Forced Uyghur LaborForced labor stemming from human rights violations in the Xinjiang province of China has been linked to at least 83 major corporations. In a report released by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) in February 2020, companies such as Nike, Gap, H&M, Apple, BMW, Gap, Huawei, Samsung, Sony and Volkswagen all have connections to the use of forced Uyghur labor in China. The report identified 27 factories in China that employ the use of labor transferred from Xinjiang.

Human Rights Violations of the Uyghur Population

Between 2017 and 2019, it is estimated that over 80,000 Uyghurs were moved out of Xinjiang to work in factories across China through labor transfer programs known as “Xinjiang Aid.”  The Chinese government refers to these job assignments as “vocational training” while maintaining that they are part of the “re-education” process assigned to the Uyghur population. These programs have all been identified in connection to the human rights abuses of the Uyghur population as a whole.

It is reported that surveillance tools are being used to monitor the Uyghur population in these programs and to restrict their freedom of movement. Additionally, it has been reported that they are subject to threats, arbitrary detainment and abusive working conditions.

Factories Identified and Company Responses

The companies identified in connection to this forced labor use include international brands that span across the technology, clothing and automotive sectors.

In the technology sector, Apple, Amazon, Samsung, Sony and Microsoft, among others, have been connected to factories that utilize forced labor in China. Amazon has issued a statement saying they do not tolerate the use of forced labor and will be investigating these findings further.

The Qingdao Taekwang Shoes Co. Ltd has been specifically connected to forced labor of the Uyghur population. Workers at this factory also attend a night school that seems to closely resemble the “re-education camps” in the Xinjiang province. Nike is this factory’s primary customer and released a statement saying that the factory has not recruited new workers from Xinjiang since last year and that it is seeking advice on the most responsible path toward handling the employment of the remaining workers from this region.

The Haoyuanpeng Clothing Manufacturing Co. Ltd is also identified as using forced labor. This factory’s corporate website cites partnerships with the companies Fila, Adidas, Puma and Nike. Adidas specifically stated that it does not have a current relationship with the company and is investigating this claim. Nike has also released a statement that it has no current relationship with the factory.

Since the release of ASPI’s report, H&M has ended a relationship with a Chinese yarn supplier due to its ties to forced labor.

The Global Supply Chain

The complexity of the global supply chain has undoubtedly made it more difficult for global corporations to monitor the connections of their suppliers to forced labor in China, but ASPI reached out to all 83 brands included in the report to confirm details of their suppliers as listed in the report.

Unfortunately, companies and consumers are now put at risk by purchasing goods that connect to forced labor. Investors in these 83 companies are potentially at risk as well. U.S. Congress has recently introduced legislation to protect investors through the requirement of disclosure of goods sourced from Xinjiang.

The End Uyghur Forced Labor Coalition

There are several advocacy groups dedicated to spreading awareness and furthering tangible steps to end the persecution and exploitation of the Uyghur population. The End Uyghur Forced Labor Coalition has written to 17 companies regarding the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (S. 3471), which is intended to end the use of forced labor from this region in supply chains. The coalition has also issued a call to action that aims for brands to remove all connections with suppliers that have used forced labor. This has been endorsed by investor organizations from more than 35 countries as well as more than 300 Uyghur groups, trade unions and civil society groups.

Ending Forced Uyghur Labor

Though most companies were not aware of the use of forced labor of Uyghurs, along with the awareness that was brought to light, action is also being taken by these companies to show that they do not support forced labor by any means. The End Uyghur Forced Labor Coalition is doing important work to continue bringing awareness to the issue and to protect the rights of this vulnerable minority population.

– Katherine Musgrave
Photo: Flickr

Beginning along the famed Silk Road’s winding trails, the story of being Uighur in the Xinjiang territory in China is one of lost prosperity and an eternal struggle against the oppression from outside forces.

The Uighur Plight

At the height of the Karahanid Kingdom in 934 A.D., the Uighur were a prosperous people. Their cities were epicenters of philosophical and scientific thought, and the capital city Kashgar was a bastion of Islam. This all ended with the invasion of the Manchu Empire and the eventual takeover of the Chinese Nationalists in 1911.

Xinjiang has since been designated as an autonomous region within China. Despite this, the Chinese government has implemented numerous policies in hopes of assimilating the Uighur people and crushing separatist movements. The Uighurs have now become a minority in Xinjiang as the Han Chinese have become the majority in the region’s urban areas. The Xinjiang have been abetted by government incentives, while the Uighurs have been largely confined to poor rural areas. The wealthy and influential capital city Urumqi is now approximately 75% Han Chinese.

Uighurs in Xinjiang have had their land redistributed to the Han migrants, leaving not enough farming land behind to make a living. According to Reuters, the Uighur people face discriminatory hiring practices with many businesses displaying signs banning them from applying for jobs. This marginalization along with growing poverty among the Uighur people has spurred increased resentment towards Beijing and the ruling Communist Party. In 2001, the Chinese government used 9/11 and the resulting American War on Terror to repress the Uighurs’ desire for independence and begin intense surveillance and military operations.

Surveillance and Re-education

According to Human Rights Watch, Beijing requires officers in the region to use what is called the Integrated Joint Operations Platform (IJOP) as part of the Strike Hard Campaign to track the movements of the Uighurs and other ethnic minorities. The IJOP operating system and app, created by state-owned contractors, is used to aggregate data and flag the location of those deemed potentially threatening. The app tracks the movement of phones and vehicles, alerting officials to what are considered suspiciously long trips. The IJOP app also prompts officials to keep the biometric data of every person, including fingerprints, DNA, and blood type.

The IJOP has become a key component in the next stage in Beijing’s ploy for control, particularly with the implementation of so-called “reeducation camps.” Such camps were created by the Regulations on De-extremification in March 2017, specifically designed to convert Uighurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities to the ideological beliefs of the Communist Party. All forms of traditional religious clothing, literature, and practice are considered extremist and cause for internment in the camps under the regulation. Any form of travel is reason enough for being labeled suspicious and possibly being sent to the camps. People of all ages, male and female, are at risk. Security checks and invasive checks have become part of everyday life in Xinjiang, making it impossible to escape suspicion.

Inside the re-education camps, detainees are forced to learn about the teachings and ideologies of the Communist Party. According to those who have been detained, individuals who fail to comply are punished severely. The penalties range from verbal abuse to food deprivation, solitary confinement, beatings, and the use of restraints and stress positions. Deaths inside the camps have been reported but there is no way to verify how many people have died and the circumstances concerning their deaths. The number of detainees also remains unknown. Estimates are in the hundreds of thousands, possibly nearing one million.

What Is Being Done?

In the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination’s (CERD) periodic report on China, the committee stated its concern that the poverty rates among ethnic minorities in Xinjiang remain high. CERD also stated its deep concern about “numerous reports of detention of large numbers of ethnic Uighurs and other Muslim minorities . . . without being charged or tried.” CERD urged China to halt the unlawful detention of individuals and immediately release those who have been detained.

U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet is currently seeking access to China to review these reports. However, Chinese officials claim the happiest Muslims in the world live in Xinjiang, as well as assert that “hostile Western forces” are simply misrepresenting and vilifying what is occurring in Xinjiang. The United States is preparing to enact a new round of sanctions against China over this mass imprisonment of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities. According to the Uyghur Humans Rights Project, these sanctions were previously halted due to trade negotiations with China during the G20 summit but have since been approved by all respective parties within the U.S. government.

Though the current situation for the Uighur people of Xinjiang remains dire, through diplomatic action by the U.N., the United States, and its allies are bringing awareness to the issue. Such dedication by international intervention has presented continued hope. Such hope is for a future where being Uighur in Xinjiang will cease to be a story of systematic oppression and instead will become a story of perseverance through great odds.

– Shane Thoma
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

China’s Foreign Aid
Despite the lack of official data and openness in Chinese policy on its aid programs, there has been a visible development over time in the ideology and quantity of China’s foreign aid programs, going from limited in scope to both global and influential. Just as China has evolved from being a net aid recipient to a major global aid donor, so have attempts by researchers to discern the effectiveness and implications of China’s increasing share of aid.

China’s Development Regarding Foreign Aid

China’s developments in foreign aid have strong ties to its own developmental history and situation. For instance, one can examine four noticeable and distinct time periods regarding its approach towards foreign aid. In its first phase, from 1949 to China’s adoption of the Reform and Opening-up Policy, foreign aid was primarily ideological and centered around competing with Taiwan for diplomatic recognition. For instance, it utilized foreign aid in order to encourage countries to vote favorably for or side diplomatically with China. By the end of 1975 (during the cultural revolution), foreign aid had amounted to 5.9% of total government spending. For comparison, the United Kingdom peaked in recent years at 0.7% of its GDP on foreign aid spending. Following the Reform and Opening-up Policy, aid took a complementary role to diplomatic cooperation and trade, shrinking in its ideological orientation.

China’s third phase of aid focused on international institutions as China became increasingly involved in international organizations, treaties and the global economy. Since 2013, in its most recent orientation, foreign aid has matched step with China’s greater economic role in the world as China has contributed more to global aid infrastructure such as the World Bank, and is finding its own ways of improving the effectiveness of its own aid.

The Evolution of Chinese Aid

The expansion and evolution of Chinese aid have come from two main factors, one domestic and one international. Most recently, China’s 13th five-year plan, covering the phase of 2016-2020, laid out an increasingly global agenda for China’s development, bringing up core principles such as sustainability, openness and inclusivity. It follows that China’s current agenda for foreign aid will adopt these development principles. Internationally, adoptions of U.N. resolutions such as the Paris Climate Agreements and the G20 Hangzhou summit have carried sustainable and global development goals into its aid agenda, helping China grow as an international leader in global sustainable development.

A Picture of China’s Foreign Aid

The very nature of estimating China’s foreign aid is challenging because the data itself is a state secret. An AidData report, published in late 2017 and meticulously computed and collected by hand over a period of five years, analyzed Chinese aid commitments from 2000-2014 and provides the most recent data. Furthermore, the nature of China’s foreign aid is unlike that of other major global aid donors because it follows its own unique logic. For instance, only as recently as 2018 had China’s foreign aid come under a single centralized body. Furthermore, Chinese aid tends to emphasize economic and infrastructure aid, coming in the form of export credits or near-market rate loans.

As a result of many of these factors, one can truly call little of China’s aid official development assistance (ODA), the most common type of foreign aid in the world today. In fact, one can consider just 22% of China’s aid ODA, while roughly 93% of U.S. aid is ODA. To illustrate the distinction, estimates using looser definitions of ODA find that in some years, China’s quantity of foreign aid has approached that of the United States. Other estimations of ODA in the strict sense find that China’s quantity of aid is comparable with that of countries such as Luxembourg.

Chinese Foreign Aid Around the World

Of China’s complicated foreign aid breakdown, the top three destinations of Chinese foreign aid around the world are Africa in first with 34% of all aid flow, Central and Eastern Europe with 16% and Latin America with 15%. When accounting for only ODA-like aid, however, aid takes on a more nuanced perspective. While Latin America keeps most of its share, now with 12% of ODA-like flows, Central and Eastern Europe receives only 3% of ODA-like flow, and Africa nearly doubles its portions, receiving 58% of China’s ODA-like aid flows.

The Benefits of China’s Foreign Aid

AidData ultimately concluded in its research that Chinese aid, contrary to some people’s fears, certainly did more good than harm. One point AidData made was that Chinese ODA would, on average, contribute to a 0.7% increase in economic growth two years after project commitments, although it did not find positive correlations between non-ODA aid and growth.

China’s evolution from net aid recipient to major global donor has been a transition that has kept pace with its financial development. Despite the shortlisting of available data and information, China is poised to overtake the U.S. as the largest aid donor in Africa if one considers all of the aid it gives. Mystery ultimately shrouds China’s aid, even today, and to know where the next stage of Chinese aid will go, it would be beneficial to follow China’s broader national development agendas which set the broader tone and direction of all economic efforts in the country. Given its expanded role in today’s world, China will likely continue on its overall trend of improving both the quantity and impact of its own foreign aid as it incorporates international development agendas, learning from and teaching others about its own economic lessons.

– Marshall Wu
Photo: Flickr

Roxburgh rose in GuizhouThe Guizhou Province, located in Southwest China, is famous for its beautiful landscapes, reigning mountain ranges and for being a multi-minority region. The province is landlocked, stretching “350 miles from east to west and 320 miles from north to south.” With that much land to cover, it’s no wonder agriculture is one of the main sources of income for rural communities. The crops grown in Guizhou are mainly graze crops including wheat, corn, rice, potatoes and beans. Unfortunately, the harvest is not enough to support local farmers. But, individuals in rural areas have found a great way to turn Guizhou’s natural environment into a booming market with flowers. The cultivation of the Roxburgh rose in Guizhou is helping the province rise out of poverty.

The Story of the Roxburgh Rose in Guizhou

The Roxburgh rose, also known as the chestnut rose, is a soft pink color with a yellow center. The petals are flatter and more spread out than the typical rose giving it the appearance of a large daisy. The plant grows a small, spiky, bitter fruit that many thought had no value. However, villagers who joined the Roxburgh rose industry realized it could be a reliable, profitable source.

The pungent, tart fruit of the rose is known for being extremely high in vitamins and minerals. Some companies claim it has the largest amount of vitamin c of any other fruit. From it, you can produce wine, sparkling beverages and dried candies.

In this region of China, it’s hard to grow continuous crops in the rocky landscape. In Xichong, a city in the Guizhou Province, a man named Ma Jinyou discovered his land had the perfect soil for growing Roxburgh roses. When a group of researchers from the South China University of Technology came to Guizhou to study the pedology of the region, they knew the conditions were ideal. According to Jinyou, a good harvest could bring in around five thousand kilograms of fruit. For that amount of fruit, Jinyou makes a profit of 30,000 yuans ($4,467.61). Soon, Jinyou was able to see his investment in the Roxburgh rose got him out of poverty.

In an article by en.people.cn (Daily People China) they state, “The industry helped 1,798 local people increase their annual income by an average of more than 9,000 yuan.” The Roxburgh roses in Guizhou are helping many individuals rise above the poverty line.

The Beginning of the Roxburgh Rose Industry

Although tourism has been an effective way to lower the poverty rates employing over 900,000 people, Guizhou has been creating opportunities for the rose market. On August 13, 2020 the Roxburgh rose industry was launched in Guizhou, China. Two companies emerged in Bijie to start up the creation of Roxburgh rose products, including The Guangyao Wanglaoji Cininghi Innovation Center and The Guangyao Wanglaoji Industry Company Limited. The two companies are planning to alleviate poverty throughout the Guizhou province by creating a new market and new jobs.

Beverages and dried candies are two of the latest products. GPHL’s chairman, Li Chiyuan, agreed that for every 12 cans sold of Roxburgh rose drinks, his company will donate two yuans to fighting poverty in Guizhou.

In support of the new changes, local institutes wanted to assist in reducing poverty. The Roxburgh rose in Guizhou is now part of research projects in hospitals and respiratory disease research to further discover the benefits of the flower.

– Jessica LaVopa
Photo: Flickr

eradicating rural povertyThe Huanjiang Maonan Autonomous County lies in Guanxi in southern China. A majority of China’s Maonan ethnic group live here in rural villages. Once considered one of China’s most impoverished places, the poverty rate has now dropped to under 2% thanks to efforts by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). By using advanced farming techniques and relocating people to more arable areas, CAS has provided a model for eradicating rural poverty in China.

CAS Goals

Just over 100,000 Maonan live in China, most in small rural villages. About 70,000 of them live in Huanjiang. In the 1990s, Maonan farmers grew mostly corn and sweet potatoes, barely scraping by. The Chinese government identified Huanjiang as one of the most impoverished counties in China.

Maonan villages were located in mountainous, rocky regions known as karst landscapes. These areas are prone to desertification and are unsuitable for farming. CAS started the Kenfu Huanjiang Ecological Migration Pilot Zone in 1996. Its two goals were to relocate people to new villages in areas more suitable for agriculture and to improve the livelihoods of those that refused to relocate.

New Farming Techniques and Solutions

CAS introduced advanced farming techniques that better suit the area. An important change was the shift from farming to livestock. Huanjiang is highly flood-prone so CAS helped plant various grasses that can support animals. Zeng Fuping, a researcher with CAS who has been in Huanjiang since 1994, remarked that “the farmers were unsure initially and they questioned growing something that they could not eat.” However, the results speak for themselves. Income has increased tenfold since the introduction of 200 cattle into the region in 2001. Not only do the grasses support livestock but they also help prevent soil erosion. They have helped prevent widespread desertification, which is a common problem in karst landscapes. This serves as a model for maintaining arable land in karst areas across China.

Eradicating Rural Poverty

The speed of poverty reduction in Huanjiang has been staggering. In 1996, the average resident only earned the equivalent of $45 per year. That number rose to $835 in 2012 and $1600 in 2019.

In 2015, more than 14,000 Maonan people in Huanjiang lived below the Chinese poverty line of $345 per year. This accounted for around 22% of all Maonan peoples living in the county. By 2019, less than 1.5% of Maonan lived in poverty, amounting to 548 people. Due to the efforts of CAS, Huanjiang is no longer an area of extreme poverty in China.

In all of Guanxi, CAS has helped facilitate 400,000 people with relocation to new villages. This includes a majority of the Maonan community. Poverty percentages in Huanjiang have dropped to single digits. Livestock farming has reduced soil erosion and given locals much more disposable income. UNESCO dubbed this strategy the “Kenfu Model” and it is an important example of eradicating rural poverty in China.

– Adam Jancsek
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in ChinaThe World Health Organization (WHO) reports that about 54 million people in The People’s Republic of China have depression and about 41 million have anxiety disorders. The psychiatrist-population ratio is at 1.49 to 100,000. This article discusses the obstacles and the plans to improving mental health in China.

COVID-19’s Impact

During the COVID-19 outbreak, China’s National Health Commission mobilized mental health workers and increased the volume of services. The Commission produced guidelines on mental healthcare protocols to curb psychosocial effects arising from the pandemic. The interventions included outreach programs by psychiatrists and other professionals. Additionally, hotline services offer psychological support to patients, survivors, as well as affected families, and healthcare workers alike. The most commonly reported psychiatric conditions associated with the outbreak were depression, PTSD, and anxiety disorders.

A nationwide survey of people, most of whom on lockdown, found that 16.5% had depressive symptoms, 28.8% had anxiety symptoms, and 8.1% had stress symptoms. Nevertheless, 71.5% of them were satisfied with the health information provided during the outbreak. The highest psychological impact was felt by women, students, and those who reported poor physical symptoms. During the lockdowns, psychiatric patients experienced more intense symptoms such as anger outbursts, insomnia, and suicidal ideation.

Alcohol and Tobacco Use Disorders

In China, alcohol is traditionally consumed during social functions and holidays. Over time, however, the WHO noted a rise in regular alcohol consumption and a subsequent impact on mental health, including alcohol dependence and alcohol use disorders (AUDs). A Beijing study showed that 2.4% of people with alcohol dependence were treated overall with only 1.4% receiving treatment from mental health professionals. Further research in China pointed to the need for early intervention in treating alcohol disorders. The WHO recommended educating both the public and healthcare workers on the importance of seeking mental health treatment for such issues.

Tobacco smoking has also negatively impacted mental health in China. With over 300 million cigarette smokers, China has the highest number of tobacco users in the world. The WHO partnered with the Chinese Government to control tobacco consumption and thereby reduce diseases and premature deaths arising from exposure to the harmful chemicals in cigarettes. The WHO also launched an initiative to curb tobacco dependence, training healthcare workers, and providing informational guidelines to tobacco users.

Promoting Mental Health in China

China needs reformations in its healthcare delivery system. The 2016 Policy on Building High-Quality and Value-Based Service Delivery details such reformations, aiming to move from a hospital-centered approach to a people-centered one that canvases both rural and urban areas. These changes call for a multi-tiered health care delivery system that strengthens primary care. China’s new delivery system aims to better monitor such quality of care, specifically by improving integrative management practices, building a strong healthcare workforce, and investing in community health. Additionally, the nation has made progress in attaining universal health coverage according to the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

In the Global Conference on Health in 2016, stakeholders emphasized the need for healthy cities to improve mental health in China and the world. Since the majority of Chinese people live in urban areas, many would benefit from interventions such as people-centered urban design, “greening”, and recreational spaces. To further promote mental health, China also targets to treat 80% of people with depression by 2030 and 30% by 2022.

To prevent AUDs, the WHO has recommended China strengthen policies that regulate alcohol commerce and increase education about safe alcohol consumption. In line with the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, China enacted a law that banned tobacco smoking in indoor public spaces and the mass media advertising of cigarettes. In a social media campaign dubbed #RUFREE, China supported smoke-free spaces while altogether decreasing tobacco use and curbing associated disorders.  Hopefully, China will continue to take steps to improve the mental and physical health of its citizens.

– Beth Warūgūrū Hinga
Photo: Pixabay

STEM Education Can Reduce povertyEducation has long been proven as a tool for poverty reduction. In fact, UNESCO estimates that if all people in low-income countries had basic reading skills, an estimated 171 million people could escape poverty. Education allows for upward socioeconomic mobility for those in poverty by providing access to more skilled, higher-paying jobs. In particular, STEM education can reduce poverty.

STEM Education

STEM refers to science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Because of the shifting focus toward STEM in the job market, millions of STEM jobs are opening up in developing countries. However, many go unfilled because of gaps in the STEM education pipeline. These jobs could be the key to helping the poor to improve their standards of living, but those in poverty often lack the education necessary for these jobs, such as in rural China.

Education Disparities in China

Education in China is becoming more accessible and comprehensive. Since the 1980s, the adult literacy rate has risen from 65% to 96% and the rate of high school graduates seeking higher education has risen from 20% to 60%. However, these gains are not equal across the country. Rural students in China have often been left behind in the education reform movement. More than 70% of urban students attend college while less than 5% of rural students do, partly because urban residents make about three times more than rural residents. Another reason has to do with parental support; a researcher at the University of Oslo found that over 95% of urban parents wanted their children to attend college, while under 60% of rural parents wanted the same.

Rural students also receive lower-quality education than urban students. Despite China’s Compulsory Education Law in 1986, rural schools often lack the ability to put the proposed reforms in place because they do not have the educational resources. Teachers are scarcer in village schools as most qualified professionals flock to the urban areas where there is a higher standard of living and higher pay. As a result, fewer rural students get into top colleges and therefore lose out on opportunities for advancement.

Generational Poverty and the Effect of STEM

Generational poverty refers to families that have spent two or more generations in poverty. This is especially common in rural areas where parents have a harder time generating the necessary income for their children’s education, which perpetuates the cycle of poverty when the children grow up. In rural China, about 5.1 million people live in the throes of generational poverty. This is due to a number of factors but a major one is lack of educational opportunities in the rural provinces.

STEM education can reduce poverty by helping children in rural provinces break the cycle of generational poverty. Since 2016, 248 high schools in poor areas have tuned into live lessons hosted by one of the top high schools in China, giving poor students the ability to receive the same education as their upper-middle-class peers. As a result, 88 of the participating rural students were admitted into China’s top two universities — universities that are estimated to have a rural population of only 1%.

Organizations for STEM Education

Some groups are working to bring STEM education to even younger students. In 2019, Lenovo, a technology company started in China, donated 652 sets of scientific toolboxes to primary schools in Huangzhong County, Qinghai Province, an area that is over 90% agrarian. The toolboxes contained materials that helped children perform science experiments and solved the problem of the lack of equipment in rural schools. Each toolbox, spread over 122 schools, helped 12 children at once and was reusable. In total, it enabled about 43,903 primary and secondary school students to become more scientifically literate and will prepare them better for future education and employment.

The Green & Shine Foundation is also helping teachers better instruct their students. It trains rural teachers in teaching necessary STEM skills to help lay the foundation for more STEM education later in their students’ lives. It also helps to develop curriculums and hold exchange programs with STEM schools so that rural teachers can observe and discuss new teaching methods. These efforts have helped 1,411,292 rural teachers and students across China.

STEM for Ending Generational Poverty

China has made strides in alleviating poverty, reducing its poverty rate every year since implementing major reforms. The Chinese government needs to prioritize investment in STEM education in rural provinces to close the education gap between rural and urban students and help bring an end to generational poverty. STEM education can reduce poverty globally.

– Brooklyn Quallen
Photo: Flickr

Solve Rural PovertyThe head of the United Nations International Labor Organization, Guy Ryder, praised China’s efforts to meet its goal to solve rural poverty by the end of 2020 despite the socioeconomic complications brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. He further highlighted the importance of China’s work toward achieving the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development goal of eradicating extreme poverty worldwide.

Transitional Monitoring Period

The relief campaign, which began in 2013, will remain in place after achieving the intended poverty reduction goals. Officials plan to institute a transitional period to monitor economic progress and prevent backsliding among those most recently lifted out of rural poverty. The transition period is also meant to introduce a shift from addressing absolute poverty to the wider goal of assisting poor agricultural regions.

Access for All: Digital Transformation

Advances in digital infrastructure have transformed internet access nationwide. In 2018, China’s Information Technology Ministry announced its goal to expand internet access to 98% of underprivileged areas. China achieved this goal in August 2019, resulting in an 8% increase in the number of internet users. Moreover, rural and urban regions enjoy the same internet quality and speed. This improvement in internet access has spurred new technological development projects, including 5G, blockchain and advanced logistics systems in rural areas.

E-commerce for the Rural Poor

As a result of this trend, consumption through e-commerce has been a key tool in aiding the rural poor. The China E-commerce Poverty Alleviation Alliance consists of 29 e-commerce platforms that allow Chinese farmers, who otherwise struggle to turn a profit, to list their products for sale online. E-commerce tools with the alliance have resulted in nearly $300 million USD worth of sales of agricultural products from underprivileged regions. Live streaming platforms are another increasingly effective method for rural farmers to increase the visibility of their products and reach out to new customers nationwide.

Rural Resettlements

Another prominent program to solve rural poverty is the rural resettlement program. This system relocates populations who live in ecologically dangerous or remote areas closer to urban regions to grant them access to better job opportunities, quality healthcare and formal education in cities.

One example is the resettlement of the Yi ethnic minority in Liangshan Yi autonomous prefecture in Sichuan province. Atule’er, also known as Cliff Village, is the mountainous and underdeveloped home of the Yi people, fostering little tourist attention or economic activity. The local government has resettled a large portion of the village to the more developed Zhaojue province and given villagers subsidized apartments.

Relocation Program Flaws

This relocation program and the rural poverty alleviation campaign as a whole, are not without flaws. Some relocated residents are unable to find work opportunities in their new city and must move back to their village since they can not afford the high cost of living. Even if some do gain access to economic opportunity in the city, many are concerned about what these relocations mean for minority cultures. Forced industrialization and urbanization is seen as a tool for the state to force non-Han ethnic minorities to assimilate and leave behind their traditional customs.

National-level disorganization has also drawn criticism. About 60% of citizens who should qualify for poverty-stricken status based on their income to receive welfare payments and subsidized housing from the state were not given the designation. Many other citizens were incorrectly recorded as poverty-stricken as a result of bureaucratic errors, misdirecting the benefits away from the millions of unaided rural poor.

China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation

Aside from state-led initiatives, which tend to draw the most controversy, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have also committed to solve rural poverty in China. The China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation (CFPA) is one such NGO that aided 4.19 million people and raised over 580 million yuan, about $91 million, in 2017 alone. One notable project is the “New Great Wall” Program which promoted increased access to education by providing scholarships and financial assistance to students from underprivileged backgrounds. The CFPA also engaged in the “Beautiful Countryside” Program to repair damaged houses, roads and infrastructure, both improve living conditions and promoting tourism in otherwise economically underdeveloped regions.

The Road Ahead

Despite China’s extensive steps, there is much room for improvement regarding respecting minority cultures and ensuring that the progress achieved thus far will be lasting. Thus, NGOs that build relationships with the local communities themselves are proving to be essential in the fight toward eradicating rural poverty.

– Neval Mulaomerovic
Photo: Flickr

Elderly Poverty in China
China has one of the largest elderly populations in the world. About 128 million people in China are over the age of 60. By the year 2050, there will be approximately 400 million people over the age of 60. Elderly poverty in China is a major concern, as 22.9% of the elderly population lives below the poverty line. This poses health concerns as well since there is a strong correlation between health and wealth. Of the elderly population, 26.2% of those living in poverty needed assistance with everyday activities compared to 22.7% of those above the poverty line. Fortunately, China has recognized a need to develop regulations and programs to help the elderly.

Caring for the Elderly

Elderly poverty in China is due in part to the struggles they face in caring for their own needs. Traditionally, the elderly would live with one of their children. It was the child’s duty to care for their elderly parents and make sure their needs were met. However, today children are more frequently moving out of their homes, leaving their parents to live alone. Family-based care is becoming impractical in China, as middle-aged children do not have the time to take care of their parents. More than 23% of China’s elderly population are now living alone.

The number of homes for the elderly is not enough to support the population. China currently has 289 pension homes that can only house 9,924 people. This only accounts for 0.6% of China’s population over 60. The rest of the population must fend for themselves when it comes to healthcare and housing.

Thankfully, regulations have been put in place to encourage private and foreign investment in homes for the elderly. The National Convention on Aging along with other departments has created a Five-Year Plan to increase access to healthcare and housing to the elderly population in an effort to solve elderly poverty in China.

China’s Five-Year-Plan

The first part of the plan includes allocating more beds for the elderly in hospitals. The number of beds in public hospitals and care agencies for the elderly will account for 50% of the total capacity by 2020. In addition, 35% of top-tier hospitals will have geriatric care departments. Healthcare and pension plans will be improved as well, with 90% of the population covered by basic pension insurance and 95% covered by basic health insurance.

Since 2019, wait times for the elderly to get into a nursing home has significantly decreased. Wait times before the plan could be as long as 20 years. Now, the elderly can be put on a waiting list and enter a private nursing home within one month.  The rise of private nursing homes in 2019 stemmed from multiple municipalities announcing nursing homes would no longer have to obtain permits. The government has also incentivized institutions to provide homes for the elderly. Community centers are granted a reduction in utilities and increased subsidies if they provide care to the elderly.

Hopefully, the plan will continue to alleviate the burden the elderly have of finding housing and care in China. Moving forward, it is essential that the government continues to prioritize the eradication of elderly poverty in China.

Rae Brozovich
Photo: Flickr

Drones in ChinaChina is a major industrial leader with a booming economy and population. However, upon closer examination, one finds that China has a rampant problem of poverty in its rural regions. Ironically, the areas most impacted are those that tout agricultural prowess. In fact, around five of China’s most impoverished counties are major cotton-producing areas. To help combat this, new and unconventional technologies are providing the solution to low agricultural yields and unsustainable farming practices. Meet drones — the latest in portable flying technology used to aid in the fight against poverty in rural China.

Here are three ways that drones and other networking and communication technologies have taken root in impoverished Chinese communities:

  1. Drones and satellite imagery: Drones monitor the well-being of crops from the sky and assist in spraying chemicals and other supplements. Drones can also take photos of crop fields and relay these images back to farmers. The photos can determine the exact amount of soil, water and other resources needed for their agriculture to thrive. This practice is dubbed as “precision agriculture.” With the help of technology, this technique is increasingly applied to crops like corn and soy in subsistence-based China. More than 55,000 agricultural drones are currently in use in China. They have sprayed pesticides over an estimated 30 million hectares of land, according to the director of the China Agrotech Extension Association.
  2. Boosting yield and incomes: In 2019, nearly 4,500 drones in the Chinese province of Xinjiang accomplished agricultural productivity for 65% of the cotton fields in the region. Although it may seem as though drones are stealing jobs from the average working farmer, their subsequent introduction actually raised Xinjiang’s cotton output by 400,000 tons. An increase of $430 million in revenue is another result of the use of drones. Furthermore, one drone can do the work of sixty farmers in one hour and can spray pesticides 50 to 80 times faster than traditional farming. Thus, an efficient agricultural and harvesting environment is created. Drones essentially stimulate economic growth and support the rural working class in China by removing time and labor costs from the equation, helping farmers escape poverty.
  3. New networks: Drones are well-suited to the rugged farming environment in China. They can fly high above a grassy region or traverse difficult terrains often found within rural regions. These drones have easy adaptability and control through cell phones. This is especially useful for farmers who cannot entirely survey those areas individually. Additionally, farming data from drones has allowed farmers to access weather and disaster warnings, allowing them to prepare in advance. Those features inspired the government to conjure up a new idea: internet towers. China’s Ministry of Commerce employed a widespread plan to apply e-business to over 80% of its villages to combat poverty. Farmers utilize so-called e-commerce service stations, with the help of these newly created network and cable signals, to reach new markets to sell their products. In fact, online retail sales of agriculture have seen a significant yearly increase of 25.3%, with rural areas constituting a majority of this percentage.

The innovative and real-life applications of drones are virtually limitless and present a new way of combating global poverty. This Chinese experiment shows positive results and could soon become emblematic of drone-based agriculture on a much larger scale. In turn, this will help farmers that struggle with low agricultural yields, integrate them into an increasingly tech-based economic environment and lift them out of poverty.

– Mihir Gokhale
Photo: Pixabay