Rural poverty and SDG1: China and the economy

The Source
By: Guest contributor, Fri Dec 1 2023

Author: Guest contributor

Dr WEI Houkai, director and senior research fellow of the Rural Development Institute of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, discusses SDG1 using the case study of China and how international cooperation can help achieve the goal of alleviating poverty worldwide.

Can you briefly introduce yourselves and your research?

I joined the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) in 1987. My main research fields include regional economy, urbanization and rural development. In October 1987, I entered the Institute of Industrial Economics (IIE) of CASS, my research interest mainly focus on the regional economic theory and policy, foreign investment location, enterprise migration, industrial cluster, etc. In November 2008, I was transferred to the Institute for Urban and Environmental Studies of CASS as deputy director. My research field expanded to urbanization, urban development and anti-poverty. In July 2015, I was transferred to Rural Development Institute  of CASS as the director. My research field was further expanded to rural economics, rural revitalization, and rural anti-poverty.

In the field of anti-poverty, I coauthored “Urban Poverty in China: Focus on the Migrant Workers” (2016) and “Guizhou Practice of Poverty Alleviation Demonstration Area Construction” (2018), Co-editored "Annual Report of Poverty Reduction of China 2016",  "Annual Report of Poverty Reduction of China 2017" and "Poverty Reduction in China: Achievements, Experience and International Cooperation"(2021),  and jointly organized the targeted poverty alleviation survey in 100 villages under the support of CASS in recent years.

Which Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is your book related to? How have you worked directly to address this goal?  

In 2015, the UN adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and 17 SDGs were proposed.  "Poverty Reduction in China: Achievements, Experience and International Cooperation",  organized and editored by us, covers also other SDGs in addition to focusing on SDG 1, namely poverty eradication. Considering the multidimensional nature of poverty,we focused on the important role of developing sustainable agriculture and other industries, promoting employment and employment support, ecological construction, education and health in poverty reduction in China in this study.

What inspired you to edit a book on poverty reduction in China? 

In 2020, we realized that there have appeared to be a number of successful practices in China’s Fight against poverty, with the elimination of absolute poverty under the current standard in China. We deemed it our responsibility to summarize the experience to share with Chinese and international scholarship so that it could help with the poverty reduction undertakings in other developing countries which are still struggling with poverty.

China's international cooperation in poverty alleviation is a prominent theme in the book. Could you share some examples of successful international collaborations that have had a positive impact on China's poverty reduction efforts?

The Southwest Poverty Reduction Project was a huge project conducted in 1995 and 2004, funded by and cooperated with the World Bank. At that time, China was implementing its Seven-Year Program for Lifting 80 Million People out of Poverty. This program was designed to be comprehensive and included education, health, development of land and rural households, infrastructure construction, development of Township and Village Enterprises, labor migration, institutional building, project management, and poverty monitoring. Within this project, international and local experiences are combined to form poverty reduction models which fit well in China’s context. Exploration of some challenging ways of poverty reduction has been made in this project, such as large labor mobility, micro-finance and rural cooperative medical insurance. China’s latter poverty monitoring system has been established based on practice in this project. And a strong poverty reduction team has been fostered in this project. After the Southwest Poverty Reduction Project, the poverty reduction capability of Chinese government has been largely strengthened.

Secondly, China's poverty alleviation using rural micro-finance began in the early 1990s. In 1993, RDI at the CASS learned from Bangladesh rural banking model and began a study on micro-finance action to test the rural banking model in China with the support of Bangladesh Rural Bank (Grameen Bank), Bangladesh Rural Trust Fund (Grameen Trust), and Ford Foundation Beijing office. RDI has successively established "poverty alleviation economic cooperatives" in six poverty-stricken counties, including Henan, Hebei, Shaanxi and Sichuan provinces, to conduct micro-finance poverty alleviation experiments. This is the first batch of poverty alleviation microcredit institutions in China in line with international standards. The experiment has achieved great success, which not only solved the problem of poverty alleviation credit funds getting to households and repaying loans, solved the survival and development of poverty alleviation institutions themselves, and achieved the sustainable development of micro-credit poverty alleviation. It can be said that the microcredit experiment of RDI at the CASS has played an important leading role in the development process of microcredit in China.

The book includes contributions from international scholars. How do these scholars view China's poverty alleviation efforts, and what unique perspectives do they bring to the discussion?

The Chief Editors of the book have invited scholars from Singapore, Great Britain, Thailand, Argentina, South Africa, and the World Bank to contribute to discussion on China’s poverty reduction experience and achievements, with a comparative perspective from the own countries or organizations. All of them think that China’s efforts are meaningful. The authors also have unique views of points in their articles. For example, Bert Hofman admitted that China’s role in the partnership with World Bank is decisive, but the Bank also played an active and flexible role. María José Haro Sly proposed that Argentina could learn from China’s experience of developing industry and technology and creating employment for poverty elimination in Argentina and South America. Busani Ngcaweni suggested that China optimize the allocation of its development and assistance fund for African countries to boost the fund efficiency, and share its investment management experience and transformational thinking during its policy dialogues with Africa.

For policymakers and practitioners interested in strengthening cooperation with China in poverty alleviation, what recommendations or strategies does the book offer?

In the major report of this book, we have tried to summarize our understanding of the successes of the Chinese approach for global poverty governance.  In our view, the universal implications of the Chinese approach to poverty reduction include placing the elimination of absolute poverty as one of the key tasks in national governance; setting up special institutions and teams, ensuring resource supplies and establishing a working mechanism for poverty reduction; focusing on development-oriented poverty alleviation and encouraging the poor to get rich through laboring; effectively integrating targeted poverty relief measures with an economic growth model that is conducive to employment, support policies for the development of backward regions and human resources investment policies such as health and education; working out strategic plans in accordance with national conditions and continuing to support poverty relief; actively using international aid and experience while mainly adhering to the principles of self-reliance and hard work, and not relying on external aid for poverty alleviation; mobilizing social forces and working together to help the poor; and enhancing poverty alleviation efforts and adopting the strategy of targeted poverty alleviation during the final stage of poverty alleviation.

Why did you choose to publish this book with Springer Nature?

The Social Sciences Academic Press has good relationship with Springer, and it was an honour to become part of the excellent series, “International Research on Poverty Reduction”.

About the author
Dr. WEI Houkai © Springer Nature 2023

Dr. WEI Houkai is director and senior research fellow of the Rural Development Institute of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Member of the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee of the 13th and 14th National People's Congress, Member of Evaluation Group of Agricultural and Forestry Economics and Management Discipline of the Academic Degrees Committee of the State Council, Distinguished Professor and Doctoral Supervisor of the University of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. He is also the President of the Chinese Society for Rural Development (CSRD) and Chinese Society of Forestry, Animal Husbandry and Fishery Economics (CSFAFE), Vice-President of the Regional Science Association of China (RSAC), Chinese Association of Regional Economics, and China Society of Urban Economy (CSUE). His research expertise is regional economics, urbanization and rural development studies. He has published more than 20 academic monographs, edited more than 40 academic monographs and research reports, and published more than 200 academic papers in SCI/SSCI, CSSCI and AMI.


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