China’s government is celebrating President Xi Jinping’s “complete victory” in the country’s campaign to eradicate rural poverty.
However, some experts say China has set a low bar in its definition of poverty, with sustained investment required to fund continued development in its poorest areas.
The party announced in November, with little fanfare, that China no longer had anyone in extreme poverty.
That was down from an official estimate of almost 99 million living on annual incomes of less than 2,300 yuan ($446) per person a decade ago.
The full-scale propaganda campaign launched this month has filled state-controlled newspapers and airwaves with reports on the anti-poverty milestone and Mr Xi’s personal role in it.
They credit Mr Xi with launching an initiative shortly after taking power in 2012 that enabled China to beat by a decade the 2030 target set by the World Bank for eliminating extreme poverty.
A report by the party newspaper People’s Daily this week on the “historic leap” refers to Mr Xi by his full name and title as party leader 121 times.
“General Secretary Xi Jinping has stood at the strategic height of building a well-off society in an all-around way and realizing the Chinese dream of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,” the newspaper said.
Xi credits leadership and socialist system for ‘historic leap’
At a ceremony on Thursday, Mr Xi hailed what he called a testament to the party’s leadership and the advantages of China’s political system.
“The CCP’s leadership and China’s socialist system are the fundamental guarantees against risks, challenges and difficulties,” Mr Xi said in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, where he presented medals to key figures in the poverty fight.
He said China had invested 1.6 trillion yuan in fighting poverty over the past eight years, but did not give figures for spending planned over the next five years.
In some areas, low-income ethnic minority communities have been moved out of remote valleys into newly built towns.
In others, officials went door-to-door signing up poor families for job training, grants to start businesses and other aid.
Nearly 10 million people moved into new homes and those of 27 million more have been renovated, according to Mr Xi.
Average income per person among the “rural underprivileged” rose from 2,982 yuan ($356) in 2015 to 10,740 yuan ($1,665) last year, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.
In a “Number 1 policy document” released on Sunday, China vowed to stick with its poverty alleviation policies, while making some adjustments for a five-year transition towards what Beijing calls “rural revitalisation”.