The Chinese government has repeatedly said that it has lifted 100 million people out of poverty since Xi Jinping took office in 2012. While there is solid data to support this claim, it might be time to start applying a new measure of poverty in China in the light of the country’s rapid economic and social development.
According to the latest data supplied by the World Bank, only 0.6 percent of the Chinese population lived below the country’s official poverty line of having less than $2.30 at their disposal per day. In 2012, that number was still at 10.2 percent – or around 120 million people higher. Yet, China’s official poverty line is only a little higher than the World Bank universal global poverty line of living off $1.90 per day - despite the fact that China has been classified as an upper-middle income country since 2015.
Applying the World Bank upper-middle income poverty line of $5.50/day to the country, almost a quarter of Chinese still lived in poverty in 2016. This rate is in line with the average for upper-middle income countries, which has sunk to around 20 percent by 2019.
No matter what metric is applied, China’s progress in tackling poverty is nevertheless apparent. In the year 2000, around half of Chinese, more than 600 million, still lived below the national poverty line. Nearly all Chinese lived below the poverty line for upper-middle income countries as recently as 1990.