The World Bank Organization describes poverty in this way:“Poverty is hunger. Poverty is lack of shelter. Poverty is being sick and not being able to see a doctor. Poverty is not having access to school and not knowing how to read. Poverty is not having a job, is fear for the future, living one day at a time,” among others. Despite the many definitions, one thing is certain; poverty is a complex societal issue. No matter how poverty is defined, it can be agreed that it is an issue that requires everyone’s attention. It is important that all members of our society work together to provide the opportunities for all our members to reach their full potential.
But the models used to explore the potential of citizens in contributing lead to success or failure. And so it’s important to learn from the Chinese model that has made rapid achievements in a short period from whence the country comes. Strategies by China should serve as a lesson for other developing countries, especially African countries, as the China-Africa Economic and Development Cooperation gains momentum.
China’s governing policy stresses the principle of development-driven poverty reduction. This approach combines social assistance with sectoral development, optimizing the roles and functions of central and local governments, extending support to vulnerable groups previously designated as ‘low-income’ rather than ‘poor’ and continuing to fund poverty-reduction initiatives. The government is committed to formulating and implementing strategic policies and efficient mechanisms that will help achieve its objectives of eliminating absolute poverty and substantially reducing relative poverty by 2020.
With its huge population of nearly 1.4 billion (1,382,154,146-WORLDOMETERS,), the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) tremendous success in reducing extreme poverty is widely recognized. The new global poverty estimates recently released by the World Bank using an updated international poverty line of $1.90 a day in 2011 PPP (purchasing power parity) shows that the percentage of the population in China living below this international poverty line fell from 88 percent in 1981 to 6.5 percent in 2012, and the number of poor fell from 878 million to 87 million during this period.
In his 10-count deliverables at the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Summit held in South African in December 2015, Chinese President Xi Jinping reaffirmed his country’s support to poverty reduction in Africa under a plan for 2016-2019. This, he said, China will assist Africa by sharing its experience in poverty reduction. President Xi also pledged a US$60 billion support to the three-year plan.
Under the people-to-people contacts component of FOCAC, we are 28 African journalists on a 10-month media training and cultural exchange program in China. After some days or weeks of classes at the Renmin University of China (RUC) in Beijing, we are taken on tours of provinces, regions and municipalities in the country to experience Chinese culture and other activities.
But as far as poverty reduction strategy (poverty alleviation) is concerned, during our (African journalists) visit to Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region in central China on June 12-14, 2016, it was observed that the Chinese Government is fighting poverty where poverty is under its national plan. With the backing of the central government, regional officials are working tirelessly to raise thousands of citizens out of poverty.
Inter-county ecological migration is the principal mode of settlement in the “12th Five-year Plan” period. The stability and sustained development of inter-county migration zones hold the key to success or failure of the overall migration project.
As the capital of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, Yinchuan is an important settlement under that plan. Three districts of Yinchuan-Xingqing District, Jinfeng District, and Xixia District alone settle 5444 households of migrants with a population of 22,800. Among them, there are 1387 households of ecological migrants consisting of a population of 5800, which makes up 15.4 % of the total migrants. There are 4057 households of labor migrants consisting of a total population of 17,000 which makes up 74.6 % of the total migrants. All of the migrants to these three districts come from Pengyang County in the mountainous region in the south of Ningxia.
Families affected by poor-living land features including deserts and mountains are being relocated and provided modern housing units. One of the relocation sites visited is the Heshun New Village, in Liangtian Town, Jinfeng District. Located in the southern suburb of Yinchuan City, Ningxia Region, the village is one of the relocation sites listed in the 12th five-year plan of the region.
Regional officials said, under the 12th five-year plan, more than 750 households or 3,000 villagers from Pengyang County are expected to be relocated to the village. According to them, from October 2011 to November 2013, 718 households or 3,086 villagers were relocated in Jinfeng District. Each household is provided a modern house of 54 square meter, a green house of mainly tomatoes and Chinese cucumbers, skills training and job opportunities. Beneficiaries are being trained in mechanized farming, thus replacing the traditional methods.
Along the relocation program are three economic organizations and two cultural as well as schools and other basic social services.
Our visit was intended to see the reality of briefings by the regional officials of the Communist Party of China (CPC); Development and Reform Commission, Ethnic Affairs Commission, Poverty Alleviation Office, and Foreign Affairs Office in Yinchuan City.
Making presentation from the CPC’s perspective were: Standing Member and Minister of Information Department of the CPC Ningxia Committee, Cai Guoying; Vice Minister of Information Department of CPC Ningxia Committee and Director General of Internet and Letters Affairs Office, Xu He; Party Secretary of Ningxia Foreign Office, Kang Zhanping and Vice Minister Zhou Qinghua while from the Government’s perspective were Director General of Ningxia Foreign Affairs Office, Hu Yunling; Deputy Director General for Ningxia Poverty Alleviation Ningxia Foreign Affairs Office, Yang Gang Gang, and Deputy Director General for Religious Affairs Ningxia Foreign Affairs Office, Yang Shengrui. The officials are working with unity with the aim to raise poor families from poverty by 2018.
What propels this?
China’s sustained growth fueled historically unprecedented poverty reduction. The World Bank uses a poverty line based on household real consumption (including consumption of own-produced crops and other goods), set at $1 per day measured at Purchasing Power Parity. In most low-income countries this amount is sufficient to guarantee each person about 1000 calories of nutrition per day, plus other basic necessities. In 2007, this line corresponds to about 2,836 RMB per year. Based on household surveys, the poverty rate in China in 1981 was 63% of the population. This rate declined to 10% in 2004, indicating that about 500 million people have climbed out of poverty during this period.
This poverty reduction has occurred in waves. The shift to the household responsibility system propelled a large increase in agricultural output, and poverty was cut in half over the short period from 1981 to 1987. From 1987 to 1993 poverty reduction stagnated, then resumed again. From 1996 to 2001 there was once more relatively little poverty reduction. Since China joined the WTO in 2001, however, poverty reduction resumed at a very rapid rate, and poverty was cut by a third in just three years.
However, innovation, coupled with the an implementable system that is culturally unique plays pivotal roles.
Similar problems being experienced in Ningxia can be compared to the West Point Community and other areas in Liberia affected by sea erosion and other environment degradation. Housing units being constructed could be sold for affordable prices for poor families affected by various factors as well as training be provided in order for them to sustain themselves as well as contribute to nation’s growth and development. Thousands of citizens face erosion of the Atlantic Ocean annually in West Point, located in the heart of Monrovia. Among these affected citizens are experts who, if supported can share experience with others to empower themselves under a strong poverty reduction strategy as being done in Ningxia.
China, under its “Belt and Road” Initiative, as announced by President Xi, is intensifying external relations with many countries, especially African countries, through economic and development cooperation to improve global economy. Sharing experience on its rapid economic growth and development is the hallmark of the initiative, which is characterized by exchanges of culture, trade and commerce among others. The exchanges are based on similar historical trends of China and Africa.
With this, it’s left with African leaders in general and Liberia in specific, to learn from this model and replace old systems that have not worked for years if China’s dream of developed world must be realized. While finance plays major part, patriotism and honesty are the bedrocks of project implementation.
Foundation laid now can benefit future generations as Rome was not built in one day. Liberia, with its many natural resources, has the potential if its takes advantage of importance China attaches to the African continent due to their historical similarities.
Fredrick P. W. Gaye is the News Editor of the In Profile Daily Newspaper in Monrovia, Liberia who is among 28 African journalists on a 10-month media training and cultural exchange program hosted by the China-Africa Press Center (CAPC) in Beijing, China. The program is sponsored by the China Public Diplomacy Association (CPDA). It aims to assist in strengthening people-to-people contacts of the China-Africa Cooperation.