The main banner of the Chinese Communist Party’s centennial celebrations and obsession over the past decade, China’s poverty eradication has been compared to a “miracle” by leader Xi Jinping.
The “complete victory” announced by the Chinese government has even awarded medals to the bureaucrats involved, but the feat has sparked controversy and is contested by scholars of poverty and inequality, especially in the United States, the largest Beijing’s geopolitical rival.
Party propaganda claims that 100 million Chinese have been lifted out of extreme poverty over the past eight years, living on more than US $ 1.90 (R $ 9.50) a day in 832 districts and 128,000 villages.
The exploit would have put an end to the last pockets of hunger and misery, especially rural ones, which marked many periods in Chinese history. Aside from doubts about the sustainability of this long-term achievement, the cadre was seen as timid given China’s rapid economic progress.
According to World Bank criteria, China currently has a GNI (Gross National Income) per capita of US $ 10,400, making it one of the upper middle income countries. As early as 2018, the World Bank created, in addition to the rule of US $ 1.90 per day for poor countries, US $ 3.20 for low-middle-income countries and US $ 5.50 for poor countries upper middle income, like China today.
The Asian country began pursuing the $ 1.90 per day target before adopting the new criteria and, commenting on Beijing’s official announcement, Martin Raiser, World Bank representative in China, said to himself “ sure that the eradication of absolute poverty in rural areas was a success, given the volume of resources mobilized. “” But we are less sure that this is sustainable. “
Since 2012, when Xi took power, the Chinese government has injected nearly $ 250 billion into anti-poverty programs. It is as if the country is spending the equivalent of 40 years of the Bolsa Família budget in eight years. With a heavy hand and public funding, China has forced hundreds of companies to develop projects to include poor families among the beneficiaries of their businesses.
In rural areas, where policy was concentrated, small producers received funding, often out of pocket, to, for example, buy and raise livestock which were then slaughtered by slaughterhouses with the Chinese state as a partner. In a report on China in 2018, Folha visited a cattle fair and slaughterhouse like this one in Tongliao, Inner Mongolia region, as well as a mushroom farm in Hohhot, heavily subsidized by resources from the State to employ poor families.
In the then deficit mushroom farm, 650 million yuan (495 million BRL) was invested in public money to provide work for about 500 farmers, with average monthly incomes of 3,500 yuan (2,700 BRL) – well more than the minimum of $ 1.90 per day or $ 57 per month (R $ 285).
The doubts about the financial sustainability of this type of policy, which increasingly requires the participation of the state in companies – including with members of the Chinese Communist Party on the boards of directors – add to the queries on the US $ 1.90 per day setting.
Indermit Gill, a global economics and development researcher at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, says the $ 1.90 a day test should no longer be applied to China, given the Chinese GNI per capita current in the United States. 10.4 thousand dollars. “China today is doing almost as well as the United States in 1960, when the country became a high-income economy. At that time, the United States first adopted an official definition of poverty, classifying as poor those whose daily consumption is less than $ 21.70, about 10 times what China considers adequate.
The parameter of US $ 1.90 per day is close to that used by Brazilian organizations, such as FGV Social, to calculate extreme poverty in Brazil. Brazilian GNI per capita in 2019, according to the World Bank, was equivalent to US $ 9,100, lower than that of China, but sufficient to place Brazil among the upper middle-income countries (boxed between US $ 4,000 and $ 12 US. 5 thousand).
In Brazil, according to FGV Social, in the first quarter of this year, 35 million people were living on less than R $ 246 per month (US $ 1.64 per day). The big difference from China is that Brazil has a stagnant economy or has grown little for years, with a recent increase in poverty. China’s economy, meanwhile, has nearly tripled in size – from US $ 4 trillion to US $ 11.5 trillion – since 2006.
In addition to doubts about the long-term sustainability of China’s anti-poverty policy and the income criterion used, we wonder about the absence of other complementary policies to ensure the survival of the poorest, especially in the poorest areas. areas of health and well-being.
According to Livia Costa, an MA in Chinese Studies from Peking University and editor-in-chief at Shumian, a platform for China-Latin America relations, the most widely used method in this Asian country to reduce poverty has been to transfer people from poor rural areas to more structured cities. “So the Chinese are pulling many pockets of poverty off the map. Does this type of policy have an impact on intergenerational poverty? Not necessarily, ”he says.
For her, there are also no multidimensional policies against poverty in China. “The main reason that drives a Chinese to poverty today is the cost of health care,” says Costa. In Brazil, despite the shortcomings, the SUS (Unified Health System) is universal and free.
Researcher of Dibao, a kind of Bolsa Família introduced in 1993 in the Asian country, Costa claims that the service, one of the instruments of the fight against poverty, is poorly targeted, without conditionalities and subject to the whims of the local leaders of the Chinese Communist Party. – in addition to being smaller, proportionally, where there are ethnic minorities.
Dibao costs the equivalent of 0.15% of Chinese GDP and reaches 80 million people – Bolsa Família, 0.4% of GDP, with 14.2 million families served.
In a recent article, Bill Bikales, who worked as a UN consultant in China for nearly a decade, called the claim that the country is free from poverty questionable, especially given the lack of other social safety nets. According to the World Bank’s Raiser, Beijing must now focus its efforts on “the vulnerabilities facing the large number of people still considered poor by the standards of middle-income countries, including those living in urban areas.”
In the official announcement of the end of poverty, the Chinese authorities also announced the creation of the National Department of Rural Revitalization, with the objective of deepening the reforms and pursuing a sustainable increase in incomes inside the country. . One of the biggest doubts about China’s economic future is whether the country will be able to overcome the current stage and enter the league of high-income countries, in which the United States and most European countries are present.
When it made this transition in the middle of the last century, the United States had a younger population and less dependent on the countryside than China. But even though the Asian country may not meet US levels of per capita income for many years (US $ 65,800 in GNI terms), its economy is rapidly changing to exceed, in size, that of the United States.
In the middle of the last decade, China’s GDP was less than 30% of that of the United States. In 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic, in which China appears to be doing better than any other country, the Chinese economy was already nearly 65% the size of the US.