At the turn of the 1980s when figures were first recorded, China’s poverty rate was a staggering 88%. Today, China’s poverty rate is at 2% and almost exclusively concentrated in rural areas. President Xi Jinping has revealed plans to fully eliminate poverty in the country by the end of 2020 as part of his plan to transform China into a “moderately prosperous society” that reflects the values of socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era.
As part of this drive, the Chinese government is working on specifically tailored reform packages to help give the agrarian poor new means to develop sustainable models of economic growth. One of these projects has already made it to the World Cup in the form of crayfish bred in captivity specially for consumption.
The crayfish which are both larger and more environmentally sustainable than wild crayfish were initially given away as samples to Russians and international visitors to Russia throughout World Cup host cities. Since then, the crayfish have become so popular with World Cup diners that multiple Russian restaurants and markets have ordered boxes of crayfish from Chinese eCommerce giant Alibaba.
As reported by China’s People’s Daily,
“Crayfish are normally sold at $76 to $80 per kilogram in local restaurants, while they only cost $12 per kilogram to buy via Alibaba’s online platforms. According to a chef at restaurant La Provincia, the restaurant purchased 300 kilograms of crayfish less than a week ago, and they are already the most popular dish on the menu”.
This story is another example of how win-win cooperation to boost agricultural exports from China while eliminating the last vestiges of rural poverty can have unexpected results as Russians and their World Cup guests have now developed a taste for crayfish which can be easily shipped around the world through Alibaba.
No country in history has lifted as large a number of people out of poverty as China has done, beginning in the late 20th century. While China has a population of 1.379 billion versus the US which has a population of 325.7 million, China has less poverty than the United States when measured both as a percentage of its population and in terms of individuals living below the poverty line. The current poverty rate in the United States is 12.6% according to a recent domestic academic study which measures poverty as those who earn less than $32 a day on average. This accounts for over 43 million Americans living in poverty in a country with a significantly smaller population than that of China. While the US domestic threshold for poverty is higher than the international threshold used by Chinese authorities, it is also crucial to remember that the cost of living in the United States is vastly higher than that in China. This is especially true when China’s biggest cities are factored out of the equation.
While some remain sceptical about China’s ability to eliminate poverty by the end of 2020, the record clearly shows that when it comes to tackling issues of extreme poverty in an extremely short period of time, China is not only able to achieve its goals but is able to do so in ways that put other countries to shame. While the poverty rate in the US has stagnated for decades, with the rate being 12.4% at the end of the 1970s with a slight increase to 13.7% at the end of the 1980s, China has dramatically gone from a state of near total poverty to the brink of eliminating all poverty in that same period.
With China lifting an average of 13 million people out of poverty each year in the last five years, President Xi’s goal of progressively eliminating poverty for 10 million rural poor each year until poverty is fully eliminated at the turn of 2021, is ultimately a realistic goal, albeit one with seismic implications.
China’s creative ability to focus on unique and affordable export products to help expedite the process of poverty relief is a further sign of the spirit of Chinese optimism that Xi Jinping recently extolled among a group of young party activists. It is this spirit of dreaming big that continues to transform China into a land of innovation where both highly educated entrepreneurs and agrarian workers are reaping the benefits of Xi’s political reforms.