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poverty in ChinaPoverty in China remains a pressing concern for the global community, as 252 million people—or 18% of China’s population—live on less than $2 per day. Another 22% of China’s population lives on less than $5.50 per day, especially in rural areas with struggling farming and fishing industries. Yet, many people don’t realize the extent of poverty in China.

Poverty in China

China remains as the second-largest economy in the world since the 2008 recession. There were still 5.5 million individuals living in extreme rural poverty in China by the end of 2019. This was even after an average of 13 million people were lifted out of poverty each year for the first five years of President Xi Jinping’s first term.

China’s mountainous terrain and varying natural conditions have caused issues like air pollution, water and soil problems and biodiversity loss. China’s natural landscape along with a lack of transport infrastructure makes poverty alleviation rather difficult.

However, many regions of China are trying to stimulate their economies by embracing regional cuisine. In Gansu and Qinghai Provinces, traditional noodles have stimulated the economy. In Guangdong, local chefs have run workshops to teach the poor how to cook and market their goods. Embracing traditional cuisine could help solve the poverty in China.

Noodle Initiative in Gansu Province

Gansu Province, located in North-Central China, created a noodle initiative in 2019. The aim was to alleviate poverty through the region’s specialty dish, Lanzhou noodles, prepared in a beef broth. Gansu authorities trained over 15,000 people from impoverished areas to make Lanzhou noodles from scratch, which would typically cost them $1.50. The participants then hopefully have a better chance to find employment at or open their own noodle shops. Similar initiatives in Gansu’s capital, Lanzhou and Beijing in 2018 led 90% of participants to find noodle-related jobs afterward, which helps fight poverty in China. These jobs typically earned the workers more than $590 a month.

The centuries-old noodle recipe calls for very precise noodle pulling. It can even take up to three years to fully master the skill. The Vocational and Technical College of Resources and Environment in Lanzhou helps many Lanzhou residents perfect their noodle-pulling craft. These new chefs also receive aid in fulfilling the necessary education requirements to spread their skills overseas.

The result is an estimated 4,000 Lanzhou noodle shops are currently open in Gansu province, which had the lowest GDP per capita of any Chinese province in 2017.

Hand-pulled noodles in Qinghai Province

Qinghai Province, located in China’s northwest on the high-altitude Tibetan Plateau, has seen drastic poverty reduction over the past decade. Previously plagued by poor infrastructure and lack of skilled labor, Qinghai has seen success with its “noodle” sector. The disposable income for farmers and herdsmen in the region nearly doubled from 2015 to 2018. Their poverty rates decreased from 24.6% to just 2.5% within that same time period.

Haidong, in northeast Qinghai, generated 15.4 billion yuan in business revenue. The source was from the city’s 578 noodle businesses, which employed 9,786 employees. One-third of the urban population and half of the families in rural areas are engaged in the city’s operating noodle businesses. The province has encouraged the noodle sector to continue hiring poorer residents. The city employs poverty reduction methods such as workshops, specific guidelines for growth and even a planned noodle business hub.

Benkanggou Village in Qinghai also helped eradicate poverty through the noodle industry. Over 110,000 of the villages’s 300,000 residents are engaged in the noodle industry. These numbers are thanks to the village’s 350 sessions of hand-pulled noodle training to over 13,000 families. Local authorities visited many poor households encouraging them to participate in the workshops. Thousands of more workers have been brought into the thriving industry since then.

River Snail Rice Noodles in Liuzhou

The city of Liuzhou, located in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, is well known for its river snail rice noodles, or luosifen. Luosifen is a fusion of traditional ingredients from Han, Miao and Dong ethnic groups. It consists of rice noodles boiled with pickled bamboo shoots, dried turnip, fresh vegetables and peanuts in a spicy river snail soup. The dish was designated as part of Guangxi’s intangible cultural heritage in 2008. In the years since, the Liuzhou government has been boosting industries related to luosifen’s production. The region now brings in around six billion yuan annually.

Guangxi was listed as the province with the fourth lowest GDP per capita in 2018. Then in 2019, Guangxi lifted 1.25 million people out of poverty as well as de-listed 1,268 poor villages. This was a direct result of 337 workshops and 33 new poverty alleviation industrial parks. The luosifen industry played a major role in these poverty eradication efforts, as new factories have been created that specialize in instant luosifen, bamboo shoot processing, river snail collection and creative luosifen packaging.

Guangdong Cooking Initiatives

In Guangzhou in South China, an initiative called the Cantonese Cuisine Master program has tried to cultivate talent, promote cultural exchange and alleviate poverty in China through Cantonese cuisine training. The program has trained over 30,000 people so far and has mobilized over 96,000 people to secure employment and start their own businesses, lifting many out of poverty.

A Cantonese Cuisine Master Skills Competition in 2019 brought together many graduates of the program from 23 cities. Chefs prepared dishes like Chaoshan marinated goose, roasted crispy suckling pig, Portuguese-style chicken and flavored fish balls. Various Cantonese Cuisine Master programs and workshops have taken place in Hong Kong, Macao and other regions in southern China with the help of universities and enterprises. The program prepares chefs, many of whom come from rural and poverty-stricken areas, for the workforce. It also teaches the chefs about the concepts and ideas behind their cooking, which fosters cultural exchange and cooperation.

Since 2018, Guangdong has signed cooperation agreements with Tibet, Guangxi Zhuang, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous regions and Guizhou and Yunnan provinces to train more Cantonese chefs and help many escape poverty.

In Sichuan Province, 103 trainees from poverty-stricken counties—Meigu, Leibo and Jinyang—came to the Shunde District in Guangdong’s city of Foshan to receive free cooking lessons for two months at the Shunde Culinary Institute. They learned to cook traditional Cantonese dishes like stir-fried milk and stuffed mud carp as well as Sichuan-inspired dishes. After completing the program, trainees will have access to restaurant internships and full-time opportunities both in Shunde and in their hometowns. These sessions provided by Guangdong are said to increase monthly salaries by 1,000 to 2,000 yuan. Additionally, 56,000 students are currently enrolled in Cantonese cuisine courses at vocational schools across the province.

Noah Sheidlower
Photo: Flickr

Women's Rights in China
For many years, gender equality and women’s rights in China have been a problem, mainly for women. Various restrictions still take place, even today. Income discrepancies and traditional gender roles in the country aimed at placing and keeping women inferior as compared with their male counterparts.

For example, women who have children do not always receive support from their supervisors and often lose their pay when on maternity leave. From occupational rights to issues such as property rights, men in China have always (and unfairly) been the more supported gender for years. Unfortunately, this continues to this day.

Discrimination in the Workplace

Women of the past and present in China, have dealt with unfair employment practices. They have had to jump over unnecessary hurdles just to keep up with their male counterparts. The Chinese government claims to better prioritize the promotion of gender equality, and therefore women’s rights in China. Particularly — in the workplace, however, recent research says otherwise. Of the job listings in the Chinese Government’s civil service job list, 11% stated preferences for men. The percentage was higher in jobs preferring men from 2018 to 2019, at 19%.

This information was identified by the Human Rights Watch, which also discovered that fewer than 1% of these job postings offered offered support to women. This has caused many women to surrender to traditional gender roles. For example, staying at home, not working and being dependent on the male of the house. Notably, only 63% of the female workforce worked in 2017.

Patriarchal Oppression

China’s history has seen a higher focus on men being the core of not just their families but the country’s overall success and growth. Post Confucius era, society labeled men as the yang and women as the yin. In this same vein, society views Yang as active, smart and the dominant half. This, compared with Yin, which is soft, passive and submissive. These ideologies are not as prominent today but persist enough that there is a problem.

The tradition begins at birth with boys being the preferred children compared to girls in China. A consensus opinion in the country is that if one has a male child versus a female child, they believe the son will grow into a more successful member of the family. The sons are more likely favored because the issue of pregnancy is a non-factor and they can choose almost any job they desire. Of course, this is something that does not support efforts for gender equality nor women’s rights in China.

A survey done just last year found that  80% of generation Z mothers did not have jobs outside of the home. Importantly, most of those surveyed were from poorer cities. The same survey found that 45% of these stay-at-home mothers had no intention of going back to work. They simply accepted their role of caring for the house. Gender equality and women’s rights in China have shifted toward cutting into the history of patriarchal dominance within the country.

Women’s Rights Movement in China

Since the Chinese government is not completely behind gender equality in China for women, the feminist movement is still active and stronger than ever. In 2015, the day before International Women’s Day, five feminist activists were arrested and jailed for 37 days. They were just five of an even larger movement of activists fighting against the traditional gender role ideology that has placed females below males. These movements have begun to make great progress towards gender inequality within the country. From 2011 to 2015, a “12th Five Year Plan” had goals of reducing gender inequality in education and healthcare.

The plan also was to increase the senior and management positions and make them accessible for women to apply for said positions. Xi Jinping, the current President of the People’s Republic of China, has proclaimed that the country will donate $10 million to the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. During the next five years and beyond, this support will help the women of China and other countries build 100 health projects for women and children. March 1, 2016, the Anti-domestic Violence Law of the People’s Republic of China took effect. This law resulted in the improvement in legislation for gender equality in China. In June of that year,  ¥279.453 billion was put forth toward loans to help women, overall.

Dorian Ducre
Photo: Flickr

Daylily/Poverty in China
Chinese President Xi Jinping has made substantial efforts to reduce poverty in China for the millions living without basic necessities. In 2015, President Jinping set the goal of eliminating poverty in China by 2020. There were 1.4 billion people in poverty at that time, defined as earning less than $1.10 a day, a lower benchmark than the World Bank poverty guideline of $1.90 a day. While some of his methods to alleviate rural poverty have been conventional, like increasing tourism and promoting produce production, in one Chinese district his tactic has been far from ordinary.

The Yunzhou District of China is located about 200 miles west of Beijing, in the Yanshan and Taihang mountains. Given its remote location, the cities in this district have dealt with high levels of poverty. However, in the last decade, farmers in this area have capitalized on the fecund growth of daylilies to alleviate poverty in the region, and in China more broadly.

Medicinal Qualities of Daylilies

Daylilies are an edible flower that people use in Chinese herbal medicine. According to studies, they may have detoxification properties, aid in reducing insomnia, lessen hemorrhoids and calm nerves. Daylilies in China belong to a heartier class of flowers since they can grow in a variety of soil conditions, and the flower itself comes in many colors. Its botanical name, Hemerocallis, translates to “beauty for a day,” as most daylilies will bloom in the morning and die by nightfall. However, the flower will stay in bloom for several weeks because each stem has over 12 flower buds.

Increase in Land for Daylilies

Though areas in the district, like Datong City and the Fangcheng new village, have been cultivating daylilies for over 600 years, the district recently increased the land on which it grows daylilies by 10 times. Now, millions of daylilies in China grow on 10,000 hectares or the equivalent of over 18,000 football fields.

President Xi Jinping’s Support for the Daylily Industry

In a recent trip to the district, President Jinping encouraged farmers and locals alike to continue developing the industry to reduce poverty in China. During his visit, President Jinping spoke to the country’s efforts to reach its goal of total poverty eradication by the end of 2020. So far, daylily production has helped lift over 1 million people out of poverty. In 2019, daylily production generated $9.17 million for the district. President Jinping remains steadfast in alleviating poverty in the country despite having only a few months before his deadline.

Revenue from daylilies in China may seem like an unusual product to reduce poverty in China by Western standards. However, according to Eastern culture, the flower is a cornerstone of the Chinese market and therefore a logical aspect of poverty alleviation. Even though the Yunzhou District has been cultivating the flower for over 600 years, it is comforting to know that the towns and cities in that district have utilized daylily production in the last 10 years to bring over a million individuals out of poverty.

Mimi Karabulut
Photo: Flickr

Gates Foundation Poverty China
Former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda, have used their private organization, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to aid China in its goal to eradicate poverty by 2020. Meanwhile, China has had several issues that have contributed to its problems with poverty, including its transition to becoming a more urbanized country back in 2012. The urban population has risen to 52 percent, which is more than the rural population at 48 percent. People continue to move into urban sections of the country in search of better-paying jobs. This becomes a problem as poverty increases as people end up taking underpaying jobs while the cost of living also goes up. Another problem was that 170,000 students attended school in 2010 in Shanghai, while more than three times that amount worked on farms in that same city.

The Game Plan

The Gates Foundation Poverty China project launched a campaign called Goalkeepers to help quicken the process towards ending not only poverty but also inequality and injustice. This coincides with helping achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which include gaining quality education, clean water and sanitation, along with universal health care for all.

Despite the issues that a more urbanized China has, it has produced positive results during the past 70 years by lifting over 850 million people out of poverty over a span of 40 years. Meanwhile, others have developed their own plans to get themselves out of poverty by using business sense. One example is when a local Shibadong farmer named Shi Quanhou worked his way out of poverty by running an agritainment farm. Agritainment is a compound word for farms that include both agriculture and entertainment. These farms might include pumpkin patches, petting zoos and corn mazes, among other attractions for a family-friendly atmosphere. Although one cannot say this about other farmers, Quanhou underwent this plan in a desperate measure to help him provide a more secure and prosperous life for his family. Farmers have also found a 12.1 percent increase in their income by transitioning their farms to agritainment farms.

China’s Success

Furthermore, assigned teams have gone to farms and villages to investigate how those areas are performing, making sure that those with struggling land receive assistance. China has also promoted poverty alleviation, which includes e-commerce and providing employment opportunities for over 2.5 million people. It also originated more than 30,000 poverty reduction workshops and classes in order for attendees to gain employment close to home.

With many people still underprivileged, The Gates Foundation Poverty China project also offered its support during this stretch with three solutions that incorporate working with government agencies, advocating for financial services, health care and childhood nutrition. The organization also added a partnership with the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development to research how to remedy these issues through experience within China and also between China and other countries. Establishing stronger platforms that encourage participation in the relief efforts to end poverty has also been part of its long term plan. The Gates Foundation Poverty China is closing in on completing what could very well be the largest turnaround of this global issue in the world’s history.

Helping Health

The Gates Foundation Poverty China plan includes a $33 million grant to combat tuberculosis to the Chinese Ministry of Health. This partnership intends to better detect tuberculosis cases and find a cure for those suffering from it. With over 1.5 million cases each year, this partnership is providing innovative tests, along with patient monitoring strategies to deliver improved treatment and diagnoses across the country.

Additionally, China has developed a plan to decrease TB by creating The Chinese Infectious and Endemic Disease Control Project (IEDC) back in 1991. The World Bank partly funded $58 million to it and the World Health Organization developed it in 1989. The IEDC was a booming success, curing 85 percent of identified patients within two years of its implementation. TB cases decreased by over 36 percent between 1990 and 2000, about 4.1 percent each year.

Infinite Improvement

People have widely recognized China for its dramatic improvement. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres pointed out that China has contributed the most to its cause over the last decade. This turnaround means that the livelihoods of many will boost China’s economy and build a more prosperous nation. With that plan in motion, China has almost eradicated rural poverty by refocusing on areas where the poorest live in places with poor infrastructure and have special needs. China went from a staggering 97.5 percent in 1978 to a meager 3.1 percent among the rural population at the end of 2017. With 2020 already underway, President Xi Jinping has informed the Chinese people that anyone in an impoverished state should receive medical benefits, such as insurance, aid and allowances. With the Gates Foundation Poverty China plan and China’s campaigns and multiple partnerships with local governments, China’s ability to avert its national catastrophe will not only gain global attention from other suffering countries or have more fortunate nations lend a hand, but will be able to lend help of its own.

Tom Cintula
Photo: Flickr

Ecological Approach to Diminish Poverty in ChinaUnder the leadership of President Xi Jinping, many successful efforts have been made in recent years to diminish poverty in China, such as taking an ecological approach. One such effort is the approach of creating jobs for impoverished citizens through the implementation of land protection programs. Poverty in China and environmental sustainability issues are being treated simultaneously. As designated by the Chinese government, impoverished people are those earning approximately $1.10 per day. Comparatively, the International Poverty line, established by the World Bank in 2015, rests at earning $1.90 per day.

This ecological approach to reduce poverty in China resulted in a decline since 1978 by more than 800 million people who were previously living below the national poverty threshold. In the year 2018, President Xi Jinping and his administration enabled 13.86 million people to rise out of poverty. In 1990, China rose from a 0.502 human development index value of 0.752 in 2017.

Rural Poverty in China

For Chinese citizens living in rural and remote areas, poverty mitigation has become much slower. Currently, 16.6 million rural citizens continue to live in poverty.

President Xi Jinping and his administration are combining the impending issues of rural poverty with another pressing matter, environmental decline. The Chinese government was among the first to incorporate the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals in a national action plan. One of the United Nations’ goals is to completely eradicate poverty by 2030.

Grasslands Protection as a Solution for Poverty

A significant part of China’s sustainable development plans is the protection and development of grasslands within the nation. Grasslands comprise 63 percent of China’s green vegetation but 70 percent of these areas are moderate to severely degraded. The decline of Chinese grasslands is attributed to erosion by both wind and water as well as the changing environmental conditions. Additional damage is done by the uncontrolled grazing of livestock. The deteriorating grasslands largely overlap with impoverished rural communities within the same region of western China.

In Qumalai, a county in China’s western Qinghai province, the grazing of cattle and sheep, which constitute the region’s largest industry, is being constrained as a side effect of grassland protection efforts. In response, the Qinghai Forestry and Grassland Bureau has assisted in creating jobs in the form of grassland guardians for approximately 49,000 registered impoverished people within Qumalai. Each member of this workforce has the potential to earn around $260 per month. A more permanent solution with a larger potential comes in the form of establishing a Chinese herb plantation in Qumalai’s Maduro township.

In 2005, the restoration of grasslands in China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region improved grass coverage to 100 percent, which enables the survival of animals on lands designated for grazing. For locals in the region, subsequent animal products added the addition of 300 yuan to the average annual income per person. The region is additionally able to replenish the local economy with more than four million yuan annually through the harvest of dried hay.

Since 2016, China has been working with its 13th Five-Year Plan to address poverty alleviation and environmental sustainability. Present efforts focus heavily on the impoverished rural fraction of Chinese citizens. Between 2018 and 2020, about 31 billion dollars are set to be used for remedying poverty in China.

– Bhavya Girotra
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Rural Poverty in ChinaSince the 1980s, China has experienced rapid economic growth and increased average income, a far cry from rural poverty. After opening up to international trade and foreign direct investment, the East Asian nation has grown to become one of the world’s largest economic superpowers with a nominal gross domestic product of $12.01 trillion, second only to the United States.

Though China’s rapid development has benefited its citizens who live in highly industrialized urban centers along the eastern coast, it has simultaneously left many rural and agricultural communities behind. These rural communities have little food, limited access to clean water and insufficient means to dig themselves out of poverty. However, rural poverty in China is something that the Chinese government is actively working to combat.

Hannah Adkins, a university student who recently studied abroad in China, commented on the poverty disparity between its rural and urban communities. “Though ecotourism, for example, is a growing industry in China due to the country’s natural beauty and expansive landscape, rural communities have a difficult time jumping on those opportunities. They simply do not have enough expendable money to put toward money-making industries like ecotourism, meaning that they must receive help from the government or NGOs. Otherwise, these poor rural people will be stuck in cyclical rural poverty,” Adkins told The Borgen Project.

When most people think of China, they undoubtedly think of the nation’s rise to economic prowess and its many industrial centers. However, China is an enormous country geographically, consisting of 3.7 million square miles of land area. Many, though, are unaware of its impoverished rural people who live in its expansive central and western provinces. Here are 10 facts about rural poverty in China.

10 Facts About Rural Poverty in China

  1. China’s rural population makes up roughly 42 percent of the nation’s total population, meaning more than 580 million Chinese citizens live in rural areas.
  2. According to the CIA World Factbook, approximately 3.3 percent of China’s population lives below the poverty line.
  3. Based on a report by the Wall Street Journal, upward of 90 to 99 percent of China’s impoverished population either lives in or comes from rural areas, such as the nation’s mountainous villages and arid landscapes.
  4. Only 63.7 percent of China’s rural population has regular access to improved sanitation facilities, compared to 86.6 percent of its urban population. This is just one example of the rural-urban disparity that results in rural poverty in China.
  5. The combined income of households in China’s eastern coastal regions, where a large majority of the country’s urban centers are located, is more than 2.5 times that of inland regions’ households. This disparity is another contributing factor to the issue of rural poverty in China.
  6. In an effort to improve its rural and long-distance infrastructure, China introduced a 2014 plan called the Pledged Supplementary Lending program. The program works with the Agricultural Development Bank of China “to better support rural infrastructure and development projects in funding to improve residents’ living conditions in rural areas.”
  7. Much of China’s rural population relies on agriculture as a source of sustenance, as well as income. However, approximately 40 percent of land in China has fallen victim to land degradation in the form of salinization, desertification or soil erosion. This makes it so that farmers and landowners do not have nearly as much access to fertile and farmable land, thus contributing to the rural poverty in China.
  8. On top of China’s land degradation, the country has about 19 percent polluted land. As a result, the contamination of food and water has become increasingly common due to the excessive use of pesticides and fertilizers, as well as other pollutants.
  9. The International Fund for Agricultural Development’s projections estimate more than 12 million rural Chinese citizens will move to urban centers annually over the course of the next 10 years. Though this continued urbanization will decrease the amount of crop production in agricultural communities, it will also place poor families in urban centers with more job opportunities and more sufficient living conditions, thus potentially aiding the issue of rural poverty in China.
  10. Though rural poverty in China is still a problematic issue, the Chinese government has put forth a plan to eliminate all poverty in China by 2020. President Xi Jinping’s 13th Five-Year Plan aims to identify, register and assist every impoverished Chinese citizen, especially those in rural areas, in order to guide them out of poverty and lower the overall poverty rate. This is just one of the ways by which China plans to decrease its poverty issue in the coming years.

While rural poverty in China is a paramount issue, there are movements to make improvements. China’s Pledged Supplementary Lending program and President Xi Jinping’s 13th Five-Year Plan will be sure to improve rural living conditions and help Chinese people in need.

– Ethan Marchetti
Photo: Flickr

eradicate_poverty_in_china
Chinese President Xi Jinping announced during the 2015 Global Poverty Reduction and Development Forum opening presentation that he vows to eradicate poverty in China by 2020.

Over the past 15 years, China has lifted more than 600 million people out of poverty.

This impressive feat made them the first developing country to achieve the first Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of halving poverty before the 2015 deadline.

Despite this commendable accomplishment, more than 70 million people in China are still living below the poverty line – earning less than 2,300 yuan annually, which is the equivalent of $362 U.S.

“Despite the achievements, China remains the world’s biggest developing country, and narrowing the urban-rural gap remains a big challenge for us,” said President Xi.

Similar to many countries worldwide, the disparity between the rich and poor in China continues to increase as the world’s second-largest economy slows its pace.

According to President Xi, only 12.3 million Chinese people earned enough money to move above the poverty line in 2014, compared to 43.3 million people in 2011.

In light of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on Oct. 17, the Chinese government will have to lift, on average, 1 million Chinese people out of poverty per month until 2020.

The Chinese government and China’s Office of Poverty Alleviation & Development plan to come up with a string of more effective and targeted measures to achieve the goal, including:

  • Launching Education Campaigns — With education at the forefront, people living in rural communities can receive proper education and will be more likely to escape poverty.
  • Encouraging Financial Support — Experienced financial specialists can help people living in poverty managed their money and teach them how to save money over a period of time.
  • Building Public Platforms — This will encourage middle-class Chinese people to join the fight in eradicating poverty.

“Chinese government has made great efforts on poverty alleviation. We hope to encourage all sectors of society to participant in the endeavor to lift all rural population out of poverty by 2020,” said Hong Tianyun, head of the Lead Group Office of Poverty Alleviation & Development in China.

Alexandra Korman

Sources: CCTV, Reuters, The Times of India
Photo: Pixabay