Poverty, climate, space – China’s progress in 10 years


Xi Jinping’s China has dragged millions out of extreme poverty, sent spacecraft to the moon and committed itself to cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

On the brink of securing a third term, the president can boast of several achievements in his first 10 years in power, though some do come with caveats.

Here is a look at some of the key advances made under Xi:

End of extreme poverty

China’s Communist Party prides itself on being “at the service of the people”, so Beijing’s announcement in 2020 that it had brought an end to extreme poverty was hailed as a critical milestone.

People’s living conditions, their livestock and access to education were among the factors assessed by officials on door-to-door visits.

The government said it had invested 1.6 trillion yuan (US$$230bil) between 2013 and 2021 to improve living standards – for example by building roads, houses and infrastructure.

Millions of rural households have been relocated to villages with better economic opportunities.

A year after Xi became leader, 82 million Chinese people lived in extreme poverty, according to World Bank data. By 2019, the figure was six million.

However, Xi warned in 2020: “The task of consolidating and expanding the achievements of poverty alleviation remains difficult.”

Space programmeA source of national pride, China’s space programme has narowed much of the gap with the US, Russia and Europe.

Rovers reached the Moon in 2013 and 2019 – the latter the first ever to make a soft landing on its far side.

Another subsequent unmanned spacecraft returned to Earth in 2020 with the first lunar samples collected in four decades.

The same year, satellite navigation system Beidou was finalised, a rival to the American GPS.

After landing its first robot on Mars last year, China is expected to complete its space station in 2022.

The environmentBeijing signed the Paris climate agreement in 2016, and in 2020 Xi pledged his country would reach its peak carbon emissions by 2030, and aim for carbon neutrality by 2060.

Environment groups have called on China – the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases – to act faster, saying that otherwise meeting the Paris agreement’s goal of keeping global warming to 1.5 °C is not possible.

After turning a blind eye to China’s choking cities for decades, the environment ministry started to publish more comprehensive data on air pollution in 2012.

The concentration of very fine and dangerous particles in the air fell by 34.8% between 2015 and 2021, according to the ministry.

Waste separation schemes are progressing. In megacity Shanghai, for example, they have been mandatory since 2019. — AFP

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