China - a success story in reducing poverty in less than 30 years

Research Paper (undergraduate), 2008

19 Pages, Grade: A


Table of Contents


List of Tables

List of Figures



1. Background to the Study
1.1 Scope
1.2 Objectives
1.3 Methodology
1.4 Limitations



2.1 The Poverty Situation in china
2.1.1 The Quantity and Distribution of the Rural Poor in China
2.2 Poverty Alleviation Efforts in China
2.2.1 Poverty Alleviation in Rural Areas and Factors behind its Success
2.2.2 Governments Interventions.
2.2.3 Interventions from Other Agencies



3. Conclusion
3.1 Recommendations




1. Background to the Study

Poverty is generally understood as a material and social deprivation-in relation to a defined set of material and social standards. Deprivation is made visible through a set of indicators of basic needs: nutrition, health, housing, education, clothing, water supply etc. The World Bank and the International Labour Office measure and rank poverty according to these indexes. The World Bank stated that “roughly 20-40 percent of the populations in the low income countries have living standards which provide inadequate caloric intake and insufficient health care resulting in low life expectancy and high mortality rates. The number of the world’s poor today has grown to over 950 million people” (Bedard and Kotter, 2000: 15). It is also worth mentioning that apart from basic needs indicators, poverty could be viewed from different perspective with different parameters. The dimension of who constitutes the poor takes into account people’s livelihood, resources/vulnerability, political deprivation and social/psychological deprivation (GTz/ Nkum Associates PRA Guide on District Poverty profiling and Mapping, 2003:7) .

The eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – which range from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education, all by the target date of 2015 form a blueprint agreed to by all the world’s countries and the entire world’s leading development institutions. They have galvanized unprecedented efforts to meet the needs of the world’s poorest (UN MDG annual report, 2005). "We will have time to reach the Millennium Development Goals – worldwide and in most, or even all, individual countries – but only if we break with business as usual. We cannot win overnight. Success will require sustained action across the entire decade between now and the deadline. It takes time to train the teachers, nurses and engineers; to build the roads, schools and hospitals; to grow the small and large businesses able to create the jobs and income needed. So we must start now. And we must more than double global development assistance over the next few years. Nothing less will help to achieve the Goals” ( United Nations Secretary-General Kofi A. Annan, 2005).

It could be said that poverty alleviation after the reform in 1978 in china has been central to the agenda of the Chinese government and this has witnessed dramatic changes taken place in China’s rural areas since the open and reform policy was carried out thirty years ago.

During the short interval of six years from 1978 to 1984, the number of the poor in China decreased from 250 million to 125 million, and the incidence of poverty dropped frorm 30.7 per cent to 14.8 per cent. This rapid change in China’s poverty was called as “the great campaign of poverty alleviation in the world” (UNDP 1998). By 1998, the number of the poor in China had decreased to 42 millions, the incidence of poverty cut down to 4.6 per cent. The per capita net income in the counties which were identified as poor, had increased from 206 Yuan RMB in 1985 to 1318 Yuan RMB in 1998. In all, the poverty population decreased by a big margin.

The main reason behind this success is that farmer’s income significantly accelerated since 1978 during the period of economic reform. Farmers benefited directly from rapid development of the economy. With the deepening of reform of the economic system and enhancing of the market economy, the income gap between the Chinese farmers and urban residents was bridged constantly: The incomes as well as the quality of life improved owing to the development of rural industry and other non-agricultural sectors. On the other hand, with the uneven development of rural enterprises among the different regions, the gaps in developmental levels widened. Some areas with fragile ecosystem, abominable geographical conditions and lack of natural resources face severe difficulties in their economic development process. The income of urban residents kept an upward tendency continuously even as the incomes of farmers rose rapidly. But with the process of the reform, unemployment is increasing.

The focus of this paper is to look at the poverty situation in china, consider governments and other organizational efforts at alleviations and perhaps do some recommendations. To achieve this, the paper will be subdivided into three- chapter one gives a general overview of the research objective, scope, methodology employed and limitations encountered in the course of this research. The second chapter focuses on poverty situation with much reference to poverty stricken areas and the programs designed to alleviate it. The final chapter focuses on general conclusion and recommendations.

1.1 Scope

Geographically, China is located in eastern Asia. Today it occupies approximately 9.6 million square kilometres (3.7 million square miles), or nearly one quarter of Asia's land, making it almost as large as the whole of Europe. From north to south, China extends 5,500 kilometers (3,400 miles), from west to east, 5,200 kilometers (3,100 miles).

Conceptually, this paper focuses attention on the Chinese economy under which the poverty situation will be reviewed from the 70’s and the efforts being made to dwindle it.

1.2 Objectives

Succinctly, this paper seeks to:

- Review china’s poverty situation
- Evaluate the efforts at poverty alleviation and its success story over the past two –three decades.

1.3 Methodology

Research materials have been gathered from different sources-most especially from the electronic media. There were also series of discussions with professors on the research topic. I also made use of my presence here in china by way of personal observation.

1.4 Limitations

Being a foreigner, I found it extremely difficult to communicate in Chinese. The language barrier made it difficult to visit electronic sites in Chinese. I could not also make use of the library to the fullest due to these challenges. Though I managed to overcome these challenges in some way, I trust it might have accounted for the slow pace at which I executed this assignment. Also the differences in data especially the World Bank and the National Bureau of Statistics in china made the analysis somewhat difficult as to which source should be relied on. Through all these difficulties, I managed to present both side of the coins for readers to make their own intuitive judgments.



2.1 The Poverty Situation in china

2.1.1 The Quantity and Distribution of the Rural Poor in China

China’s poverty situation has over the past decade reduced tremendously. However it should be an established fact that poverty in china is pronounced in the rural areas. Figures presented by both the World Bank and the bureau of national statistics in china confirm the decline with different figures. Table 1 below shows the trend.

Table 1: Rural Population Living in Poverty, 1978-1998 (millions)

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Source: UNDP, Human Development Report 1998; Action for Combating Poverty by Chinese Government 1996 and china Daily2008.

Though there are significant differences in the data provided by these two sources, the point of interest here has to do with whether poverty in china has been dropping or not. Both sources confirmed there has been a considerable decline. After the reform in 1978, World Bank estimated that close to about 260 million people in china were poor and lived below the poverty line of 100 Yuan. In 1988, the poverty line adopted by the Chinese government was 236 Yuan; the standard was raised in 1994 to 530 Yuan. The percent of people who are poor has also been dropping from 30.7 percent to 4.6 percent. Currently, the standard of people living below the poverty line has risen to 4,140 (China Daily, November, 2nd 2008, p.1) showing a massive drop of less than 1 percent[1].


[1] China Daily, November, 2nd 2008 (Government to double farmers’ income)

Excerpt out of 19 pages


China - a success story in reducing poverty in less than 30 years
Xiamen University  (School of Economics)
Selected Issues on Modern China
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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583 KB
This paper takes a critical look at the state of poverty in China and governments efforts at alleviation. Our assessment has been on Chinese Government and other development partners interventions meant to halt poverty.
China, Poverty Alleviation, Interventions
Quote paper
Joseph Ato Forson (Author), 2008, China - a success story in reducing poverty in less than 30 years, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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