II. Ending Extreme Poverty and Securing the Right to an Adequate Standard of Living
Poverty is the biggest obstacle to human rights. The CPC and the Chinese government have directed extra attention to rural poverty, furthering development-driven poverty alleviation, and achieving a series of important breakthroughs. The 18th CPC National Congress in 2012 made ending extreme poverty China's benchmark task in achieving moderate prosperity in all respects. By eliminating extreme poverty China has won the biggest and toughest battle against poverty in human history, to the benefit of the largest number of people.
By the end of 2020, by China's current poverty threshold of RMB2,300 per person per year (based on the 2010 price index), all of the 99 million rural poor, as well as the 832 counties and 128,000 villages classified as poor, had emerged from poverty, and regional poverty was eliminated.
Since the launch of reform and opening up in 1978, 770 million rural poor living below China's poverty line have been raised from poverty; against the World Bank's international poverty line, the number of people lifted out of poverty in China accounts for more than 70 percent of the world total during the same period. China realized its poverty reduction goal from the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development 10 years ahead of schedule, representing a significant contribution to global poverty reduction and human progress.
1. Securing the Right to Food for the Poor
China bases its food security on solid agricultural foundations. It has built a modern agrotechnology system, improved comprehensive agricultural productivity, maintained the steady growth of agricultural output, and resolved the problems of insufficient food and undernutrition. China's total grain output increased from 113 million tons in 1949 to 669 million tons in 2020. China's per capita share of grain now exceeds 474 kg, which is comfortably above the international food security threshold of 400 kg.
China has ensured that all the poor have access to food by increasing their incomes through targeted poverty alleviation. The per capita disposable income of rural residents in poor areas increased from RMB6,079 in 2013 to RMB12,588 in 2020, an average annual increase of 11.6 percent. The amount of grain they consumed increased steadily. Now, the problem of food shortages has been resolved. Key impoverished groups have much better nutrition, and the right to be free from hunger is guaranteed.
China ensures a proper food supply for poor children through nutrition programs. The Chinese government has implemented the Nutrition Improvement Program for Children in Poor Areas, providing children aged six months to two years in contiguous poverty-stricken areas with free food supplements – one pack per child per day. By 2020, this program had benefited 11.2 million children. There is also a Nutrition Improvement Program for Rural Students in Compulsory Education, providing them with nutrition allowances. This program covers 132,000 schools and benefits over 38 million students every year.
2. Ensuring Safe Drinking Water for the Poor
Since 2005, the Chinese government has made an enormous investment in its Safe Drinking Water Program for Rural Areas. By the end of 2015, the program had benefited 520 million rural residents, including 47 million teachers and students. During the 13th Five-Year Plan period (2016-2020), it launched an upgraded program, which improved access to safe drinking water for 382 million rural people, including 28.9 million rural poor. Tap water coverage in poor areas increased from 70 percent in 2015 to 83 percent in 2020. Through replacement of water sources, water purification, and population resettlement, China has resolved the problem of excess fluoride in drinking water for 9.52 million rural people.
3. Providing Compulsory Education in Poor Areas
To guarantee compulsory education and prevent poverty from passing down from one generation to the next, China launched the Plan for Poverty Alleviation Through Education During the 13th Five-Year Plan period and the Implementation Plan for Poverty Alleviation Through Education in Severely Impoverished Areas (2018-2020).
A great effort has been invested in improving school conditions and education quality for compulsory education in poor areas. Now, all primary and secondary schools in China have access to the internet, and 95.3 percent have multimedia classrooms.
The Program for Special Teaching Posts in Rural Compulsory Education has been implemented to attract more university graduates to teach in poor rural areas. Living subsidies are offered to rural teachers in contiguous poverty-stricken areas, which benefit nearly 1.3 million teachers from more than 80,000 schools. A total of 190,000 teachers have been dispatched to remote and poor areas and to border areas with large ethnic minority populations.
The system of financial aid to students has been improved to provide targeted assistance. Students from registered poor households all receive living subsidies during their compulsory education. Every year, about 150 million students are given exemption from school fees and textbook fees; about 25 million students in economic difficulty are provided with living subsidies; and about 14 million students from migrant worker families have had their compulsory education subsidies transferred to their urban schools. All students from poor rural households have access to compulsory education, and dropouts are all identified and helped back to school in a timely manner. In 2020, the compulsory education completion rate in poor counties reached 94.8 percent.
4. Providing Essential Medical Services for the Poor
China launched the Health Care Program for Poverty Alleviation, taking comprehensive measures to guarantee access to essential medical services for the rural poor, and to prevent them from falling back into poverty due to ill health.
Continuous efforts have been made to improve the three-tiered medical services system at village, township and county levels. Every village has a clinic, and every town or township has a health center served by licensed doctors, except for villages, towns and townships that already satisfy the requirements for basic medical services. Each of the counties formerly classified as poor has at least one public hospital, and 98 percent of them have at least one Grade II hospital. The aim is to ensure the poor can have common ailments and chronic diseases treated at nearby medical institutions in a timely manner.
All poor populations have access to basic medical insurance, serious illness insurance, and medical assistance. Basic medical insurance coverage of the poor remains almost 100 percent. Measures have been taken to ensure medical treatment to those with serious illnesses, contracted health care to those with chronic illnesses, and guaranteed medical services for those with critical illnesses. Now, 30 illnesses are covered by special funds for serious illnesses of the rural poor, including congenital heart defects in children, leukemia in children, stomach cancer, esophageal cancer, colon cancer, and serious mental illnesses. The funds have supported treatment for more than 20 million poor patients, relieving their families of the financial burden incurred by medical expenses.
5. Ensuring Safe Housing for the Poor
To guarantee safe housing for the rural poor, China has launched programs such as the renovation of dilapidated rural homes and construction of rural public rental housing. Tens of millions of people have had their dilapidated mud-and-straw dwellings replaced by safe homes which are more comfortable and offer better protection against earthquakes. The right to housing and basic housing safety of the rural poor were fundamentally guaranteed.
Between 2008 and 2020, the central government allocated a total of RMB284 billion for the renovation of 27.6 million dilapidated homes, targeting registered poor households, households entitled to subsistence allowances, severely impoverished rural residents cared for at their homes with government support, and impoverished families of individuals with disabilities. These funds have helped to guarantee access to safe housing for 80 million rural poor.