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China

Living on the edge: China's hidden poor

The nation has a very low bar for poverty but its poorest are ethnic minorities from Tibet and Xinjiang

Living on the edge: China's hidden poor

A Tibetan woman reaches out for change from a passerby at the Drepung Monastery on the outskirts of Lhasa. Tibet is one of the poorest regions of China, where 600 million people live on US$140 per month or less. (Photo: AFP)

The Chinese government broke with a 26-year tradition at the annual National People’s Congress by not setting an economic growth target.

This was due to the huge negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic that has already seen China’s gross domestic product (GDP) contract by 6.8 percent in the first quarter, with more bad news expected to come.

What Premier Li Keqiang did say was that the government would focus its stimulus measures on domestic economics and, in doing so, he made the admission that 600 million Chinese live on US$140 per month or less. The official poverty line in China is about one third of that (about $47 per month or 4,000 yuan per year) and covers only about 550,000 people.

With so many Chinese people surviving on such a low income, government policies this year must focus on protecting their livelihoods during the economic turmoil that was already bubbling in 2019 only to be supercharged by the coronavirus.

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