Poverty Alleviation in Rural China

  • Xiaoshan ZhangEmail author
  • Zhou Li
Part of the Research Series on the Chinese Dream and China’s Development Path book series (RSCDCDP)


The great reduction of the numbers of rural people in poverty is one of the greatest, most spectacular achievements made in China over the past 30-plus years of reform and opening up.

The great reduction of the numbers of rural people in poverty is one of the greatest, most spectacular achievements made in China over the past 30-plus years of reform and opening up. In this chapter, we will look back on and summarize the course taken in rural poverty alleviation over the past 30-plus years, focusing particularly on analysis of the successes and failures of rural poverty alleviation. Such analysis is of both great practical significance and is also significant for theoretical guidance for selecting future poverty alleviation institutions.

1 Poverty Alleviation in Rural China Prior to the Beginning of Reforms

  1. 1.

    The status of poverty alleviation in current rural development and amid institutional changes

Shortly after the founding of People’s Republic of China, there was widespread poverty in the countryside, owing to the ravages of a long period of war, high concentration of land ownership and few peasant land owners, and backwardness of technology. To turn this situation around as quickly as possible, officials established poverty alleviation as a priority area for government institutions and policy arrangements, launching land reforms, the cooperative movement, and the people’s commune movement, to reduce disparities in resource ownership and income occupation. Although China had never made a poverty alleviation plan prior to reform and opening up, a series of institutional arrangements, policies, and plans were launched to either indirectly or directly alleviate or eliminate the widespread poverty in the country.
  1. 2.

    Primary rural poverty alleviation measures prior to reforms

From 1949 until the advent of reform and opening up, the Chinese government took the following major measures in rural poverty alleviation.
  1. (1)

    Increasing the Rights of Rural Population to Occupy and Use Their Land (Natural Resources)

Before the founding of People’s Republic of China in 1949, land occupation in China was highly unequal. It is estimated that in 1934, four percent of the rural population—landlords—owned 50% of arable land, while poor peasants and hired farmhands—70% of the rural population—owned only 17% of arable land.1 After 1949, land reforms were launched across rural China. During these reforms, land was stripped from landlords without compensation and distributed to poor peasants and hired farmhands with no or little land. Land reforms gave all rural population in China the right to own land, and by 1952, the unequal distribution across different classes of rural society had been fundamentally resolved2; this basically eliminated the landless class, which in other countries comprises the vast majority of the rural poor population, and laid a highly advantageous fiscal and institutional foundation for the success of later poverty alleviation in China.
  1. (2)

    Improving rural infrastructure

From the 1950s through the mid-1970s, the Chinese government used effective controls on resources, the “three-tiered collective land ownership system,” and comparative advantages in land and labor usage to drive wide-scale rural infrastructure construction, improving rural irrigation works and transportation conditions. During this time, the length of nationwide drivable roads increased 10-fold, and the area of effective irrigation increased 125%.
  1. (3)

    Improving basic rural education and basic rural healthcare conditions

From 1949 to 1978, the number of primary schools in China grew 2.6-fold, and the number of middle schools grew 29-fold, with enrollment in primary schools growing from less than 50 to 96%. Officials built the rural cooperative healthcare protection system, improving or building over 50,000 township-level hospitals and over 600,000 village clinics, achieving a nationwide rural village coverage rate of 68.8%, greatly improving the lack of rural healthcare and medicine and increasing the health levels of the rural population.
  1. (4)

    Building a social security system based in communities

Officials built a social security system based in communities: the five guarantees protection system, to provide most basic social protections to households lacking the ability to labor. Officials also established a system to provide living aid to households in extreme difficulty caused by natural disasters or other special circumstances.
In addition, officials established the nationwide rural credit cooperative network, agricultural technology dissemination network, and planned birth system, and so on, all of which played an important role in rural poverty alleviation prior to reforms.
  1. 3.

    Achievements and issues

Nationwide grain yields increased 2.69-fold from 1949 to 1978 owing to the aforementioned major policies and measures. Nationwide rural calorie intakes also increased by an average of 20%.3 The rural poverty rate fell from 80 to 50%. However, poverty alleviation gains made during this stage were made through a degree of sacrificing economic productivity. It was difficult to keep such poverty alleviation methods effective in the long term.

2 Evolution of Poverty Alleviation in Rural China Since 1978

Changes to China’s rural poverty alleviation systems and methods since 1978 can be roughly divided into three stages. The first ran from 1978 to 1985, and was driven by reforms to the basic rural economic system. The second ran from 1986 to 2006, with the dual effects of dedicated poverty alleviation development projects and economic growth. The third phase started in 2007 and is ongoing, with dedicated poverty alleviation development projects, social security, and economic growth all working together.
  1. 1.


During this period, China completed systemic reforms centered on the household contract responsibility system. These reforms greatly increased rural population’ incentives to labor, invest, and strengthen management, and agricultural labor productivity increased 40.3%.4

During this period, the Chinese government improved transaction conditions for agricultural products and increased rural incomes by increasing the prices of agricultural products. The comprehensive purchase price index for agricultural products increased 66.8% from 1978 to 1985; these price increases accounted for 15.5% of growth in rural incomes. With the household contract responsibility system and agricultural product prices rising, rural per capita net incomes grew 132%. The per capita rural daily calorie intake grew from 2300 in 1978 to 2454 in 1985.5 The number of rural population living in poverty, per poverty standards set by the Chinese government, fell from 250 million in 1978 to 125 million in 1985, and the incidence of poverty fell from 30.7 to 14.8%.6

Most poverty alleviation during this stage was the result of institutional reforms and adjustments to agricultural product prices. Although rural households in different regions and under different conditions benefitted to different degrees from these reforms, disparities in geographic location, resource endowments, household conditions, and household income began to grow, and the Gini coefficient of rural income distribution rose from 0.21 in 1978 to 0.28 in 1985. Although there were “10,000 yuan households” in some rural areas, there were also a great number of households with “not enough food to fill the belly, not enough clothes to cover the body, and not enough houses to keep out the wind.”
  1. 2.


In 1986, the Chinese government began a rural dedicated anti-poverty plan of historic scale to address the change from poverty caused by comprehensive institutional restrictions toward poverty caused by restrictions in regional conditions and by restrictions in household capabilities. This plan’s objectives were to adopt special policies and measures to drive increases to the self-development of poor in areas of highly concentrated impoverished populations, and to drive regional economic development to stabilize alleviation or elimination of poverty. Disparities in strategic focuses and methods of poverty alleviation strategies during this phase allow us to further break it down into three periods.
  1. (1)


Primary rural poverty alleviation measures taken from 1986 to 1993 include the following: (a) Establishing dedicated poverty alleviation development organs from the central down to the county level; drafting poverty alleviation policies; establishing poverty alleviation targets; creating mid-term and annual poverty alleviation plans; distributing poverty alleviation capital and projects; coordinating relationships between relevant departments; and overseeing and inspecting poverty alleviation projects. (b) Establishing the basic guiding policy for development-oriented poverty alleviation, and changing the focus of poverty alleviation from aid-oriented toward regional development-oriented. (c) Establishing focus poverty alleviation counties. (d) Arranging dedicated poverty alleviation capital and increasing investments into impoverished areas. (e) Issuing a series of other preferential policies, including: increasing capital investments into impoverished regions; exempting business taxes on development-oriented enterprises in impoverished regions; setting fiscal quotas on impoverished counties, and establishing dedicated projects and subsidies for people in difficult circumstances.7 During this stage, the absolute number of people still without sufficient clothing and food decreased from 125 million in 1985 to 75 million in 1993, for an average annual decrease of 6.25 million.
  1. (2)

    “Eight-Seven Poverty Alleviation Plan”: 1994–2000

In 1994, China issued the “Eight-Seven Poverty Alleviation Plan” intended to resolve the clothing and food problems for the remaining 80 million rural poor (“eight”) over the course of seven years (“seven”), by 2000. This was the first plan in China’s history directly targeting poverty alleviation.

During the period covered by the “Seven-Eight” plan, China adopted a series of new poverty alleviation policies and measures, including the following: (a) Making adjustments to officially designated “poor counties” per the distribution of population living in poverty. (b) Greatly increasing poverty alleviation investments from the central government. From 1994 to 2000, the central government made average annual poverty alleviation investments of 16.14 billion yuan, in the form of development capital, disaster relief through work program funds, and subsidized poverty alleviation loans, a 210% increase over the period from 1986 to 1993, with a 340% increase in fiscal poverty alleviation funds. (c) Further strengthening scientific and technological poverty alleviation. The government issued the “Scientific and Technological Poverty Alleviation Planning Compendium,” which called for dispatching scientific and technological cadres and personnel to poor areas, made arrangements for “spark plan” scientific and technological poverty alleviation loans, established model scientific and technological poverty alleviation programs, and supported agricultural industrialization in poor areas. (d) Encouraging social power and social capital to participate in and support poverty alleviation projects through east-west cooperation, non-governmental organizations, governmental departments, large and medium enterprises, and international organizations to become involved in targeted poverty alleviation programs in poor areas. (e) Gradually adjusting targets of poverty alleviation and giving more direct support to poor households.

In addition, relevant government departments also issued other policies and measures to benefit poor areas and poor rural households. For example, officials implemented the “Compulsory Education Program in Poor Areas,” transportation poverty alleviation, and cultural poverty alleviation, as well as policies encouraging development of rural transportation, electricity, radio, and television, the scope of benefit of which included poor areas. Officials launched the Great Development of the West strategy and policy for returning arable land to forests in 1998; these played an important role to a certain extent in alleviating rural poverty.

During this time, per capita net rural incomes in the 592 state-designated poor counties increased 74%, and rural per capita net incomes grew 48.8% over the 1993 level and 59.4% over the 200 level. Infrastructure in poor regions was also markedly improved. There was a shrinking of the gap in some social development indices between poor areas and nationwide levels. The absolute number of rural poor without sufficient clothing and food fell to 32.09 million, and the incidence of poverty dropped to 3.4%.8
  1. (3)


In 2001, the CPC Central Committee and State Council jointly issued the “Poverty Alleviation Development Compendium for Rural China (2001–2010),” ushering in a new era for rural poverty alleviation in China.
  1. (a)


    Strategic objectives for poverty alleviation during this period were as follows: (1) Resolving problems of insufficient clothing and food for the rest of the poor population; (2) solidifying the achievements made in the previous stage and ensuring that people already lifted out of poverty not experience more problems of insufficient clothing and food; and (3) improving infrastructure and the environment in poor areas. To this end, the government established the guiding policy for rural poverty alleviation development of “guidance by the government, social participation, self-reliance, development and poverty alleviation, and comprehensive development.” The major change highlighted by the guiding policy was the inclusion of the two important concepts of social participation and comprehensive development within the strategy, which established social participation as a key area in rural poverty alleviation development from a high strategic vantage point, and broke through the former thinking of poverty alleviation focused solely on increasing incomes. Officials thus included irrigation works, transportation, electricity, and other infrastructure construction in poor areas, as well as science and technology, education, health, culture, and other social development enterprises, within the strategy for development-oriented poverty alleviation.

  2. (b)

    Primary methods

    After 2001, officials in China rolled out three important poverty alleviation measures: whole-village advancement, transfer and training of labor in poor areas, and industrialization. These three measures, in addition to the three previous strategies of voluntary population movements, scientific and technological poverty alleviation, and social poverty alleviation became the fundamental framework for rural poverty alleviation development in this stage.
    1. (1)

      Whole-village advancement. This program called for moving poverty alleviation objectives down from the county level to the administrative village level, and also concentrating poverty alleviation investments over a certain time period in a small number of villages with concentrated impoverished populations, completely eliminating restrictions keeping these villages poor, and lifting entire village populations out of poverty. A total of 148,000 such villages were designated around the country, 20% of all administrative villages in the country, and accounting for 80% of the rural poor population in China.9

    2. (2)

      Transfers and training of labor in poor areas. The central government established a concrete plan for transfers and training of labor in poor rural areas and also set aside dedicated funding for training programs.

    3. (3)

      Agricultural industrialization. Poverty alleviation through agricultural industrialization includes the following: planning and constructing regional-oriented industries with special characteristics over contiguous regions per local resource advantages, market demands, and the direction of industrialization; building production bases for agricultural products in poor regions and providing pre-production, in-production, and post-production services to rural poor households, to give rise to industrialized operations that incorporate trade, industry, and agriculture as well as production and marketing; providing preferential policies to support development of mainstay enterprises; and exploring interest-sharing mechanisms between mainstay enterprises and poor rural households, to bring about win-win situations for households and industries.

    4. (4)

      Voluntary movements of population. Beginning in 2001, poverty alleviation through population movements (also called poverty alleviation in different locations or ecological population movement poverty alleviation) grew continuously stronger. The central government proposed the guiding policy of “guidance by the government, voluntary participation by the masses, policy coordination, and seeking real results.” Officials also established six principles for this program: coordination between poverty alleviation and ecological construction; integration of voluntary participation by the masses; comprehensive planning, and policy protections; first develop then move; suiting measures to local conditions and seeking real results; act according to one’s abilities and progress gradually and in good order.

    5. (5)

      Science and technology. Building model townships and villages for science and technology on the basis of local characteristics in poor regions; driving the advancement of characteristic industries with science and technology and supporting the development of a slew of special pillar industries in poor regions; building information service stations and launching science and technology information poverty alleviation initiatives; exploring solidification of achievements of poverty alleviation through science and technology and driving mechanisms for growing rich; and launching the work of science and technology training and popularization, and propagating scientific and technological information and achievements to poor regions.

    6. (6)

      Social poverty alleviation. This includes aid in sites specified by government public institutions or large enterprises, coordinated poverty alleviation in eastern developed regions and western poor regions, and poverty alleviation with participation from social organizations and individuals.

  3. (c)

    Main achievements

First, the absolute number of rural poor was reduced. From 2001 to 2006, there was a reduction in the absolute number of rural poor in China from 29.27 million to 21.48 million, per government-set poverty standards, with the vast majority of rural poor with the ability to labor and survive resolving problems of clothing and food.

Second, whole-village advancement programs and focus poverty alleviation work counties saw a rapid increase in rural incomes. From 2002 to 2006, rural per capita net incomes grew 47.7% in focus counties and 51.7% in focus villages (not excluding price factors), higher than the national averages at the time by 2.9 and 6.9%, respectively.

Third, there was a degree of growth in the number of rural laborers from focus counties and villages working elsewhere. From 2002 to 2006, the proportions of such workers in focus counties grew 50 and 49.77% in focus villages, higher than nationwide averages for laborers having been trained and working in state or other bodies by 1.5 and 2.1%, respectively.

Fourth, infrastructure and social services conditions were markedly improved in focus counties and towns. Improvements in public roads, electricity, education, healthcare and other areas were much faster in focus counties and towns than in the rest of the country from 2002 to 2006. Over this period, there was a 12.47% increase in the number of road-connected natural villages in focus counties and 17.66% in focus villages from 2002 to 2006. Over the same period, the increase to telephone connection in natural villages was 53.05% in focus counties and 90.05% in focus villages. The increase in administrative villages with health clinics was 7.9 and 15%, respectively.
  1. 3.

    Rural poverty alleviation since 2007

In 2007, the central government established the rural minimum living standards guarantee system and policy for tuition exemption in rural compulsory education across the country. Thereafter officials gradually established the new rural cooperative healthcare and new rural social pension insurance systems covering the entire country. The establishment of these rural social security systems also moved China’s rural poverty alleviation strategy from its previous stage of dual effects of development-oriented poverty alleviation and economic growth into a new stage of the triple effects of development-oriented poverty alleviation, social security, and economic growth. At the end of 2015, the State Council issued the “Resolution on Winning the War against Poverty,” resolving to lift everybody in the country out of poverty by 2020, per current poverty standards.
  1. (1)

    Key Policies and Measures

  1. (a)

    Building the nationwide rural minimum living standards guarantee program, including all rural poor below the poverty line within the system.

    By the end of September 2015, 49.72 million rural population in the country were covered under the system, accounting for seven percent of the national rural population. The per subsidy amount under the program by that time was 139 yuan.10

  2. (b)

    Two big adjustments to rural poverty alleviation standards and an expansion of those eligible for rural poverty alleviation programs.

    Before 2008, China’s poverty line had been set at a purchasing power of less than one US dollar per day. In 2008, that standard was increased by one third. In 2011, the standard was again increased from 2010s average of 1274 yuan up to 2300 yuan, an increase of 80.5%. The new poverty alleviation standard was now set at a purchasing power of USD $2.2 per person per day, slightly higher than the World Bank’s standard of USD $1.9 per person per day.

  3. (c)

    Clearly implementing policies that integrate dedicated poverty alleviation projects, industry poverty alleviation, and social poverty alleviation, to form a comprehensive system of poverty alleviation.

  4. (d)

    Establishing contiguous, particularly impoverished regions as the main battlegrounds for poverty alleviation development and returning the focus of development-oriented poverty alleviation to regional development. The “Chinese Rural Poverty Alleviation Development Compendium (2011–2020)” established the Liupanshan mountainous region and 13 other contiguous particularly impoverished regions as the primary battlegrounds for rural poverty alleviation development for 10 years.

  5. (e)

    Implementing a precise strategy

    The Chinese government began implementing a precise poverty alleviation strategy in 2014. The use of precision targeting of poor population, precise diagnosis of the causes of poverty, and precise aid were all more highly targeted measures to help the rest of the poor population leave poverty.

  1. (2)

    Primary Achievements

  1. (a)

    Accelerated reduction of rural poor population and gradual effectiveness of minimum living standards program on poverty reduction.

    Per 2008 rural poverty standards, there was a reduction of 7.625 million from the rural poor population from 2006 to 2010, accounting for a 23% increase in the average annual rate of decrease of the poor population from 2000 to 2006, before the minimum living standards program was established. Most particularly in the first year of the program’s existence, 2007, there was a reduction of 13.78 million from the rural poor population, gradually displaying the important effect of the program on rural poverty alleviation.

  2. (b)

    Increases to rural incomes in focus poverty alleviation counties were rapid, and the gap between the national average level and these counties closed. Since 2007, rural incomes in focus counties have grown faster than national average rural income growth rates, closing the relative disparity between these counties and the rest of the nation. The proportion of rural per capita net income growth in focus counties to the nationwide averages (assuming the nationwide average value is 100) was stagnant for many years after 2000, but then grew from 53.7% in 2006 to 62.9% in 2014.

  1. (3)

    Infrastructure and Social Services Conditions were Further Improved in Poor Regions, Closing the Gap Between These Regions and the Rest of Rural China

Infrastructure conditions for roads, electricity, telecommunications, and culture in rural areas has been further improved since 2007, shrinking the gap with national averages. There have been steady increases of school attendance by school-aged children in focus compulsory education counties, drawing close to national averages.

3 Innovations in Poverty Alleviation System in Rural China: Lessons and Experience

  1. 1.

    Innovations in China’s rural poverty alleviation system

Innovations in China’s rural poverty alleviation system were primarily concentrated in strategy, governance structure, and capital management.
  1. (1)

    Innovation in Poverty Alleviation Strategy

  1. (a)

    Transition from the strategy of guiding poverty reductions through economic growth with no poverty alleviation objectives into a strategy of development with targeted objectives.

  2. (b)

    Transition from aid-oriented poverty alleviation to development-oriented poverty alleviation, and a strategic change toward an integration of social security and development-oriented poverty alleviation beginning in 2007. Before 1986, the Chinese government provided primarily emergency policy-oriented aid to vulnerable rural groups. After 1986, the Chinese government’s primary means of poverty alleviation was development-oriented, supplemented by temporary policy-oriented aid. This strategy was replaced in 2007 by a strategy combining development-oriented poverty alleviation and institutionalized social security, the focus of which was replacing previous policy-oriented temporary aid with the institutionalized rural minimum living standards guarantee system.

  3. (c)

    Strategic transition from giving aid to poor regions toward more targeted aid to poor counties, with a focus on poor villages, as well as beginning to implement a strategy combining development of large poor regions and bringing poverty alleviation into villages and households.

  4. (d)

    Strategic shift from single projects to comprehensive poverty alleviation.

  1. (2)

    Innovations in Governance Structure

China has made constant explorations into the governance structure of poverty alleviation to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of poverty alleviation programs. The two major innovations are as follows. The first is a constant downward shift of decision-making authorities in poverty alleviation plans and programs. From 1986 to 1995, most authorities to make rural poverty alleviation plans and distribute corresponding resources were concentrated in the Central Poverty Alleviation and Development Leading Group. In 1996 the government began shifting resources, tasks, authorities, and responsibilities downward to the provincial level. The vast majority of provincial-level governments then further shifted them downward to the county, with provincial-level governments retaining decision-making authorities over only investments over a certain size or cross-regional projects. As the whole village advancement program was popularized after 2002, authorities to make and implement poverty alleviation plans were further sent downward to the level of rural poverty alleviation focus work villages, basically completing the transition of decision-making authorities in this realm from top-to-bottom to bottom-to-top. The second is the change from complete government guidance to a combination of government guidance and social organization participation, and the further shift to government guidance, social organization participation, and participation by affected groups.
  1. (3)

    Innovations in capital management

Primary innovations in fiscal poverty alleviation capital management are as follows. ① Inter-regional allocations of governmental poverty alleviation funds went from unclear into allocations made primarily per the factor method. ② Dedicated account management and expense account systems were implemented in fiscal poverty alleviation funds. ③ A monitoring and information system for fiscal poverty alleviation funds was established to manage said funds. ④ Performance evaluation mechanisms were established for poverty alleviation funds. ⑤ Diversified oversight mechanisms were implemented with participation from audit, fiscal, and operation departments, public opinion, and so on.
Primary innovations in management of credit poverty alleviation funds include the following. The first is the innovation in credit entities, including the change from direct loans to households into supporting economic entities and finally into supporting local guiding industries or mainstay enterprises. The second is the innovation in loan methods. Since 1986, officials have made attempts at using government credit for economic entity loans, microfinance made on the basis of social credit, enterprise and government loans based in mortgages or collateral, and so on. The third is the innovation in discounted interest methods. Government officials have made attempts in discounting interest on loans made to banks or individuals. Last, in choosing institutions to carry loans, officials have made attempts with commercial banks bearing loans, policy banks bearing loans, local governments bearing loans, and so on.
  1. 2.

    Primary experience of innovations to China’s rural poverty alleviation system

  1. (1)

    Establishing Development as the Central Institutional Design for Poverty Reduction

China has not made innovations in poverty alleviation institutions isolated or dissociated from the national development strategy or nationwide institutional innovations, but rather has established the status of poverty alleviation within the macroeconomic strategy and uses the establishment and improvements to macroeconomic development institutions to choose and set the direction of innovations in the poverty alleviation system. This then allows innovations in the poverty alleviation system to both serve the big picture of national development and enables officials to choose and adjust the contents and forms of national development per the demands of macroeconomic development.
  1. (2)

    Choosing the model of innovations to the poverty alleviation system of “problem—study—testing—adjustment—dissemination”

Although the courses chosen in various innovations are not entirely similar, the vast majority of innovations to the poverty alleviation system either consciously or unconsciously adopt the above model. As problems are discovered, the government or other social organizations, with support and pressure from external forces (such as international organizations and academic institutions) and grassroots publics frequently adopt rather transparent and open attitudes and learn from and study advanced concepts and methods, conducting tests on a small scale, and then making summaries and adjustments per testing results, using government power to effectively disseminate the innovative methods to the rest of the country. This model of innovation has been an important guarantee constantly innovated in and improved over 30 years of the development of China’s rural poverty alleviation system, and is also an indelible contribution that China’s progress in rural poverty alleviation has made.
  1. (3)

    High levels of emphasis on the role played in innovations to the poverty alleviation system by international organizations, NGOs, and academic institutions

Since the mid-1980s, and particularly since 1996, the Chinese government’s attitudes toward international organizations, NGOs, and academic institutions, and in particular their new concepts and methods in poverty alleviation, has been to not resist, not oppose, and allow testing, an enlightened attitude. Thus these organs outside of China’s system have participated deeply and comprehensively in innovations to the poverty alleviation system, playing an active guiding and exploratory role in such innovations.
  1. (4)

    The government’s attitude toward adopting tests and innovations in the poverty alleviation system has been open and enlightened

Two aspects of the government have played decisive roles in innovations to the rural poverty alleviation system. The first is the government’s open, enlightened attitude toward external advanced concepts and methods, and willingness to study and learn from new, useful concepts and methods, and ensuring that these innovations do not die in the cradle. The second is the government’s use of its power to govern and enormous public resources, promulgating poverty alleviation methods proven to be effective through testing to the entire nation.

4 China’s Experience in Rural Poverty Reduction

China has made marked achievements in poverty reduction, with primary experience in the following areas: implementing comprehensive poverty reduction methods; effectively allowing the government, the market, and social organizations to play a role in poverty reduction; and focusing on innovations in poverty alleviation.
  1. 1.

    Comprehensive poverty reduction methods

  1. (1)

    On the strength of the trickle-down growth strategy based in development of the market economy, the development of market organizations, industrialization, and urbanization have become the primary fountainhead of rural poverty reduction.

  2. (2)

    Using the poverty alleviation strategy of targeted development as a support, officials have improved the availability of property for poor people and increased the ability of poor people to benefit from growth.

  3. (3)

    Using social development and the establishment of the social security system as guarantees, officials have helped prevent vulnerable groups from further marginalization.

  4. (4)

    Using poverty alleviation strategies of moving people away from ecologically vulnerable regions and regions not suitable to human habitation as a supplement, officials have improved the ability of these special groups to leave poverty on their own strength.

  1. 2.

    The roles of the government, the market, and social organizations in poverty reduction

Rural poverty alleviation in China was formerly benefitted by the particular characteristics and advantages of government-guidance. The government, the market, and social organizations have all played roles in poverty reduction to different extents.
  1. (1)

    The government’s decisive role in rural poverty reduction

The government has played a decisive role in China’s rural poverty reduction, especially in the following areas: (a) Making poverty alleviation into an important aspect of government work by establishing a system of poverty alleviation leading and coordinating groups and incorporating poverty alleviation within national economic and social development plans, thereby guaranteeing organizational support needed for poverty alleviation; (b) use of governmental administrative systems and resources to drive and make arrangements for resources for poverty alleviation, guaranteeing necessary investments into poverty alleviation; and (c) adjusting relevant policies or drafting essential laws and institutions, per the needs of poverty alleviation, to provide institutional guarantees to the orderly progress of poverty alleviation work.
  1. (2)

    The foundational role played by the private sector in rural poverty reduction

The private sector has made a great contribution to rural poverty alleviation by creating employment and demand for agricultural products, payment of taxes, direct launching of poverty alleviation aid programs, and other methods.
  1. (3)

    The positive role played by social organizations in driving up social support and innovations in poverty alleviation

Although the level of development of NGOs in China is rather elementary, NGOs have played an active role in poverty reduction. Social organizations play two primary roles in poverty reduction. The first is the use of their social networking resources to drive up support and resources for poverty alleviation. The second is the use of their solid understanding of the situations and demands of poor people and advantages of flexibility in responding to situations to drive innovations in methods of poverty alleviation. NGOs played a major role in China’s development and exploration of microfinance.
  1. 3.

    Innovation in poverty alleviation and constantly improving methods

China has made constant innovations in the poverty alleviation strategy, governance structure, and capital management since 1986. Officials have made timely adjustments and improvements to poverty alleviation methods and effectively driven increases to poverty alleviation efficiency through changes to circumstances and an accumulation of experience.


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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. and Social Sciences Academic Press 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Rural Development InstituteChinese Academy of Social SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.Rural Development InstituteChinese Academy of Social SciencesBeijingChina

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