Several years ago, Chinese president Xi Jinping anounced his desire to eradicate absolute poverty in China by the end of 2020. It was an ambitious goal for a country of around 1.4 billion people.
But at least one province seems to have already succeeded -- if their published statistics are to be believed.
Remarkably, at the start of this year, the eastern province of Jiangsu reported that only 17 out of its 80 million residents were living in poverty, attracting speculation (and some derision) from skeptics in China and around the world.
So has Jiangsu province truly done a miraculous job of creating a comfortable life for nearly all of its citizens, or could propaganda be a factor? The province has claimed that 2.54 million people had been lifted out of poverty in the past four years, even when using 6,000 yuan ($863 USD) in annual income as the poverty line. Although the 6,000 yuan standard is equivalent to just $2.40 a day, this is actually far higher than China's de facto national poverty line, which is only 2,300 yuan ($331 USD).
Regardless of Jiangsu's mind-boggling figures, China's poverty eradication goal is likely to be put on hold, as the effects of Covid-19 have slowed down China's growth: the Chinese economy shrank by 6.8% in the first quarter of 2020.
Puzzling out the poverty line:
- Using the usual standard of 2,300 yuan in annual income, there were 16.6 million people living in poverty in China, almost entirely in rural areas, at the end of 2018. Official statistics for 2019 have yet to be released, but government sources claim that 10 million people were lifted out of poverty last year.
- Jiangsu is one of China's wealthiest provinces, second only in economic output to Guangdong. The latest data shows that in the past four years, 2.54 million people have risen out of extreme poverty conditions in Jiangsu.
- Jiangsu said that the 17 people still living below the poverty line are all capable of working, but that four of those individuals “have diseases.”