On 25th May, socialprotection.org hosted the webinar Poverty Reduction in the rural sector - What can countries learn from China's experience?, presenting China’s experience of rural poverty reduction, organized by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth (IPC-IG).

The lessons learnt from China’s progress in rural poverty were expertly presented by Dr Tan Weiping, Deputy Director General, International Poverty Reduction Center in China (IPRCC), and Dr. Kevin Chen, China Program Leader and Senior Research Fellow, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). Following the presentations, Professor Alain de Janvry, University of California at Berkeley, reflected on four key aspects of China’s progress. The webinar was introduced and moderated by Ms Ana Paula De La O Campos of the FAO.  The recording of this webinar can be found here, and the presentation here. All blog posts of this webinar series can be found under the Rural Poverty Reduction: #Endpovertytalks tag. 

Dr Tan Weiping opened the webinar with a comprehensive overview of China’s rural poverty experience, including its progress, achievements and ongoing challenges. China’s achievements in the area are particularly great, with it contributing 70% of global poverty alleviation, and becoming the first country to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of reducing the poverty population by half. These remarkable successes were steered by three pillars. The first, innovation in institutional design promotes economic growth, introduced key reforms allowing for rural poverty alleviation. The second pillar, infrastructural development, contributed to increased rural employment and development. The third pillar, innovative targeted pro-poor policies, were particularly significant in producing an integrated approach to rural poverty reduction, including government and grassroot participation, regional and village level targeting, and empowerment of the poor. In particular, the establishment of a governmental institutional dedicated to poverty alleviation provided for strong coordination, and social mobilization.

However, Dr Tan Weiping also pointed out the number of challenges continuing to face China’s poverty reduction. The task remains difficulty, particularly given China’s uneven development and regional variations. In addition, increasing rural-to-urban migration presents new challenges with regards to urban poverty and rural labour burdens. With these challenges in mind, Dr Tan Weiping concluded his presentation discussing China’s targeted poverty alleviation strategy. The main poverty alleviation tasks of the 13th Five-year plan include resolving the problem of overall regional poverty, in addition to focusing more greatly on lower levels, towards villages and households. The main content of this poverty alleviation is the 6 Precise factors, including PRECISE targets, PRECISE project arrangements, and PRECISE results. Innovation in the development path, resource usage, models, and evaluation system will lead China’s strategy.

Dr Kevin Chen continued the webinar with a presentation which both complemented and extended Dr Tan Weiping's analysis. Dr Kevin Chen contributed China’s success in rural poverty reduction, which he presented through a variety of data, to four factors: strong political commitments; rapid economic growth; institutional innovations; and international cooperation. Notably, the investment by the Central Government into poverty alleviation, and the Governance structure has had a lasting impact. A focus on Agriculture, including land reforms, technological, and infrastructure development, contributed to increase rural output. Given these factors, Dr Kevin Chen demonstrated how fast broader structural transformation is pivotal to fast rural poverty reduction. This example can also be seen in Vietnam. Detailing the poverty alleviation processes undertaken in China, he showed the innovative importance of broader industrial development, and the Pair-wise Aid Policy.

Nevertheless, echoing Dr Tan Weiping, Dr Kevin Chen went on to discuss the challenges which face China’s rural poverty, particularly post-2020. This includes managing poverty standards, regional variations, and growing inequality across China. Closely related, urban poverty, vulnerable groups, and the changing dynamics of poverty, present ongoing obstacles for rural poverty reduction.  Dr Kevin Chen concluded his presentation emphasizing the importance of strong governance, political commitment, and innovative policy design. These experiences, he emphasized, should be shared with developing countries across the world.

Drawing on the analysis presented by Dr Tan Weiping and Dr Kevin Chen, Professor Alain de Janvry followed with four points for discussion, which represent lessons that can be learnt from the Chinese experience, and also opportunities for improvement. The first, and most important, lesson from China’s experience in rural poverty reduction is the necessity of a comprehensive strategy, across all levels and sectors. There needs to be, Professor de Janvry argued, the combination of incoming generation programs, social assistance programs, twin-track programs, resilience programs, and risk-coping programs. The second lesson from China’s experience, the role of agricultural, shows the need for a comprehensive transformation of rural farming system, beyond the Green Revolution. In particular, diversification, and filling labour calendars. The third lesson is the importance of economic growth, and creating labour-intensive opportunities in manufacturing. Lastly, the fourth lesson is the significance of targeting, which is closely linked to vulnerability, and becomes increasingly important as the numbers of rural poor decreases. Political commitment and governance, Professor de Janvry concluded, is vital to these four lessons and to achieving rural poverty alleviation. 

Following Professor de Janvry’s discussion, Ana Paula moderated the final session of the webinar, posing a question from the audience regarding inequality to Dr Kevin Chen. Further questions, Ana Paula explained, would be shared with the speakers and the answers then be posted on socialprotection.org. Ana Paula drew the webinar to a close by thanking the audience and speakers, and inviting them to look out for the next webinars in the series. 

Watch the video here

Cover Image: Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, available here.

Social Protection Programmes: 
  • Labour market programs/Public work/Productive inclusion
    • Labour market programs/Public work/Productive inclusion - General
Social Protection Topics: 
  • Governance
  • Political economy
  • Social protection systems
Cross-Cutting Areas: 
  • Agriculture and rural development
  • Growth
  • Inequality
  • Labour market
    • Migration/Remittances
  • MDGs/SDGs
  • Poverty
  • Social inclusion
  • China
  • East Asia & Pacific
The views presented here are the author's and not socialprotection.org's