I. China's Poverty Reduction Program Has Promoted the Development of Human Rights
Poverty is so widespread that it has seriously hindered the fulfillment and enjoyment of human rights; reducing and eliminating poverty is therefore a major element of human rights protection.
Over the recent decades, the Chinese government has persevered in its attempts to eliminate poverty, improve people's well-being, and gradually realize common prosperity. It has made continuous development- oriented poverty-reduction efforts in rural areas to help those who are striving to escape from poverty and improve the quality of their lives.
China's poverty reduction actions are broad in extent; they include building rural and agricultural infrastructure, helping increase the incomes of impoverished population, and providing public services such as social security and health care, education and cultural services. While comprehensively safeguarding the economic, social and cultural rights of those living in poverty, these measures have created conditions for the protection of other human rights.
Since the initiation of reform and opening up in the late 1970s, the Chinese government has worked without fail to alleviate poverty - establishing special poverty-relief institutions, determining targeted areas and population, allocating specialized funds, formulating poverty standards and special preferential policies adapted to China's national conditions, and steering its policy of poverty alleviation through development.
The government has carried out large-scale development-oriented poverty eradication programs across the country in a planned and organized way, and implemented a series of medium- and long-term projects which include the Seven-Year Program for Lifting 80 Million People Out of Poverty (1994-2000), the Outline for Development-Oriented Poverty Alleviation for China's Rural Areas (2001-2010) and the Outline for Development-Oriented Poverty Alleviation for China's Rural Areas (2011-2020). Poverty reduction has become an important component of China's national strategy.
Since the 18th National Congress of CPC, the Central Committee has given top priority to development-oriented poverty reduction in its philosophy of governance, deeming it vital in its efforts to complete the process of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects by the centenary of the CPC (founded in 1921), which is known to be one of China's "Two Centenary Goals." (see note) To this end, poverty reduction has been incorporated into China's overall approach to building socialism with Chinese characteristics, that is, to promote coordinated progress in economic, political, cultural, social and ecological areas and strategy of "Four Comprehensives" (comprehensively build a moderately prosperous society, comprehensively deepen reform, comprehensively implement the rule of law, and comprehensively strengthen Party discipline).
[Note: The Two Centenary Goals were put forth by the CPC at its 18th National Congress for building socialism with Chinese characteristics. The other goal is to build China into a modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, and harmonious by the centenary of the People's Republic of China (founded in 1949).]
At the Fifth Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee held in October 2015, the CPC further specified the task of eliminating rural poverty and rehabilitating all impoverished counties by 2020. The subsequent central work conference on development-oriented poverty reduction, held the following November, and the decision on winning the fight against poverty issued by the CPC Central Committee and the State Council in December, made comprehensive plans on poverty elimination for the 13th Five-Year Plan period (2016-2020).
China's 13th Five-Year Plan for Economic and Social Development has codified the central leadership's poverty-reduction decision into the state will that is operable in practice. For the first time, poverty reduction has been made an important part of one of China's five-year plans, and helping the poor population shake off poverty has been listed an obligatory index in such a document. Also for the first time, the heads of Party committees and governments of relevant provinces and autonomous regions have signed to the Central Authorities letters of commitment on poverty elimination, and likewise similar documents have been signed by leaders at lower levels.
Poverty reduction is the most telling evidence of China's progress in human rights. Over the past 30 years or more since the launch of reform and opening up, more than 700 million Chinese people have been raised from poverty. The number of rural poor had fallen to 55.75 million by 2015, with the incidence of poverty dropping to 5.7 percent. Notable improvement has been made to infrastructure and basic public services, and poverty-reduction mechanisms have been innovated, thus contributing to the guarantee of the basic rights of the impoverished population. This has laid a solid foundation for achieving a moderately prosperous society in all respects.
The UN Millennium Development Goals Report 2015 shows that the proportion of people living in extreme poverty in China fell by half from 61 percent in 1990 to below 30 percent in 2002, and on down to 4.2 percent in 2014. The number of citizens China has raised from poverty accounts for 70 percent of the world's total. With the most people lifted out of poverty, China has led other countries to realize the UN Millennium Development Goal and made an enormous contribution to poverty reduction worldwide. Its endeavors have been widely hailed by the international community and its achievements will go down in history. Such achievements forcefully demonstrate the brilliant leadership of the CPC and the advantages of socialism with Chinese characteristics.
Chart: Poverty levels in China's rural areas according to the current rural poverty standard
Graphics shows the poverty levels in China's rural areas according to the current rural poverty standard, Oct. 17, 2016. (Xinhua/Zhou Daqing)
While combating poverty at home, China also actively helps other developing countries to address their poverty problems. Over more than six decades since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, China has provided nearly RMB400 billion to 166 countries and international organizations, sent more than 600,000 aid workers, given medical assistance to 69 countries, and aided more than 120 developing countries in realizing the Millennium Goals. On seven occasions China has unconditionally canceled interest-free loans to heavily indebted countries and least developed countries.
After years of trials and experimentation, China has accumulated a wealth of experience in promoting human rights through development- oriented poverty reduction, and established a new model of development- oriented poverty alleviation with Chinese characteristics.
-- Proceeding from the prevailing national conditions and exploiting its institutional advantages. China is the world's largest developing country with more than 1.3 billion people. Development is the paramount task of the CPC in governing and rejuvenating China, which is essential to addressing the country's existing problems. By exploiting its political and institutional advantages, China has formed a trans-regional, trans- departmental, and trans-industrial poverty reduction process to which all social sectors contribute through the mechanism of "Party leadership, government guidance and social participation."
-- Accelerating economic development and promoting poverty reduction. Taking poverty reduction as a major element of economic development, China promotes poverty reduction alongside economic growth, combines development-oriented poverty alleviation and socio-economic development, treats poverty alleviation through development as the main focus of the economic and social development plan, coordinates the development of poverty reduction and human rights protection, and achieves effective interaction between plans for poverty reduction and elimination, national economic and social development, and national human rights action.
-- Adhering to multi-form poverty reduction, and focusing on effect. Development is the fundamental approach to poverty eradication. China addresses poverty reduction by enhancing the skills of the impoverished population and improving their capacity for self-development, and acts to prevent the transfer of poverty across generations. The government adds preferential policies to its general welfare policy, devising preferential policies for the impoverished population on the basis of the general welfare policy for the rural areas, agriculture and farmers. It takes targeted poverty reduction and elimination as the basic strategy, with differentiated and targeted measures, and provides aid and guarantees for all those who qualify.
-- Prioritizing social fairness and justice, and striving to bring benefits and common prosperity to all. Focusing on ensuring and improving public well-being, China encourages institutional and organizational innovation, and promotes social fairness and justice. It is establishing a social fairness guarantee system applying to rights, opportunities and rules, protecting the people's right to equal participation and equal development with the rule of law, and bringing the benefits of reform and development as well as common prosperity to the whole population.