A woman works in a clothing manufacturing workshop in Shaoxing, Zhejiang province, which helps lift people from poverty. (ZHANG CHAOQUN/XINHUA)
More than 10 million people are expected to be lifted from poverty this year, and some 340 counties will no longer be labeled as impoverished, poverty relief chief Liu Yongfu said at a recent gathering in Beijing.
"This year's relief target has been completed, in an all-around way," Liu, director of the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development, announced in a work report he delivered at the annual National Poverty Relief and Development Conference, which concluded on Saturday.
Access to education, healthcare, secure housing and tap water has been generally ensured nationwide, Liu said.
By the end of 2018, China had 16.6 million rural poor－defined as living on less than 2,300 yuan ($328) a year. Almost 400 counties were still listed as impoverished, meaning their overall poverty rate was above 3 percent.
The remaining impoverished rural Chinese are mainly from a mosaic of ethnic communities scattered across western regions: the Tibet autonomous region, as well as four provinces where ethnic Tibetan people live, the southern part of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region and three prefectures in Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan provinces.
Officials commonly refer to these regions as the Three Areas and Three Prefectures, the deeply impoverished areas.
In his report, Liu stressed that decisive progress has been made in such regions, with the number of registered poor falling from 1.72 million last year to 430,000 by the end of this year. The overall poverty rate in the Three Areas and Three Prefectures plummeted to 2 percent, from above 8 percent a year earlier.
"That was faster than the average poverty reduction rate in the western regions as a whole," he said.
The director called for continuous efforts to eliminate poverty domestically on schedule, and to prevent vulnerable groups from sliding back into deprivation.
The rapid progress shows that absolute poverty, which has afflicted the Chinese nation for thousands of years, is about to be eliminated for the first time, according to Wang Dayang, who oversees nongovernmental involvement in poverty reduction at the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development.
"It is a general estimate," he said, referring to the success in lifting the rest of the people out of poverty next year.
China has seen the number of rural poor fall rapidly－it stood at 98.99 million in 2012－since central authorities placed poverty relief high on the agenda over recent years, pledging to eliminate it before the Communist Party of China celebrates its centenary in 2021.
In the renewed effort to combat poverty, local authorities were barred from merely handing out State benefits to farmers. Instead, they were required to adopt targeted measures in developing local industries and creating jobs that would help the poor attain sustainable incomes.
Eastern provinces were paired with impoverished counties, offering assistance in financial and administrative forms. Businesses, nonprofits, research institutes and banks have all been mobilized to contribute to the nationwide campaign, which Liu Yongfu said has no "bystanders".
According to Liu's office, governments in eastern regions have diverted more than 22.9 billion yuan to the west for fiscal spending and mobilized 6.5 billion yuan in donations from the nongovernment sector.