China: From Poverty to Prosperity
Editor's note: The writer is Director of Institute of Peace and Diplomatic Studies, Pakistan. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of Gwadar pro.
The State Council Information Office of China issued a white paper titled "China's Epic Journey from Poverty to Prosperity", which explains the Chinese notion of "Xiaokang". It refers to an adequate level of prosperity in all aspects of life and reflects the long-held dream of the Chinese nation. It is a level of socio-economic development where, despite a few problems, everybody is provided for adequately.
This white paper examines Chinese policies and their results at the social level which have helped the Chinese government to uplift 100 million people out of poverty and achieve significant economic growth.
The white paper explains the heroic struggle of Chinese people over all these years and answers a whole range of questions regarding Chinese ideological beliefs, development vision, and determination to act and achieve sustainable growth in the future. Additionally, it gives insight into future actions to build a modern socialist country in every way possible by the middle of this century, exactly at the eve of the centenary of the People's Republic of China. This concept was applied to China's reformation plan during the 1970s when the country determined its direction of geo-economics. Since the leadership and the people of the country have worked tirelessly and delivered the desired results, it is being termed as a critical step towards national rejuvenation.
This special white paper acknowledges the fact that adequate prosperity cannot be achieved unless it covers every development sector. Hence, this paper gives deep insight into politics, economy, culture, society, environment, climate change, and security and specifies the aspects that help achieve this degree of prosperity. It is pertinent to mention that this white paper defines the notion of 'prosperity for all' which refers to a progressing society where every citizen takes part in the development, and no individual, ethnic group, or social group is left behind. The paper rightfully claims that the living standards of the poor in China have significantly risen, driven by the development of rural infrastructure, the fusion of rural-urban life, and innovation-led policymaking.
The emergence of Xiaokang society is only possible in a nation that is void of conflicts and wars. As China is the most populous country in the world, Xiaokang bears the responsibility to uphold standards of prosperity, peace, and development for not only China but also for the world at large. President Xi noted in his keynote address to CPC in February 2021 that China has eradicated extreme poverty and uplifted 10 million people out of poverty per year since the 18th Congress of CPC in 2012. It is pertinent to highlight that China has met the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development 10 years ahead of schedule, i.e., in 2020.
In terms of statistics, the Chinese economy expanded at a swift pace to hit 101 trillion yuan in 2021 from 67.9 billion yuan in 1952. In terms of the Engel Coefficient, the proportion of food expenses of urban households declined up to 29 % in 2020 from 57.5% in 1978 while rural household food expenses dropped from 66.7% to 32.7%. It indicates that less portion of income is spent on food, and the spared savings can be spent on other necessities of life. In addition, for inclusive development, China sets disposable income ratios among the richest and poorest provinces. In 2010, the disposable income ratio between Shanghai and Gansu Province was 4.62, but it declined to 3.55 in 2020. In the same manner, the health care gap continues to narrow down in rural and urban areas. The Gini coefficient, an indicator of inequality, was 0.491 in 2008 in China while it shrank to 0.468.
It is pertinent to mention that China’s health care system involves 1.35 billion people while the pensions for retired civil servants cover 1 billion yuan. China has also built 80 million houses for 200 million people. The white paper explains in-depth the entire process of how China has been able to achieve the dream of becoming a moderately prosperous society. This progress assisted China to bridge the wealth gap in society, expand public services, and raise the consumption of local and cultural products to boost made-in-China products.
This white paper further explains that China is not a self-centric nation. It achieves development with a deep sense of responsibility. China has assisted the international community to eradicate poverty. We have seen that through its foreign direct investment and other programs including the "Belt and Road" Initiative. China Pakistan Economic Corridor is one such an example where China is supporting countries like Pakistan to come out of poverty. In this manner, it has contributed to global peace by eradicating poverty and denying any extremist ideology to gain grounds.
Furthermore, the paper acknowledges the opening-up policy of the economy that has to build regional connectivity. It further highlights that Chinese experience is a new option for states and people in the world to continue observing rapid growth. This important white paper announces that China will adopt more open economic policies to create a sustainable trade balance with the trading partners around the world, especially with regional developing states.
Muhammad Asif Noor, the writer is Founder Director- Center for BRI and China Studies and Founder Friends of BRI Forum- Institute of Peace and Diplomatic Studies.