China’s economy: Poverty elucidation day

FRIDAY October 17th was China’s first official “Poverty Alleviation Day”, an annual convocation of “forums and fundraisers”, designed to rally efforts to combat deprivation. Of course, thanks to China’s rapid economic progress, the country already alleviates a lot of poverty each day: last year the number of rural poor fell by 16.5m or over 45,000 people per day. But that still left 82.49m people stuck in rural squalor at the end of 2013, according to official statistics.Some places in China are worse off than they look. Their “lavish city buildings” disguise impoverished populations, according to Xinhua, the state news agency. Other parts of the country are less poor than they let on. They do not want to be removed from the list of “poverty-stricken counties” because of the aid and other benefits they would forfeit.China’s poverty is, therefore, a matter of some contention and confusion. Indeed, China itself may not be as poor as its own official media seem to think. Xinhua reports incorrectly that China’s official poverty line is lower than the World Bank’s global standard of $1.25 a day. By that international standard, claims another state-backed newspaper, the country still has more than 200m poor people. In citing that depressing statistic, it echoes a speech in June by Li Keqiang, China’s premier, in which he said that “some 200 million Chinese still live below the …

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