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Freeing children from the poverty trap

2015-01-16 09:38 Xinhua Web Editor: Gu Liping

Something of a cliche perhaps, it is nonetheless widely said that, "children are our future" and this is especially true in China's impoverished heartland.

Despite being the second largest economy in the world, China remains a nation under the shadow of poverty. By the end of 2013, over 82 million rural people were struggling below the poverty line of 2,300 yuan per year (371 US dollars), and among them, children are the most vulnerable.

China has been getting tough on children's rights, and met the UN Millennium Development Goal ahead of schedule, but that's only gone a small way toward resolving the real problem: unbalanced development.

There are about 40 million children in China's poorest areas, about half of the population of Germany. Obviously not all children in these areas can be described as poor and there is no shortage of poverty outside the poorest areas, but the number remains huge.

While children in developed eastern areas are worrying about obesity and Internet addiction, children in the poor regions dream about living in clean and warm houses and using computers.

The real challenge is that poverty is transmitted from one generation to another. Children living in poor conditions usually lack access to quality education and job opportunities. They are trapped in poverty and, when they grow up, they are unable to provide a satisfying growth environment for their own children. As a result, poor families sink ever deeper in the mire of chronic indigence.

Helping poor children lay a sound foundation for personal development at the very beginning of their lives is of great importance, not only in terms of social justice, but also for the future of the country as a whole.

Investment in early childhood is key. Proper spending in this regard will lead to a nation of better human resources and save the government huge amounts currently spent in such fields as compensatory education, health care and social welfare.

The much vaunted Chinese Dream -- doubling the 2010 levels of both GDP and per capita income by 2020, and turning China into a modern socialist county by the middle of the century - requires that these poor children be dragged of poverty and join mainstream society as productive and moderately prosperous adults.

Improvements to the living conditions of poor children is an important job of public services and an indicator of the degree to which national governance can be considered capable and modern. Breaking the cycle of intergenerational transmission of poverty through support for poor families is a precondition for a modern, urbanized nation.

The State Council took concrete steps to reduce children poverty when it approved the Underprivileged Children's Development Plan (2014-2020) in November, promising benefits ranging from better prenatal care to effective and affordable education.

Only when the plan is put fully into action will we be able to see the success, or otherwise, of the anti-poverty campaign.

This coming year will be crucial to protecting children's rights in general and clearing development obstacles from the path of the nation's most underprivileged.

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