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Commentary: China sprints to stamp out poverty

BEIJING, Oct. 17 (Xinhua) -- China has geared up for its final dash to achieve its ambitious goal of eliminating poverty by 2020, and the country is fully capable and well equipped to meet the target.

Marking its third National Poverty Relief Day on Monday, China struck a strong note on fighting poverty, pledging further increases in funds for impoverished areas.

China will ensure "substantial growth" in its funding for poverty alleviation in the five years leading up to 2020 on the back of the already enormous amount of spending, said a government white paper.

China assigned special poverty relief funds amounting to 189.84 billion yuan (about 28.17 billion U.S. dollars) from 2011 to 2015, with an average annual growth rate of 14.5 percent, according to the white paper.

On Monday, 51 large state-owned companies including State Grid launched a 12 billion yuan fund that will grow to 100 billion yuan, to invest in urbanization, medical and health programs, and projects to help create jobs in the impoverished regions.

Poverty relief is high on China's 2016-2020 agenda, and the government has vowed to lift everybody out of poverty by 2020. By the end of 2015, China still had 55.75 million people living in poverty.

During his visit to the underdeveloped northwest Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region in July, Chinese President Xi Jinpingsaid it was his "top concern" to lift all people out of poverty by 2020.

"No one should be left behind," Xi once said, referring to the urgency and importance of poverty alleviation.

It is natural for China to attach importance to poverty reduction, as it is aiming for a "Xiaokang," an all-round moderately prosperous society, by 2020,

Since the start of the reform and opening-up in 1978, China's economic boom has helped lift more than 700 million people out of poverty.

China was the first developing country to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) target -- a 50 percent reduction in the number of people living in poverty by 2015.

According to the UN MDGs Report 2015, the proportion of people living in extreme poverty in China fell from 61 percent in 1990 to 4.2 percent in 2014, with the number of people China has raised from poverty accounting for 70 percent of the world's total.

However, the impressive record should be no reason for complacency.

By any standard, it is a daunting task to bring 55 million people out of poverty in just five years -- equivalent to an entire population of a medium-sized country.

"This will prove a hard nut to crack," said the white paper, adding that most of the remaining impoverished population live in extreme poverty and have weak capacity for development, and solutions for them are increasingly costly and complex.

Moreover, a large number of those who have recently escaped poverty can easily be pushed back into it as a result of natural disasters, illness, or issues involving education, marriage and housing, according to the white paper.

Facing the challenges and time pressure, however, China is fully capable and well equipped to achieve the 2020 goal.

First, an expected annual economic growth above 6.5 percent over the five years from 2016 to 2020 would serve as a financial guarantee for carrying forward the cause of poverty reduction.

Second, China has a unique and efficient governance system and has a solid record in "pulling resources to accomplish great undertakings," poverty reduction being one of them.

Third, China has accumulated rich experience and is putting forward new ideas in helping the poor, from boosting local specialty industries and resettling impoverished populations to ensuring access to education and strengthening social security networks.

[ Editor: Zhang Zhou ]