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Press officer: Poor population in China fell from 250 million in 1978 to 23.65 million in 2005


(Ask the Embassy)


Stacey, from Centurion, Tshwane writes:


I'm impressed by Jeffrey Sachs' remarks (Business Report, August 16), such as "China has the fastest escape from poverty of any sizable country," and, "China could help lift Africa from poverty." Could you give me more information on this?


Press Officer:


  Frankly, Stacey, I should say Mr. Jeffrey Sachs' remarks are facts-based.

  China's economy has been developing rapidly since 1978 when China launched its reform and opening up policy. Thanks to the sustained economic boom, the poor population in China has been dramatically reduced. From 1978 to 2005, the economy grew by 9.4 per cent annually, and the number of people living in abject poverty fell from 250 million to 23.65 million in the same period. Meanwhile, the ratio of the very poor in the total rural population has fallen from 30.7 percent to 3.1 percent. This means a great deal for the Chinese people.

  Mr. Jeffrey Sachs, a renowned economist, is not only the Director of the UN Millennium Project to Reduce Global Poverty, but also a special adviser to UN Secretary-General. It's understandable that he keeps a close eye on China. Actually, he is not alone on making such observations. Mr. Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics and once chief economist and senior vice president at the World Bank, wrote (Business Day, May 3), "Never before has the world seen such sustained growth; never before has there been so much poverty reduction." He referred to China, also.

  But we are very clear that China still faces difficulty and challenges in shaking off absolute poverty. China's poverty line of 680 yuan (US$85 or R600) per capita net income a year is too low. China's poor actually amounts to 120 million to 130 million, using the internationally-accepted one U.S. dollar per day guideline. We are working hard to ensure that the poorest Chinese will all have enough food and clothes by 2010 and to ensure China meet its MDGs before 2015.

    As Mr. Jeffrey Sachs holds, China's rising investment and aid across Africa are welcomed by most Africans, and China could make a unique contribution to raising Africa from chronic poverty. "The overwhelming feeling towards China is gratitude for support. China gives fewer lecture and more practical help." We have full confidence that Africa will make poverty history with its own efforts and in its own way. China is always willing to share its experiences in coping with poverty.


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