Is China a rich country or a poor country? If you listen to the way some people talk about China you could be excused for thinking that it’s a very rich country indeed and represents some kind of threat to our way of life. But this isn’t really the case. It’s true that there are some very rich people in China, and I’ve met many of them personally, but the reality for most people is very different and this, more than anything else, is what keeps the Government awake at night.
According to Premier Li Keqiang last week, “the average per-capita annual income in China is 30,000 yuan (US$4,193), but there are over 600 million people whose monthly income is barely 1,000 yuan (US$140), not enough to rent a room in the Chinese cities”. These people have been significantly affected by the coronavirus pandemic which has caused many to fall back below the poverty line, requiring the Government to urgently respond by offering subsistence allowances and unemployment benefits.
As mentioned in China Bites in February 2019 (see Eradicating Poverty in China) China’s target was to eradicate poverty altogether by the end of 2020, a goal that seemed well within their reach at the time, with only 20 million people still living below the poverty line (a figure that was well over 600 million 30 years ago) and a strong commitment to eradicating poverty altogether by the end of this year. Unfortunately, this important milestone and achievement has been dashed, like so many others, by Covid19 and this, more than some of the other challenges which get more media attention, will be a major priority for the Chinese Government in the next few years.