News and insight on poverty in China.


Poverty in China
In recent years, poverty in China was cut poverty in half making it one of the great success stories.

“China is doing well, but you still see children begging on street corners with horrible diseases,” said university student Ariqua Furse, whose mother emigrated from Hong Kong.

By 2020, China will replace the U.S. as the biggest economy, according to Standard Chartered Bank. Much of the world anticipates China becoming the global superpower, with its increasing overseas investments and influence.

However, it has a ways to go if it wants to match these expectations within five years. China is polarized by its advancing technologies and a large number of people that remain impoverished. Tall glass-and-steel skyscrapers loom over gritty, crumbling slums.

Part of the problem is the lack of education in rural areas, which keep families steeped in poverty.

“Kids in some southern provinces don’t have access to education,” said Ji Da, a native of Chengdu, Sichuan. “We send them clothes.”

Because much of the population is doing well and China functions like a healthy first world country, it’s not easy to determine the full extent of poverty in the country.


10 Facts about Poverty in China:

  1. China is one of the top five poorest countries in the world.
  2. One in 10 Chinese is poor.
  3. At least 82 million people in China live below the poverty line.
  4. Two hundred thousand Chinese don’t have access to electricity.
  5. The Chinese yuan is less valuable in areas with a greater gender imbalance.
  6. Close to 70 million earn an annual income of 2,300 yuan ($376).
  7. Over 6 million Chinese don’t have access to clean fuel to heat their homes and cook.
  8. Three-quarters of global poverty reduction between 1990 and 2005 occurred in China.
  9. About 12.3 million people rose above the poverty line in 2013.
  10. Since 2013, the percentage of Chinese living below the poverty line has been cut nearly in half.

China has made significant progress in recent years in reducing poverty and is continuing to do so. Beijing hosted the 2015 Social Good Summit to raise awareness for the Sustainable Development Goals, which include eradicating poverty.


Poverty in China Graph

During the conference, Tencent, Inc., China’s largest Internet service portal, relayed its efforts to reduce the digital divide between urban and rural areas of China.

Ji reported that the Chinese government is building schools and “government-subsidized housing for the poor.”

If the country can face the facts about poverty in China and stabilize the economy, it will be well on its way to matching, and even surpassing, the U.S. economy in 2020.

Sarah Prellwitz


Sources: MIC, All Girls Allowed, UNDP, Forbes, IB Times, Index Mundi, RT, Rural Poverty Portal, The Guardian, Personal Interviews
Photo: Pixabay

Ending Poverty Through Tourism in China

China has announced it will work on moving 12 million people out of poverty by developing the country’s tourism industry. On May 19, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang stated that over the next five years, China will make a great attempt towards ending poverty through tourism development. The Premier made this announcement at the inaugural World Conference on Tourism Development in Beijing.

While China is best known for its rich urban cities, many rural areas are still steeped in poverty. According to the International Fund for Agricultural Development, approximately 40 percent of China’s poor live in rural areas. China hopes to boost tourism to rural areas so that more money flows through these regions.

By developing their tourism industry, China will also be able to increase the number of jobs available to individuals. According to Xinhua, tourism makes up only 4.9 percent of China’s gross domestic product, yet directly employs 28 million people.

In 2013, the BBC discussed the way in which tourism development is directly linked to poverty alleviation. The article quoted the acting Chief Executive of the Travel Foundation U.K. as saying, “Tourism has been described as the world’s largest transfer of resources from rich to poor.”

However, the Foundation also asserted that it was difficult for these resources to stay within poor areas. While China’s rural and natural areas may attract foreigners, it is crucial that the Chinese government reinvests tourism profits back into these communities.

This strategy of poverty alleviation through tourism is not new: The United Nations’ World Tourism Organization Network created an initiative in 2002 called Sustainable Tourism – Eliminating Poverty that aims to support developing countries, improve and grow their tourism industry and bring communities out of poverty.

China’s five-year plan for ending poverty through tourism development comes after the United Nations’ announcement in December that 2017 would be the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. According to the United Nations’ World Tourism Organization, in terms of international arrivals, China was already the third most visited country in the world in 2015, a mark they hope only to build on in the future.

Isabella Farr

Photo: Flickr

As China Solves Its Urban Poverty Crisis, Inequality Still Prevails
With the recent explosion in Tianjin and stock market failings grabbing headlines, it’s hard to believe that any good news can come out of China. New data, however, proves otherwise.

The most recent survey in the China Household Income Project (CHIP) provides some promising statistics concerning China’s urban poverty dilemma. According to the survey, the number of people living below the poverty line in China’s cities was just 1.6 percent.

Although the data won’t be formally released until next year, it falls in line with China’s growing reputation as a country that has truly helped lift its citizens out of poverty. Per capita income across the country saw a fivefold increase between 2000 and 2010, mirroring an almost identical increase the previous decade.

Inequality across China is still a prevailing issue even in the face of such positive data. Gender and regional equality are still large problems and China’s Gini Coefficient for income equality was 0.473 in 2013, a high number on the scale where 0 is a perfectly equal society.

Income inequality in today’s China is among the highest in the world, especially in comparison to countries with comparable or higher standards of living,” University of Michigan sociologist Yu Xie told Bloomberg Business in 2014.

According to the United Nations, a number higher than .4 is likely to cause “social unrest,” and if current events in China are any indication, that assumption is correct. While China is making significant strides in eliminating national poverty, there’s still a tremendous amount of work to be done.

Alexander Jones

Sources: Bloomberg Business, The Guardian 1, The Guardian 2
Photo: Flickr

Individualistic Culture and its Opinions on Poverty
Societies and cultures often vary in regions of the world based on differing value systems that affect their social norms and behaviors. One attribute of society that is often influential is the point on the spectrum of individuality or collectivism on which the society operates. Asian countries, such as China and Japan, tend to be more collectivistic in nature, whereas the United States is one of the world’s most individualistic nations in terms of its cultural ideas. How does the spectrum of value placed on individuality or collectivism affect opinions on poverty in differing societies?

Often, political rhetoric in the United States revolves around the “American Dream.” Work hard, play fair, be responsible for your own affairs and everything will work out alright. If it doesn’t, then you probably lack personal responsibility and you deserve to be on your own. This isn’t the case for all politicians, but it isn’t uncommon to hear this type of rhetoric from many people in the United States, in public office or not. The idea that poverty is the result of one’s own fault is a reflection of the type of society that the United States possesses. Conceptualizing poverty as a result of an individual’s failure to not be impoverished shows the United States’ individualistic tendencies in public thought and discourse – as well as how it shapes the beliefs regarding poverty. These opinions on poverty, whether true or not, influence policy debates and legislation that changes the fates of many in poverty all over the world.

China’s opinions on the same issue are somewhat different. Whereas the United States’ view of poverty is largely based on an old history of Protestant work ethic ideas, China has undergone relatively recent socio-economic restructuring on a massive scale. As a result of these “new” political realities in China, economic growth has been the undisputed metric by which the Chinese government determines success and failure. Some believe that any poverty reduction rhetoric and action essentially takes the back seat to the most important issue, which is economic strength. If poverty can be improved by strengthening economic health, then by all means continue. If not, then it may take serious prods for the government to respond with the appropriate measure of action.


The rhetoric coming out of China with regards to poverty is different, but also similar in some respects. After four impoverished children committed suicide in a destitute part of China, the president, Xi Jingping, stated, “A good life is created with one’s own hands, so poverty is nothing to fear. If we have determination and confidence, we can overcome any difficulty.” This statement bears similarity to the pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps mentality that often crosses United States political thought. At the same time, the use of the pronoun “we,” referencing overcoming the difficulties of poverty, is an important but subtle distinction to make. The use of “we” in this statement makes clear that the nation as a whole is in on the problem of poverty and the need for solutions. This contrasts with United States’ rhetoric, where often times the subject of poverty can transform into a us versus them dichotomy that divides people rather than bringing them together.

Both individualistic cultures and collectivistic cultures have serious rhetoric for what their opinions on poverty are, but much of both ends of the spectrum still don’t seem to fully grasp what poverty is and how it occurs when dealing with political discourse and public opinion. There is a dangerous divide between what politicians and people think about poverty, and what poverty actually is. Individualistic societies and collectivistic societies must work to reconcile the divide in order to be able to better treat the afflictions of poverty and improve the situations of the poor.

Martin Yim

Sources: Marketplace, University of Massachusetts, The Guardian
Photo: USA Today
Photo: Kari Patterson


China, as the world’s most populous country with the second largest economy, faces a hushed issue on an epic scale. Nearly 70 million Chinese citizens live in severe poverty, most of them in the country’s expansive rural areas. Recently, President Xi Jinping has stressed the importance of poverty reduction within China as a means for economic and social growth.

China seeks to eradicate domestic poverty by 2020. Between 1978 and 2014, the country successfully lifted 730 million impoverished citizens above the poverty line. However, there is still much work to be done—a sentiment that is at the heart of President Jinping’s domestic policy. He called for “high precision” in governmental policy.

The government is implementing time-tested tactics to address the issue, such as subsidies and work programs, but President Jinping’s policy also calls for the use of information age strategies and tools. In 2014, an internal database was complied of all Chinese citizens who are considered impoverished. The data complied included income levels, employment status and location. The government then hired top data analysts to determine, in the most empirical way possible, the causes of poverty in certain areas and the best respective solutions.

Big data has long been used by technology firms, but this marks its first major wide-scale usage in terms of humanitarian causes. The data collected will lead to the swift and accurate remedies that President Jinping seeks. China’s experiment in using numbers and analysis in addition to money and support may prove to be revolutionary and help the country reach its goal before 2020.

Joe Kitaj

Sources: Global Times 1, Global Times 2, The Economist
Photo: Al Jazeera America

Located in northern China, Tianjin is one of four cities controlled directly by the Chinese central government. Tianjin has a population exceeding 10 million and is one of the larger Chinese cities.

Tianjin is at the moment known to be one of the best places to be in China. The level of income is around $10,000, on par with Shanghai and Beijing. Tianjin was one of the fastest growing cities by GDP in 2013. With a growth rate of 12.5% in 2013, it was experiencing a growth spurt. Things are looking up in Tianjin. Or is there another side to the seemingly perfect picture?

Cities such as Tianjin and Beijing serve as examples of the high wealth inequality in the nation. Although Beijing and Tianjin are doing well, with numbers that show good signs ahead, the agricultural surroundings paint a very different picture.

Poverty in Tianjin does exists. The outskirts of Tianjin are filled with agricultural workers whose incomes and levels of poverty are high. Although the poverty cannot be compared with other regions of the world, there is still poverty relative to the rest of the country’s average income. This wealth gap is indicative of many of the Chinese government’s preoccupations in recent history.

Tianjin’s numbers may look nice on paper, but the surrounding poverty can be understood when looking at the housing market in Tianjin. Huge amounts of investment are being poured into Tianjin to form a new financial district that is supposed to look like Manhattan – only bigger and better. The problem begins with the lack of people. The newly built infrastructure and buildings are barely touched and are mostly unused. In fact, the lack of demand is so bad that the developers have begun selling new buildings at a loss simply to leave the market entirely.

The lack of demand in the real estate market in Tianjin is perhaps related to the poverty seen right outside the city limits. The high levels of wealth inequality and the growing poverty issues outside of Tianjin’s immediate area are beginning to drag down the seemingly picture perfect economic state of Tianjin.

Suddenly the incredible growth figures look less believable. Though Tianjin has a strategic location by the ocean and is given direct attention from the central government, the city cannot escape the simple economic truths that exist in reality. Once this house of card begins to fall, the situation of poverty in and around Tianjin will become much less easy to overlook.

— Martin Yim

Sources: Tianjin Municipal People’s Government, BBC The Economist Marketplace
Photo: Flickr