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Poverty 'disappears' in China -- right on schedule.

BEIJING, Nov. 17 Kyodo

China has eliminated absolute poverty, a senior government official was quoted as saying by the official Chinese news agency Xinhua on Friday.

''This is the first time in history that China has solved the food and clothing problem for all its citizens on the whole,'' said Gao Hongbin, director of a State Council group on poverty alleviation. ''It is a marvelous achievement of great epoch-making significance,'' the news agency quoted him as adding.

''Except for among some 26 million disabled people or those living in areas where the natural environment is extremely bad, we have succeeded in eliminating absolute poverty in the country,'' he was quoted as saying further.

China's rate of absolute poverty is now below 3%, ''the lowest among developing countries,'' he added, according to Xinhua.

But some observers remain skeptical.

''China has done a remarkable job of eliminating absolute poverty...but they still have a long way to go,'' a Western diplomat told Kyodo News. Even the United Nations' conservative estimate for China's absolute poor is several times higher than China's official figure, he said.

China's own standard of absolute poverty is an annual income of less than 635 yuan ($77), which according to Xinhua, is a definition ''in accordance with (China's) unique situation and characteristics.''

But it is only a fraction of the international standard for absolute poverty, which is a minimum income of $1 per day.

There is, however, no doubt poverty in China is declining.

In the late 1970s, before the reform period under Deng Xiaoping, nearly a quarter of the population lived in absolute poverty, according to official records. The proportion was cut in half by 1995 and has continued to decline since.

In 1994 China's central government declared that it would eliminate absolute poverty ''by the end of the year 2000'' in accordance with the ''seven-year poverty alleviation plan.''

Friday, Xinhua quoted Gao as saying, ''We are just now at that point.''
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Publication:Asian Economic News
Date:Nov 20, 2000
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