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In the Chinese lunar calendar, 2018 is the Year of the Dog. For the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Chinese Government, 2018 may also be considered “the year of the underdogs.”
China boasts ancient civilization. A civilized country should take care of its vulnerable and elderly, not just the rich and powerful. Since most of the vulnerable and elderly people are poor, China regards eradicating poverty as one of the nation’s most important tasks in the coming years. President Xi Jinping has promised that by the end of the year 2020, no Chinese will be living beneath the extreme poverty line (set in 2011 at 2,300 yuan or US$365 per person per year). According to concerned statistics, China has successfully alleviated a total of 68.53 million people out of poverty during the past five years. It is estimated that there are still 30 million Chinese living below the poverty line, which means that China is still facing the arduous task of lifting at least 10 million people out of poverty annually from this year to 2020.
Frankly speaking, this is really a hard nut to crack since most of the remaining 30 million poor Chinese are minors, left-behind children, the elderly, mentally disabled or ethnic minority people who live in remote areas such as Inner Mongolia, Ningxia, Xinjiang, Gansu, Guizhou and other inland provinces. They cannot rely on themselves to get rid of poverty, neither do they have any resources to take advantage of during the process.
In January this year, President Xi was elected deputy to the National People’s Congress by a unanimous vote in Inner Mongolia. Xi said that by representing Inner Mongolia as a deputy, he demonstrated the great attention that the CPC Central Committee intends to pay to ethnic minorities and its firm determination to reduce poverty. While attending a panel discussion of this year’s National People’s Congress with deputies from Guangdong Province on March 7, a migrant worker deputy named Mi Xuemei shared a speech with President Xi about her bittersweet life over the past two decades in Guangdong. After hearing the speech, Xi required that policymakers of Guangdong, as a province with a large migrant population, put themselves in the shoes of migrant workers in order to better take care of their most imminent needs when making policies, urging them to also make children and the elderly benefit from the country’s rural revitalization strategy.
The simplistic approach of indiscriminately handing out some money and goods to the poor is the traditional way of alleviating poverty in China. Such formalism and bureaucracy has been widely criticized in recent years, and the Chinese Government is now taking pains to promote more targeted poverty alleviation measures, which would require more educational enlightenment and long-sighted financial policies for helping the struggling remote areas and poor people in the country.
For example, in a targeted anti-poverty measure, the China Securities Regulatory Commission introduced a preferential policy that helps companies in impoverished areas raise funds from the capital market. In order to take advantage of this shortcut to an initial public offering (IPO), Shenzhen-based VST Automotive Navigation Co. Ltd. six months ago moved its headquarters from the metropolitan city to Le’an, a poor county in eastern China’s Jiangxi Province. In 2018, VST is expected to generate revenue of 500 million yuan and pay 20 million yuan in taxes.
It is reported that more than 50 companies have so far moved their headquarters from big coastal cities to impoverished areas. By relocating their headquarters to poor regions, eligible Chinese companies can take a great leap to the forefront of the long queue of firms hoping for IPOs on the Shanghai or Shenzhen stock exchanges, thereby avoiding years of waiting. These tech companies do not bring about pollution and can help green transformation in the countryside. Moreover, big companies like VST will likely recruit many rural staff members, pay a lot of tax to local governments and attract both upstream and downstream firms to form a complete supply chain, a great boost for rural economies and targeted poverty alleviation.
(The author is the editor-in-chief of the Shenzhen Daily with a Ph.D. from the Journalism and Communication School of Wuhan University.)