They say now that the Chinese economy has caught up with the American economy. In our book The Great Indian Dream, we had written ten years back about the same concept; and today I write that the Chinese economy has left the American economy far behind. Their products are so undervalued that no kind of calculation can show the real value of their humongous economy! And come to think of it, even a few decades back, China was seen with lot of scepticism owing to their political structure and a gargantuan population which was increasing by the day! But when we look at the nation today we realize that it took China just a few years’ time to give this huge population a purchasing power and lifestyle that even many in the West are deprived of and to create an unfathomable miracle! What China did and is doing now is beyond the imagination of many nations; they created this gigantic economy by systematically planning at every micro level – and most importantly, taking its citizen along this growth path! Today, an average Chinese living in Beijing, or Shanghai is almost as well off as an average American living in New York or an average British living in London! So what exactly did China do?
Amongst a host of other things, China’s opening up of its Iron Curtain and freeing its economy from the shackles of central control in the late 1970s while still retaining its commitment to the poor literally brought about the miracle. Unlike in India, their very carefully planned liberalization allowed the nation to experience rapid strides in growth and above all lifted more than 500 million people out of poverty! Millions of peasants were granted freedom from the massive poverty by being allowed to follow their dreams. This freedom and shackle-free life led to rapid development in the� manufacturing and service sectors in the last 20 years! All this came as a celebration of new hope for Chinese masses and a new beginning of entrepreneurial freedom! The new spirit and the new mission were well supported by increasing investments in infrastructure, education and various other social sectors that symbolized the Chinese rise in world forums and made China one of the most sought-after investment destinations. The freedom from poverty in turn also helped develop the agricultural sector – as the policy of ‘farmers can make their own economic decision’ led to millions of farmers’ poverty cycle being alleviated! The rural household income doubled from 343.4 RMB ($55) in 1978 to 735.7 RMB in 2003. Between 1990 and 2005 the average per capita growth of Chinese economy was a staggering 8.7 per cent (highest among major economies)! The World Bank’s stipulated poverty line of $1 a day in Purchasing Power Parity corresponds to around 2,836 RMB per year (as per 2007 estimate)! As per this definition, China’s proportion of population below poverty line was 64 per cent in 1981; this dropped to an unbelievable 10 per cent by 2004 (India still has more than 40% of its population languishing below the poverty line as per purchasing power parity)! That’s Chinese poverty eradication – an exemplary and remarkable performance which is often quoted as a miracle – and an inspiration and case study for all developing countries across the globe.
The poverty alleviation programs undertaken by the authorities in the last three decades have contoured the modern China that is sparkling with confidence. Today, every Chinese is free to travel to any city to try and make a living there (Of course, cities do have resident permits; holders of such permits get subsidies in health facilities etc). Yet, one cannot find a single, real, poor person in the cities. No beggars, no slums and nobody sleeping on the streets! When poor can migrate freely, cities are bound to have slums if real poverty exists. In China, people come to cities for a better life and not because they were dying in the villages. The programs for poverty alleviation in China are carried out in 592 key counties over and above 74 counties in Tibet. In the distribution of prosperity, the Central and Western counties were the weakest links always. To address the economic gap, the central authorities from 1986 issued subsidized loans to the poor people – that was augmented from 1.05 billion RMB in 1986 to 5.5 billion RMB in 1996! Similarly, the “Food for Work” scheme was another flagship program in China where government spent 33.6 billion RMB between 1986 and 1997. Unlike other parts of the world where most of such programs are littered with corruption, the Chinese were successful in creating productive assets like roads, bridges, dams and other infrastructures across the nation. In the agricultural sector, reforms in agricultural taxes and other fees were implemented to relieve the farmers. In 2000, all the fees were abolished and replaced with a single slab agricultural tax – and later on in March 2004, amidst fear of WTO repercussions, the central government decided to eliminate the agricultural tax completely within the next 5 years. In the same year, more agricultural subsidies were introduced, which was followed by increased spending on rural infrastructure amounting to $25 billion! Read More....
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