11/27/2020, 12.36
CHINA
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Experts are sceptical about China’s claim that it conquered poverty

The country’s last 832 counties designated as "poor" have been lifted out of this condition. Apparently, the goals set by Xi Jinping have been achieved. However, for critics, the threshold used by the authorities is too low. The gap between cities and countryside is growing; two million more internal migrants are poor. Consumption is falling due to the pandemic. Prime Minister Li Keqiang also expressed doubts.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – China has declared victory over poverty, this despite the negative effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

The country’s last 832 counties designated as "poor" have been lifted out of this condition, state-run broadcaster CCTV reported a few days ago.

Chinese authorities are expected to make an official announcement once all the data are confirmed.

Erasing poverty by 2021, 100 years after the founding of the Chinese Communist Party, was one of President Xi Jinping's main goals.

Critics contend however that China’s poverty line is too low, set at an annual income of 4,000 yuan (US7) or US.65 per day (the international standard is US$ 1.9).

They also note that in many parts of the country people could suffer a drastic decline in living standards if government income support programmes end.

The calculation made by the authorities is based on a national average. Several observers point out that the economic gap in China between the urban and rural populations continues to grow.

In the first nine months of the year, per capita disposable income in cities reached 20,524 yuan (US$ 3,116): in the countryside, it stood at 10,650 yuan (US$ 1,984).

Between 2013 and 2019, the gap between a resident in Shanghai and one in remote Xinjiang has increased from 13,506 yuan (US$ 2,053) to 24,376 (US$ 3,704).

Many outside analysts question the accuracy of Chinese government data, which are often contradictory. For example, the ongoing health emergency has increased the number of migrant workers in a state of poverty to 29 million, up by 2 million over last year.

Consumer spending data also cast doubt over the end of "absolute" poverty. According to China’s National Bureau of Statistics, retail sales fell by 5.9 per cent between January and October compared to the same period in 2019.

Such misgivings are indirectly confirmed by Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang. Last Saturday, during a videoconference with the heads of five provinces, he told local leaders to "tell the truth" about the economic state of the areas they administer.

In fact, high levels of indebtedness in local administrations threaten to wreck the central government’s growth plans, which are centred on boosting domestic consumption.

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