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For better lives


China is ushering in a new era to strive for common prosperity

In a New York Times article dated Nov 18, 2018, in their series How China Became a Superpower, we find this quote: "China is still much poorer overall than the United States. But the Chinese have taken a commanding lead in that most intangible but valuable of economic indicators: optimism." That optimism is born of the fact that "eight hundred million people have risen out of poverty". The article continues "not only are incomes drastically rising within families, but sons are out-earning their fathers. That means expectations are rising, too, especially among China's growing middle class". The government of the People's Republic of China has not rested on its laurels, and a deliberate campaign is going on to penetrate the remotest rural counties to provide access roads, health clinics and services, primary schools, electricity and water, as well as adequate shelter.

There is abundant eyewitness testimony to the success of China's drive to eliminate extreme poverty. The most powerful testimonies are from independent observers who speak from their personal experiences of living and working in remote parts of China. In a seminar on Dec 17, 2020 organized by the US Heartland China Association, two Americans spoke of their experiences in the mountainous province of Yunnan in southwestern China.

The stories of Matthew Chitwood, who recently returned to the US after spending two years in a remote rural mountainous village, and Brian Linden, who, with his wife, operates a hotel in Yunnan province, speak to the actual lives that have been transformed by the strategy to eliminate the last pockets of absolute poverty. The Chinese people are grateful to their government for the opportunities that the poverty alleviation drive has opened to them; they attribute their improved -- even though still not rich -- lives to the Communist Party of China and President Xi Jinping. "The national policy is good" is a frequently heard slogan. People do grumble about local implementation and competency, but such deficiencies are not being ignored by the government.

China's achievements in improving the livelihoods and prospects of its people are reflected in the improvement of the Human Development Index for China over the past 30 years. The index, which is published annually by the United Nations Development Programme, combines measures of the purchasing power of the average income of the country with indicators of health and educational status. Between 1990 and 2019, China's HDI increased over 50 percent, while the average increase for all countries over that period was 23 percent. Life expectancy in China improved by 11 percent, students spent an average of eight years in school in 2019, more than twice the 1990 average, and the purchasing power of average incomes was 11 times what it was in 1990. The UNDP's latest Human Development Report on Sept 8 showed China's HDI score increased to 0.768 from 0.761 in 2019. "This is due in large part to the country's pandemic prevention measures which kept deaths from COVID-19 down, and allowed schools to reopen sooner, while the economy benefited from earlier reopening and pent-up demand from abroad," the report said.

The Chinese leadership does not dwell on these achievements, remarkable as they are. Their focus is on the challenges that remain in reaching their declared goal of building a moderately prosperous society whose benefits are enjoyed by all. These challenges include the income gap between the eastern seaboard provinces and the rest of the country, creating employment opportunities in second- and third-tier cities, improving access to urban markets for rural farmers and addressing the shortage of affordable housing in urban centers, among others. In addition, China is pursuing announced goals for renewable energy use and environmental sustainability.

The Chinese government's commitment to human development is summarized in the State Council Information Office's white paper of Aug 12, 2021, which states "Xiaokang", an ancient term in China, refers to a status of moderate prosperity whereby people are neither rich nor poor but free from want and toil. It has been the people's wish since ancient times to live a life of peace, stability and happiness. In the early period of reform and opening-up, based on its own national conditions, China articulated the goal of building a moderately prosperous society, which demonstrated its concern for improving people's well-being, and its commitment to protecting and promoting human rights. The realization of all-round moderate prosperity ushers in a new era for the protection of human rights in all respects.

The author is former governor of the Central Bank of Barbados and president of the Association of Barbados-China Friendship. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

Contact the editor at editor@chinawatch.cn