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China Says It Wants to End Poverty by 2020

Over the past two decades, China’s economy has experienced a boom, and while its middle class has swelled and a growing number of super-rich elites jet around the world, not everyone has shared in the country’s massive gains.

That’s why Chinese president Xi Jinping has pledged to end poverty in China by 2020 — 10 years ahead of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals’ target of ending global poverty by 2030.

“On the march towards common prosperity, no one must be left behind,” President Xi Jinping said last week in Beijing after beginning his second five-year term as president. “We will mobilize the whole Party and the whole country in a resolute push to deliver on our pledge and eradicate poverty in China.”

Since 1981, about 500 million Chinese people have worked their way above the global poverty line of $1.90, the World Bank reported. Yet 43 million Chinese citizens currently live below the country’s poverty line of about 95 cents a day. About half of China’s poorest residents are disabled, which can make it challenging for them to find work opportunities and increases demand for social services.

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The government has experimented with several strategies for lifting rural villagers out of poverty with mixed results, the New York Times reported. China has also promoted rural areas as tourist destinations to infuse the areas with money, but with little result as the areas are not easily accessible and lack convenient transportation options. Regional governments have even tried to forcibly relocated villagers into government-owned apartments near cities.

To cope with prevalent poverty, local villages have established cooperatives for families to share resources and income and state-owned banks have made small loans so that villagers could access the internet and sell their handmade products online.

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Amid China’s focus on ending rural poverty, some experts question whether the Chinese government will meaningfully assist the urban poor, especially the 200 million migrant workers who make up about 30% of the population in major cities.

“This is a very big hole in the overall picture, which the government rarely addresses,” United Nations adviser Philip G. Alston told The New York Times. “The reality is that many of them are living in extreme poverty.”

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