Poverty reduction in the rural sector – What can countries learn from China’s experience? Achievements, challenges and the way forward in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals


Recording of the webinar "Poverty reduction in the rural sector – What can countries learn from China’s experience? Achievements, challenges and the way forward in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals" hosted by the socialprotection.org platform on 25th May 2017.

China’s rapid rural poverty reduction in the 1980s and 1990s, with rural poverty rates falling from 65% in 1981 to 13% in 2001, has generated strong interest among economists and policy-makers. Initially, reform in agriculture allocating land to China’s rural households spurred smallholder farm productivity and led to increased rural incomes, while labour surplus was absorbed both by migration to urban areas, and importantly by rural industrialisation through the Township and Village Enterprises policy. As such, China’s experience with rural poverty reduction was largely development-led, inducing economic growth in China’s poorest regions, and building rural populations’ self-reliance through land reform and rural employment generation.

The case of China is probably a unique one. With strong public administration and institutions able to deliver the Government’s large-scale reforms, and fostering learning from local experiences across the country, helped to achieve rural poverty reduction at scale. In addition, the legacy of socialism had further made sure that the rural population had access to basic schooling hence providing a literate rural labour force. Nevertheless, during the years of economic reform, China went from being one of the world’s most egalitarian states, to one with most pressing inequality issues, in particular between rural and privileged urban populations, slowing down the country’s advances on rural poverty reduction more recently.

The first webinar of the series Rural Poverty Reduction: #Endpovertytalks focused on China’s experience vis-à-vis that of other countries (e.g. from Africa, from Asia and from Latin America) and explored which aspects of the Chinese model, either at the early stages of reform or more recent times could throw lessons for other countries. This webinar also introduced the experience of China in South-South Cooperation for poverty reduction in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. 

Guiding questions:

  • How did China achieve such progress in rural poverty reduction? What was the political environment, and the policies pursued at the time? What positive and negative aspects can be learned from this experience?
  • What can other countries learn from the Chinese experience in reducing rural poverty? What aspects can and cannot be applied in other LDC and in MICs?
  • What is China’s approach to south-south cooperation, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, and in the agricultural sector? What positive aspects can be learned from these experiences?
  • What is the current and future role of China in international development and in achieving SDG1?


  • Speaker: Dr. Tan Weiping, Deputy Director General, International Poverty Reduction Center in China 
  • Speaker: Dr. Kevin Chen, China Program Leader and Senior Research Fellow, International Food Policy Research Institute
  • Discussant: Prof. Alain de Janvry, University of California at Berkeley 
  • Moderator: Ms. Ana Paula De la O-Campos, Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nation