News and insight on poverty in China.


Poverty in China today primarily refers to the rural poor, as the country’s economic growth over the past few decades has led to the majority of urban poverty being eradicated. But while local Chinese governments have implemented many programs and policies in an effort to aid China’s poorest regions, there is still one major factor that researchers say China is forgetting about: language. In a lot of ways, language and its variations affect poverty in China.

Language Statistics in China

Geography plays a huge role in analyzing the relationship between spoken Chinese languages and poverty. China’s last national census reported that the nation has more than 1.38 billion inhabitants, many of whom are located in the urban areas of Eastern China. Studies of China’s urbanization trends also reveal a migration of the nation’s various ethnic groups. The main language of the most urbanized cities is determined by the ethnic group that populates that area the most. With 91.51 percent of the Chinese population being Han Chinese, standardized Mandarin is the most commonly spoken language across the nation.

The remaining 8.41 percent of the Chinese population is made up of 55 other ethnic groups. This part of the population, though a minority in terms of the general population makeup, accounts for the majority of those who are located in rural Chinese areas. The Chinese central government has identified 14 of these rural provinces as areas of concentrated poverty. These areas have their own distinct languages and cultures, speaking one of 200 dialects from five main dialectical groups, out of which Mandarin Chinese is only one. Furthermore, around 30 percent of these ethnic minorities are illiterate and unable to speak Mandarin, the main language in the country. As such, many of these ethnic minorities remain isolated from provincial opportunities that may help them rise out of poverty.

Government’s Work

There has been an increase in attention from regional and local Chinese governments in terms of addressing the education gap between urban and rural communities. One expert, Zhu Weiqun, even states that the Chinese government needs to do more to teach these ethnic groups standardized Mandarin, as this has been a primary influencer in the development and urbanization of cities like Beijing. This type of education will provide these ethnic minorities with the lasting ability to access other jobs apart from farming, that will enable them to earn enough money to feed and clothe themselves without such a strong dependency on governmental programs.


Understandably, there is also the problem of resistance from certain ethnic minority groups, particularly Muslims, who feel that their language is integral to their cultural identity. As such, the government is tasked with encouraging the standardization of its most commonly spoken dialect in a way that does not simultaneously alienate any one ethnic group. This cycle of promotion and rejection is integral to the way that language continues to affect poverty in China.

– Jordan Washington

Photo: Unsplash

Seven Facts About Migrant Children in China
The world’s largest migration, known as the ‘floating population,’ has not only affected China’s economic reform, but has shaped millions of children. In 2017, a
report stated that China has an “estimated 287 million rural migrant workers” to look for greater job opportunities. UNICEF has approximated that nearly 100 million children have been affected by this change, and many put in harm. Here are seven facts about migrant children in China.

7 Facts About Migrant Children in China

  1. According to the journal, “Chinese Education and Society,” 35.81 million children of those affected by the migration migrate to the city with their parents, while around 70 million were left behind in their rural hometowns.
  2. Migrant children who move to the cities often lack the same access to social services as other children such as: education, healthcare and support. This lack occurs due to the Hukou system, a system that registers one in the hometown that he or she was born, and prohibits those outside of the city to receive the same benefits as their urban-hukou-holding counterparts.
  3. Many children are left behind in the countryside and often have little to no family support; in fact, most are raised by their grandparents and have little contact with their parents. According to a 2013 survey in Shandong, “75 percent of [left-behind children’s] parents visited home just once a year during the Spring Festival.”
  4. There are around 36 million minors who will join the next generation of migrant workers. Many included in the new generation of migrant laborers — the children of current migrant workers — have a strong desire to assimilate to the city. However, many of their urban-hukou-holding counterparts do not view these populations as “one of them.”
  5. A study conducted in 2013 showed that of 300 Beijing public and migrant schools compared to that of rural schools in Shaanxi, rural schools had twice the amount of qualified teachers than migrant schools in Beijing.
  6. The Chinese government recognized that migration brought numerous negative consequences to many migrant children. Although the State Council passed the State Council’s Decision on Reforming and Developing Elementary Education, the State Council stated, “We should pay more attention to resolve the problems of migrant children to have compulsory education…We should adopt various ways to resolve the problems and protect migrant children’s right to have compulsory education in laws.”
  7. Numerous NGOs have worked with the government to improve conditions for migrant children. For example, UNICEF has began working on a pilot project targeted at improving migrant children’s access to education and healthcare in the city.

Room to Grow

These facts about migrant children in China represent migration’s profound impact on a country and its people. Although China has made leaps and strides to recognize the issue, there is still work to be done to ensure that the next generation receive the same benefits and opportunities as any other child.  

– Emma Martin
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Beijing
Where media centers around the progressive, global standpoints, over 43 million people who survive on less than 2,300 yuan ($350 a year), bustle their way through the busy streets of China. This eye-opening issue of poverty is especially troublesome (and prevalent) in the city of Beijing, and is not alone on the list of unsettling facts about poverty within the city. Unfortunately, poverty in Beijing is a fact of life for many residents.

10 Facts About Poverty in Beijing

  1. Five hundred million people — 40 percent of the population in China — get by on less than $5.50 a day. This is the cost of a single specialty coffee in many cities, including Beijing which is one of the more expensive cities in China.
  2. Premier Li Keqiang wishes to move 100 million rural residents into the cities by 2020. He claims that “urban life brings higher standards of living” and it “increases domestic consumption to rebalance China’s export-reliant economy.” Though the government did not want these residents to move into major cities such as Beijing, subsequent influx was difficult to control.
  3. The government of Beijing disliked this movement and capped its population, along with destroying entire city blocks in order to remove current migrants and other vulnerable people. Beijing is attempting to push these people to smaller cities like Liaocheng, Zhengzhou and Ankang.
  4. About 50 percent of immigrants struggle to find stable jobs in these small cities because of the unfamiliarity and absence of social networks. These people are incentivized to move based on the promises of expenses — such as housing — paid by the government.
  5. If land is seized by the government during this movement, owners will only receive a pay of about 5 to 10 percent of the land’s actual value, if any money at all. This tends to happen often, due to the limited property rights of the villagers.
  6. China’s government has spent the majority of its money on infrastructure, in order to incentivize voluntary moves of residents to Beijing rather than forcing constituents from their homes. However, this plan may drive China further into debt, rather than helping its economy in the country as a whole.
  7. Beijing’s government has a more committed approach to fighting poverty than Hong Kong. The leadership wishes to put an end to the extreme hardship by 2020 — a key fact about poverty in Beijing.
  8. Beijing adjusts its poverty line for inflation each year. As of 2017, 43 million of the 1.3 billion fell below the line. Beijing’s poverty line rests at 2,300 yuan ($350 a year), but the World Bank’s global standards for extreme poverty is set at $700 a year.
  9. China has been in the lead for the world’s poverty-reduction efforts for four decades. The population pulled over 700 million people out of poverty so far. This is great news, but the world should continue its optimism with caution — China is at risk of its efforts becoming lost due to corruption of poverty alleviation funds.
  10. China allocated over 140 billion yuan ($20.5 billion) toward poverty alleviation in 2017 alone. Beijing uses this money to develop industries (such as tourism and e-commerce), bring more education and occupational training to children and develop public health services in poor areas.

Strong Momentum

Though the city clearly has a few more hurdles to jump in the race to alleviate poverty by 2020, the key facts about poverty in Beijing prove that the city is well on its way to reaching its goals.

Through migration, dedication and funding, the government of Beijing has proved its commitment to helping those struggling to get back on their feet and find stable jobs in the ever-growing economy.

– Raven Patzke 

Photo: Flickr

facts about poverty in tianjinTianjin is a metropolis in China near Beijing, located in the North China Plain region. It is one of four cities that are directly controlled by the Chinese central government. Tianjin is one of the most populous cities in China, and its economy has been growing at an astonishing speed. In 2016, it achieved the goals of its twelfth Five-Year Plan (2011-15). Its overall GDP reached ¥1.65 trillion, or $252 billion. Its average annual GDP growth during these five years was 12.4 percent.

However, poverty still exists. Despite Tianjin’s overall economic growth, some serious problems hide below the surface and cannot be ignored. These facts about poverty in Tianjin help shed light on these hidden issues.

10 Facts About Poverty in Tianjin

  1. There are 16 city-governed districts in Tianjin. Each district has a specific economic strength. However, the economic development of Hongqiao District is driven by wholesales and retail, which is not enough to improve the district’s standard of living as the population increases.
  2. Heping District, Hexi District, Nankai District, Hedong District, Hebei District and Hongqiao District are the six most developed districts in Tianjin. For example, there are many financial activities in Heping District and business trades in Hexi District. Technology development is very significant in Nankai District, and in Hebei District, there are many creative and innovative ideas to facilitate better living standards. The overall quality of life is good in these districts thanks to their prosperity,
  3. According to research on urban poverty in China, if the income of a household is lower than ¥210 ($33) per capita per month, that household is considered to be living in poverty.
  4. There are many internal Chinese migrants in Tianjin, and the rate keeps rising. The majority of migrants are around 15 to 59 years old, totaling 77 percent of all migrants. Many of them come to Tianjin to seek job opportunities. However, a large number of them begin with low-income jobs, such as construction workers and bricklayers.
  5. There is very limited usable water for Tianjin citizens. There are a total 15 million people in the city, but only 4.9 percent of the water is drinkable.
  6. Since Tianjin is very close to Beijing and Hebei, these three cities comprise the Beijing mega-region. Four years ago, President Xi Jinping announced a plan to integrate rural villages near the mega-region with the three cities. Many farmers in these villages do not have a heating system in the winter, and they even cannot afford firewood to warm themselves. The announced plan redistributes resources equally, so village citizens are consistently provided with basic needs.
  7. In March, Tianjin Party Chief Li Hongzhong stated that it was no longer feasible for Tianjin to rely on old industries, and that Tianjin should transition to a tech-based economy. Its aim for GDP growth in 2018 is 5 percent. To achieve this goal, there will be a “revolution” in Tianjin government management, and officials will focus more on improving living conditions of households who are below the poverty line. 
  8. There is a plan called the rural settlement which provides living spaces for people in historically impoverished areas and reconstructs the countryside. This plan has had outstanding effects so far. Rural areas are gradually urbanizing, and living conditions are getting better.
  9. The average housing price in Tianjin in 2017 was ¥26,687 per square meter (around $4,300). However, the average salary in 2017 was only ¥6,733 per month (about $1,100). The huge difference puts a lot of pressure on both urban and rural citizens to afford housing.
  10. Tianjin Binhai New Area was established in 2009. It is Tianjin’s main urban area. It has followed the economic development pattern of Beijing and Shanghai, and now it is the wealthiest district in Tianjin. Its economy is mainly dominated by business and tourism.

Overall, even though Tianjin’s economy looks good on paper, these 10 facts about poverty in Tianjin illustrate the problems that government officials need to focus on. However, as shown above, the government is taking action to solve these problems, and more policies are being enacted to facilitate this process and improve the lives of those in poverty.

– Judy Lu

Photo: Unsplash

poverty in china
By the year 2020, according to most financial and political analysts, China will surpass the U.S. as the largest economy on the planet. The World Bank even reported that China opening itself to free-market reforms in the last few decades managed to raise more than 800 million people out of poverty in China.

The Positives

In addition to this positive news, the financial institutions also added the reassuring fact that thanks to this unprecedented growth rate, the Chinese economy improved the living standards for a massive percentage of its population. A closer look at the data reveals how in 1981, 88.3 percent of China’s population lived on less than $1.90 a day (roughly 870 million people), and 99.1 percent lived on less than $3.10 a day (over 980 million people).

The last reported year for which the World Bank gathered official data is 2010, and the results are staggering — only 11.2 percent (almost 150 million people) lived in poverty in China in 2010. The overall prospect, then, seems quite promising; however, there are some further considerations of note in regard to this set of data.

The Divide

Taking into account China’s enormous social and economical strides since the Communist Party took power, one can see that there is a massive divide in income between rural and urban areas.

More specifically, in 1978 only 23 percent of the population was employed in urban areas; by 2014, over 770 million Chinese citizens were urban workers. Such figures acknowledge the significant improvement in the urbanization process, while also concealing the fact that the rest of population still lives and works in rural areas.

Those families are largely stuck in the same economic and social distress they were before the Communist revolution and unfortunately, haven’t made significant steps forward. Other statistics reveal how China’s per capita GDP, for example, is still very much below the standards of a developed country. It ranked, in fact, at $6,894.50 in 2016, which is 55 percent below the world’s average.

The Question

How can a country whose GDP grows at an annual rate of 6.9 percent still have children begging on the streets and families living on less than $2 a day? While it’s hard to provide a definite answer, a few considerations are worth bringing forth about the Chinese political system.

The country is still ruled by a one-party system which owns and controls the vast majority of enterprises and sectors of the economy. Private property is still very weakly protected and the judicial system is dominated by the Communist Party that arbitrarily appoints judges and influences court operations and verdicts.

Moreover, the regulatory framework is also arbitrary and very intricate — details that make it difficult for a private enterprise to blossom and grow. Corruption is also a massive issue which, when paired with the state-controlled financial system and state-owned enterprises, highly depresses foreign investments and contributes to enriching the economic elite and maintaining poverty in China.

China has made improvements in its poverty alleviation efforts, but there is clearly still room for improvement. Only time will tell how the nation keeps up with its progress.

– Luca Di Fabio

Photo: Flickr

As China continues its efforts to lift its citizens out of poverty, initiatives have been established to help those living in rural communities. The government has created the twelfth Five Year Plan that aims to alleviate poverty and focuses on people in rural China, who are more susceptible to poverty than those who live in metropolitan parts of the country.

The plan states that China plans to “lift all of its poor out of poverty by 2020,” by mainly focusing on people living in the nation’s 128,000 poor villages and 832 counties. The plan further encourages the development of competitive industries in areas that include agriculture and tourism to help pursue the goal of alleviating poverty by 2020.

Beyond the government’s efforts to support citizens in rural communities, migrants from these communities, who previously moved to metropolitan cities for better opportunities, are moving back to their hometowns and villages to set up businesses to help progress these areas.

A cause for this shift is attributed to favorable policies implemented to help progress the lives of people in rural China. The Chinese government has created policies that focus on improving rural infrastructure, providing subsidies, streamlining registration procedures, improving financial services and setting up entrepreneurial parks.

In recent years, approximately seven million returnee migrants have established agriculture-based enterprises in their hometowns and villages. Estimates state that the number of returnee migrants is increasing by 10 percent each year. As a result, The Ministry of Agriculture states that at least eight new jobs on average have been created for people in rural China when businesses are set up by returnee migrants.

What is Agritourism?

One industry that has been proven effective in alleviating poverty in rural China is the agritourism industry, which has seen increased interest by both developing and developed countries with large agriculture industries. Agritourism can be defined as the act of tourists visiting a farm or ranch for leisure, recreation or educational purposes.

The increased interest in agritourism can be attributed to tourists’ increased understanding of environmental protection and a heightened interest in improving the quality of life for those who live in rural China. The urban economy in China has also contributed to this popularity with its growing economy and raised awareness of healthy living, which has increased the demand for organic products and rural tourism.

The Results of Agritourism

The past six years have brought success to the agritourism industry and have helped bridge the economic gap between the urban economy and rural economy in China.

In 2012, there were roughly 1.7 million leisure farming and agritourism businesses that were created and helped create employment for 6.9 percent of the total rural labor force. These enterprises brought in an annual revenue of over 240 billion yuan from the 800 million tourists who visited rural China.

In 2016, the number of tourists increased to 2.1 billion people, who brought in and estimated 570 billion yuan that helped 6.72 million households in rural China.

Needed Improvements to the Agritourism Business Model

Even though agritourism has proven successful for millions of citizens, there are still sectors in the agritourism industry that need improvement.

There have been numerous issues that have arisen concerning agritourism and how to sustain the industry, so it can become a more reliable avenue to help alleviate poverty in China. These issues include problems with sanitation practices, lack of program planning and lack of reliable research and monitoring systems.

Also, with rural residents offering tourists “rural-style themed” food and accommodations, these practices have hindered further development of the agritourism industry. Solutions proposed have been to encourage the government to “help logistically and practically by integrating education resources in vocational institutions and by providing tailored training services for the new farmers.”

With efforts underway to improve the livelihoods of China’s rural residents, and with agritourism having already been proven as a successful industry, only time will tell whether this industry can be enough to lift people in rural China out of poverty for good by 2020.

– Lois Charm

Photo: Flickr

success of ChinaOver the years, the great success of China in lifting people out of extreme poverty has come from a variety of factors, including developing-country wages amid well-developed infrastructure, innovation in consumer electronics, building poor people’s earnings and more.

In the 1980s, China launched major efforts to build dams, irrigation projects and highways. By the early 2000s, China had a combination of low, developing-country wages and good, almost-rich-country infrastructure, according to Arthur Kroeber, founding partner at Gavekal Dragonomics, a China-focused research consultancy founder.

The combination of low-wage workers with a basic education drew foreign investment in factories and created millions of jobs. China’s per capita GDP went from less than $200 to more than $8,000.

Chinese manufacturing exports shifted significantly from agriculture and soft goods like textiles and clothing to higher-value items like consumer electronics and appliances. When the barriers came down for markets, China’s global exports boomed, helping the country rise out of poverty.

The success of China lifting 730 million people out of extreme poverty is due to impressive growth and policies that favored improvements in incomes and livelihoods for the poorest.

The Chinese government has made important strides in a number of areas identified by researchers as essential to building poor people’s earnings. This includes early childhood development and nutrition, universal health coverage, universal access to quality education, cash transfers to poor families, rural infrastructure-especially roads and electrification-and progressive taxation.

According to the World Bank, the key challenges ahead include further improving access to better jobs through further reforms in the household registration system, strengthening poverty data, the targeting of poverty programs to the remaining poor who may be harder to reach, such as the elderly and ethnic minorities, and improving the targeting and depth of China’s main social safety net, dibao.

The country continues to address the issue of poverty and is rolling out a three-year plan to tackle poverty in the rural western province of Xinjiang. Officials aim to lift 400,000 people out of poverty, according to China’s state news agency. There is hope that even more people will be lifted out of poverty in the future and that there will continue to be stories about the success of China.

– Julia Lee

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Northwest ChinaNorthwest China is comprised of three provinces (Qinghai, Gansu and Shaanxi) and two autonomous regions (Xinjiang and Ningxia). The overall population of this region is about 100 million. The rates of poverty of all five of these administrative divisions rank among the top ten in mainland China. It was roughly estimated that by the end of 2016, 12 million people in this region were still living below the national poverty line of $348 in annual net income.

Major reasons for the high rate of poverty in northwest China include the harsh deserts, plateaus and mountains, dry climates and natural disasters. Many areas in this region lack resources and basic infrastructure. Many cities and counties are enduring insufficient power supply and inconvenient transportation. In addition, incomes remain low, and basic facilities for education, health and other public services are poor.

Recently, quite a few different measures have been implemented for alleviating poverty in northwest China. Officials in Xinjiang relocated about 26,100 persons living in poverty in 2016 and raised $627 million of relocation funds for poverty reduction in 2017. The government of Qinghai aims to further exploit the advantages of tourism on reducing poverty by pairing 10,000 villages with private companies within five years.

The All-China Women’s Federation offers direct assistance for poverty alleviation by training women to improve their working capabilities and handcraft skills. Projects in the Shaanxi and Ningxia regions were also proposed in China’s thirteenth five-year plan.

The poverty rate among most ethnic minorities is relatively high, which stems from factors such as attitudes toward girls’ education and dependence on government assistance. Hence, it is necessary to reinforce the importance of education and gender equality and to encourage local people to go out seeking better jobs.

An important issue is reforming the strategy of poverty alleviation, by gradually replacing the conventional aid model with the participatory anti-poverty model. Tim Harvey’s work in Ningxia emphasizes the rights of the poor to participate, respects their enthusiasm and motivations to get rid of poverty. This strategy aims to enhance their viability to survive and expand their legal rights to gain wealth.

Besides the measures mentioned above, the Chinese central government attaches great importance to the development of medical care and nutrition support in northwest regions with ethnic minorities. Meanwhile, protecting the local natural environment, reinforcing the guiding role of religious groups and implementing the strategy of sustainable development are all keynote strategies on reducing poverty in northwest China.

One typical example is the Yinchuan Minning Agriculture Project in Ningxia, from which 35,000 local villagers were benefited by relocation and opportunities for income growth.

Alleviating poverty in northwest China represents another long march at present. As a region with the highest rate of returning poverty, it requires intensive concerns on protecting the rights and opportunities for the poor. By gradually changing the methods of poverty reduction and allowing the vast majority of the poor to participate, greater achievements can be made in the long-term project.

– Xin Gao


Helping the poor in China has been a large project in the past thirty years, with the Chinese population of poverty decreasing more than 800 million. The decrease in China’s impoverish contributed to eliminating half the population of extremely poor in the world. Nevertheless, according to last year’s data statistics, there are still 70~80 million poor people in China, indicating a 6 percent poverty rate of the overall population, and one-tenth of the rural population. The government of mainland China plans to spend another 5-6 years helping to get rid of the rest of poverty, especially the 40 million who extremely needs financial help.

Ways of Global Aid 

Universal ways of helping the poor in China include increasing opportunities for compulsory education, making donations, releasing farmers from the line of poverty and building up nonprofit projects, such as the Hope Project and the United Nations Development Programme. Several strategies also require public attention to improve the living status of people in poverty.

To begin, it is incredibly important to understand the origin of poverty — the root cause of the poor — rather than just give donations. Money can release the problems of daily life in the short term while teaching proper ways of increasing income and helping improve the morals of the rich can lead to sustainable happiness in the long run. Recruiting helpful volunteers, providing complementary services and helping individuals point-to-point are supplemental ways of helping the poor in China.

Propagation is another effective way to provide help to the poor in China. Due to unexpected misfortunes such as employment loss, family misfortune, or business failure, the public works to survive the temporary difficulties, and then assist the poor in recovery.

Participating in a charitable institute or nonprofit organization and promoting legislation and discussions on hot topics can also help to reduce poverty within labor populations.

Identifying Poverty in China

Since the cutoff line of poverty increases year to year, the natural growth rate of annual income for any involved people does not represent the actual improvements of their living conditions. As a result, conclusions are arbitrarily made towards people under the poverty line. For instance, many reasons may cause the poor to suffer from severe diseases or psychological problems, such as taking drugs or undergoing bad treatment, but these factors may not be considered by the general population tests.

So providing helpful aids requires specific analysis, while solving problems urges practical use. Global support in collaboration with whole-hearted programs that promote self-dignity suggests better treatment and higher efficiency are all methods that will help to save the poor in China.

In large cities or small villages, and despite the quick growth of the economy, poverty can exist in any unnoticed corner. For organizations to help save the poor, they must focus on collaboration with people urgently in need — institutes attempting to help the poor in China (especially in remote, rural areas) are expected to provide resources while the people on duty provide encouragement to the impoverished.

The Chinese government has a five-year plan to eliminate poverty, but this is a relatively short-term goal. They should really focus on alleviating the unbalance of social wealth, improving existing environments and legal rights, and providing opportunities such as healthcare, education, employment insurance, and sufficient welfare to truly aid the poor in the long-term.

– Xin Gao

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in China
In its latest five-year plan, China announced an ambitious goal to lift 56 million people out of poverty by the year 2020. Considering that in the last 30 years the number of people lifted out of poverty in China accounts for more than 70 percent of the world’s total, this goal seems ambitious, but not impossible.

The plan outlines two main goals: the first is to double China’s GDP and per capita income 2010 levels by 2015, and the second is to build a modern socialist country that is democratic, culturally advanced and prosperous.

Since 1978, China has made great strides in reducing poverty. Leading up to 2015, the rural population of China in poverty decreased from 770 million people to 55.75 million. This means that China succeeded in lifting more people out of poverty than anywhere else in the world.

Between 2000 and 2010, per capita income increased fivefold, from $1,000 to $5,000, moving China into the ranks of middle-income countries. This was largely due to a growing labor market and a period of economic growth.

Though poverty in China is undergoing an incredible transformation, up to one person per 10 in the country remains poor. Poverty in China is still a real and undeniable problem, considering over 252 million people still live on less than two dollars a day.

A lot of this is a result of a substantial gap in education, which is widely considered to be a key factor in eliminating poverty. The rural and urban sectors of China have completely different standards for education; the urban students attend state-of-the-art facilities while the rural are subjected to substandard education in deteriorating buildings with poor materials.

Nonetheless, poverty in China is on a fast and steady decline, and will hopefully reach its intended goal of being eradicated by 2020.

Mayan Derhy

Photo: Flickr