rapid, development levels in different regions in China are uneven. The country still has a huge poor population and a large one vulnerable to natural disasters. While farmers' incomes in impoverished regions are growing dynamically, income gaps between farmers in different areas keep widening. The livelihoods of farmers in ecosystem reserves have yet to be resolved. Therefore, with China's rapid economic development, poverty reduction methods and their focus should be very different from 30 years ago. The new guidelines should reflect the principle of balancing economic and social development and attaining overall prosperity for all Chinese people.