Setting the Example
China has provided an example to the world of how poverty can be eliminated.
Mark Levine, a sociologist with Minzu University of China, was invited to attend two major events marking the centenary of the Communist Party of China (CPC), including the grand gathering at the Tiananmen Square on July 1. He is also the author of an upcoming book entitled Singing My China Stories to the World. In an interview with Beijing Review reporter Li Nan, Levine shared his views on President Xi Jinping’s recent declaration that China has built a moderately prosperous society in all respects. This is an edited excerpt of his views:
The thing that impressed me most was that The Internationale was the first song at the gala at the Bird’s Nest and the last song at the Tiananmen Square on July 1. On that day, many people were singing The Internationale in Chinese. I was singing it in English and a man right in front of me, a professor from France, was singing in French. Diplomats, too, were singing the song in their own native languages. And what their singing demonstrated, at least to me, is that throughout much of the world, China has many friends who work together in a common way toward achieving benefits, not just for China, but for people around the world.
China has eliminated absolute poverty, having lifted close to 100 million people out of extreme poverty since 2012.
I was recently reading a book about poverty alleviation, A Modern Day Wonder, by Wang Ronghua and Ross Colquhoun. The book is very interesting because it talks about local party officials visiting villages to investigate and subsequently saying, “We’re here until we’ve fixed this problem.”
I’ve been to many rural areas in China inhabited by the country’s ethnic minority groups. I talked to Chinese people, foreigners, journalists, academics, researchers, farmers, and other kinds of people.
Wherever I go, I see lots of food. People are not starving. They have more decent places to live. More roads are under construction to better enable people to travel from one place to another.
In Shandong Province and elsewhere, I spotted old farmhouses. And right next to the old farmhouses stood their new, upgraded versions. Overall housing has received massive improvement across many different places in China. The country is still working on that aspect. And construction also helps generate more jobs.
I have a friend, David Makofsky, a sociologist who taught at Minzu University of China and did some research in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region years ago. He was interviewing craftsmen in the area. Makofsky asked one of them, “What do you think about the new roads that the government has built?” And the man replied, “It’s great. I now have a road outside my door. I can take my stuff to market and sell it. Now, I can have an income.” The building of infrastructure was part of the overall poverty alleviation efforts.
All last spring, we were online teaching all over China. Most of my students are ethnic minority students hailing from all over the country. Some of them are from tiny villages. We had no trouble with the Internet. Nobody missed a class.
But years ago, I also supervised some students in writing their bachelor’s theses and urged them to hand them in after the Spring Festival. Some students said, “Mark, the Internet where I live is really bad,” or “We don’t even have Internet.” Nobody says that anymore.
China has provided an example to the world of how poverty can be eliminated. When people have food and safe places to live, when people aren’t living in extreme poverty, it helps create a more peaceful world. And I think that, too, is China’s goal.