Malaysia is all set to host the 2020 APEC Economic Leader’s Meeting scheduled for November 20, which will be the first time that the leaders of the 21-member bloc will meet virtually on account of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The meeting comes at a critical juncture as it coincides with the 2020 G20 Riyadh summit taking place a day later and the signing of the landmark Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) at the Hanoi virtual ASEAN Summit on the 15th of this month.
The upcoming meeting aims at further consolidating the Asia-Pacific’s significance as both an economic hub and a resilient region with a combination of high income, newly industrialized and developing countries all potentially benefiting from trade deals, regional connectivity prospects and joint prosperity for the future. The stakes are definitely high with plenty on the agenda.
The host Malaysia is a key economic player in the ASEAN region and has already hosted the first set of technical meetings in Putrajaya in February this year.
Kuala Lumpur also resorted to a digital format on account of the World Health Organization’s declaration that the COVID-19 quagmire was now a global pandemic.
Despite the devastating effects of the virus on the Asia-Pacific economies, the region has not shunned away from exploring prospects of economic revival, robust economic stimulus strategies and pioneering innovation to promote a business-friendly environment.
Furthermore, the region has remain unscathed from geopolitics, with the U.S.- China rivalry – due to undue provocations from the Trump administration in the South China Sea – failing to prevent ASEAN member states from pursuing non-partisanship as a policy in their relationships with Beijing and Washington, D.C.
The Malaysian venue of a virtual meeting of APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, July 25, 2020. /Xinhua
The focus of countries in the Pacific Rim such as Chile, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and even the United States would be to maintain APEC’s significance as one of the highest level multilateral blocs and oldest forums in the region.
To ensure APEC’s stature, economic leaders are expected to come up with a new vision that will act as the guiding principle of the platform’s work in the next few decades, including the ongoing COVID years. Malaysia’s theme is “Optimizing Human Potential Towards a Resilient Future of Shared Prosperity: Pivot, Prioritize, Progress.” The three Ps will be supplemented with efforts to implement the “Bogor Goals,” which carry historical significance.
In 1994, after the APEC meeting in the town of Bogor in Indonesia, it was announced that the year 2020 would be when the long-term objective of promoting free open trade and investments in the Asia-Pacific region was to materialize and become operational.
Since, then the Bogor Goals have become one of APEC’s flagship initiatives. The goals also make it incumbent upon member economies to reduce barriers to trade and investments and avert scenarios such as a region-wide drop in tariffs, which was witnessed in the 1980s.
In the lead-up to the meeting, the United States, as the most economically powerful member state of the bloc under the Trump administration, was involved in pernicious trade practices such as increasing tariffs with the aim of strangulating the Chinese economy, jeopardizing the entire objective of the Bogor Goals.
It is therefore necessary that this meeting ensures that members implement unilateral policies as well as negotiate bilateral, multilateral and regional agreements provided that they are consistent with the rules of the World Trade Organization.
The successful implementation of the Bogor Goals will become a testament to the worldwide commitment of APEC toward multilateralism as a solution to pressing economic issues of the modern era, which are largely related to the pandemic.
Many of the goals envisioned in 1994 were realized in the 2018 Bogor Goals Progress Report, which details how tariffs had fallen, free trade agreements improving market access were inked prior to RCEP, and customs reforms made it easier for free trade to take place unabated. However, there are areas which need improvement.
APEC members with large agricultural sectors have encountered higher tariffs, which have a direct impact on their current account balances. Similarly, non-tariff measures have also accumulated over the years alongside restrictions on foreign investments in service sectors.
While mitigating the effects of the pandemic on regional economies would be a top priority for APEC states, emphasis would also need to be placed on the few loopholes which remain as well as comprehensive implementation of the the Bogor Goals in both letter and spirit.
One of the main reasons why the 2020 APEC meeting holds much promise in consolidating the Asia-Pacific region’s status as an engine of growth is because most actions already taken for the past few decades have significantly benefited the region prior to the onset of the pandemic. Trade continuing unabated has resulted in a decline in poverty levels in member states such as China, Indonesia and Vietnam.
The number of citizens under the internationally recognized poverty line of less than $1.25 per day, prior to 2015 when it was revised to $1.90, has been reduced by half a billion since 1990.
Agility, inclusive economic growth with the result of shared prosperity, will most definitely define the Asia-Pacific region alongside exploring strategies of dealing with pandemic-stricken economies in the upcoming meeting.
All eyes would be on what will be inked down and agreed upon in yet another significant multilateral forum.
Xi Jinping Announces China’s Eradication Of Extreme Poverty
Chinese President Xi Jinping announced China’s eradication of extreme poverty at a national commendation conference held in Beijing on Thursday.
With such achievements, China has created another “miracle” that will “go down in history,” Xi said. “Shaking off poverty is not the finish line, but the starting point of a new life and new endeavor.”
Xi put forward the concept of “targeted poverty alleviation” in November 2013 during an inspection tour of central China’s Hunan Province.
Focus on poverty eradication in country’s governance
The Communist Party of China (CPC) has been working to improve people’s livelihood since its foundation, and the CPC Central Committee has kept poverty eradication at a prominent position in the country’s governance over the past eight years, Xi said.
More than 10 million impoverished people were lifted out of poverty on average each year since the 18th National Congress of the CPC in 2012.
During these eight years, the final 98.99 million impoverished rural residents living under the current poverty line were lifted out of poverty. All the 832 impoverished counties and 128,000 impoverished villages have been removed from the poverty list.
In addition, 770 million rural residents have shaken off poverty since the beginning of reform and opening-up over 40 years ago, when calculated as per the current poverty line, Xi said.
Reviewing China’s effort over the past eight years, Xi said the country totally invested fiscal funds of nearly 1.6 trillion yuan (about $246 billion) into poverty alleviation and adopted a targeted poverty alleviation strategy, striving to eradicate poverty through development.
Meanwhile, over 1,800 workers lost lives for the country’s cause of poverty alleviation, Xi added.
‘China example’ of poverty reduction
“The country has created a ‘China example’ of poverty reduction and made great contributions to global poverty alleviation,” Xi said.
China met the poverty eradication target set in the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development 10 years ahead of schedule, and according to the World Bank’s international poverty line, the number of Chinese people lifted out of poverty over the past 40 years accounts for more than 70 percent of the global total, Xi noted.
Targeted Poverty Alleviation – The Chinese Path To Fighting Poverty
A total of 832 counties, 128,000 villages and nearly 100 million people were living in poverty. This was the reality that China had to face. The task of providing support to them all wasn’t easy, and making sure that everyone receives the exact help they needed was even harder.
“Who were these people and where were they located? If you are intent on leaving no one behind, then you have to locate each and every one of them and tailor relief measures accordingly,” said Lin Wanlong, professor of economics and management at China Agriculture University.
In November 2013, during an inspection tour of central China’s Hunan, Chinese President Xi Jinping first raised the concept of “targeted poverty alleviation.” To crystalize it, he said one should “seek truth from facts, tailor measures to suit local conditions, give targeted guidance, and be meticulous about the work.” These points have become the guiding principle in China’s fight against poverty.
Workers make brooms at a poverty alleviation workshop in Huade County of Ulanqab, north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, April 11, 2020. /Xinhua
The first step of the targeted poverty alleviation campaign is to locate poverty through accurate identification, which means specifying survey data by matching it with individuals and households. Are there any better-off families in impoverished counties? Are there any poor households in rich townships? How does one differentiate whether a family really needs help? These were the first challenges that the campaign had to overcome.
“When I was just assigned to the township, I was informed that there were over 2,300 households and about 8,000 people living in poverty. But nobody knew who exactly they were,” said Zhu Shengjiang, head of Yeping Town in Jiangxi Province’s Ruijin City.
In a township of over 70,000 people, a poor population of over 8,000 was scattered among 399 villager groups. Zhu and his colleagues had to go door-to-door and look meticulously into their respective family conditions. Once poverty is identified, they would set up file for the households and log their information onto system.
Screenshot shows the digitally-stored information of impoverished individuals. /CGTN
The ultimate aim of poverty alleviation is to ensure people don’t have to worry about food and clothing and have access to compulsory education, basic medical services and safe housing. Commonly known as the “two assurances and three guarantees,” these are the key indicators for poverty relief officials to identify who exactly needs help.
“In each household, we look at things like whether there is sufficient working capacity, whether the child is receiving education and whether all family members are healthy. If the answer is no in all these categories, then we have found a household that really needs help,” said Zeng Nenggui, director of poverty relief office in Ruijin City.
The launching of a national digital database has enabled data to cover each and every registered village, household and individual, which not only ensures the accuracy of poverty identification but helps nail down the causes of poverty for those who are in the system.
“These households are like a benchmark. What we do is to analyze their conditions and come up with tailor-made measures to lift them out of poverty,” said Lu Chunsheng, director of the Information Center of the National Bureau of Rural Development. “For example, if a family remains poor because they couldn’t receive proper education, our relief measures should include granting student loans and subsidies. If poverty is caused by a family member’s poor health conditions, we then should provide them with sufficient healthcare.”
Prescribing the right remedy is the key. Under President Xi’s guidance, the targeted poverty alleviation campaign has five key measures.
Development & Production
All 832 registered counties have formulated industrial plans to fight against poverty, with over 300,000 industrial bases in farming, planting and processing being constructed on site.
More than 96 million registered people have moved into over 2.66 million newly constructed houses, all equipped with water, electricity, gas and internet. Transportation is convenient with better roads built.
Screenshot shows houses that were built to take in impoverished households. /CGTN
Over 1.1 million registered people have been employed as ecological forest rangers, directly lifting a total of 3 million out of poverty.
About 200,000 students who dropped out of school due to poverty have now returned to school. More than 8 million students from poor families who failed to continue their studies or get employed after finishing high school have received vocational education for free.
Screenshot shows students at school. /CGTN
Since 2016, a total of 19.36 million registered people have been included in the subsistence allowance, support and relief system.
To ensure that poverty is truly lifted, the strictest assessment system has been put in place. For each county to declare it has officially left poverty behind, it has to be thoroughly assessed by a third-party inspection team.
“We have never encountered such rigorous measures,” said Zhang Shibin, former director of the poverty alleviation office of Yunnan Province’s Luquan Yi and Miao Autonomous County. ” During the third-party inspection, village officials are not even allowed to follow these teams into the village.”
The targeted poverty alleviation campaign has perfectly embodied China’s practical and down-to-earth approach in battling poverty, opening up a path that accommodates the country’s realities while reflecting unique Chinese characteristics.
Poverty Alleviation, A Solemn Promise Fulfilled By Chinese Leadership
With its fundamental purpose of serving the people heart and soul, the Communist Party of China (CPC) has been devoted to leading the nation towards building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, and has helped it achieve miraculous results in reducing poverty.
“Seeing that poor people and impoverished areas will enter the moderately prosperous society together with the rest of the country is a solemn promise made by our Party,” Chinese President Xi Jinping had said.
CMG recently released a feature television series “Poverty Alleviation”, recounting how China has lifted millions out of poverty. The first episode features an overview of how the Chinese leadership fulfilled its solemn promise of lifting all rural residents living below the current poverty line out of poverty by 2020.
Screenshot of the first episode of CMG Special “Poverty Alleviation”. /CGTN
‘Up and Out of Poverty’
China launched large-scale poverty relief programs in 1982. Xi Jinping was sent down to work in the county of Zhengding, Hebei Province at that point in time. From March 1982 to May 1985, Xi worked as deputy secretary and then secretary of the CPC Zhengding County Committee. Some of his speeches and articles from this period were published in his book “Up and Out of Poverty.”
As Xi wrote: “I worked hard during the two years in Ningde Prefecture, along with the people and Party members there. I always felt a sense of unease. Poverty alleviation is an immense undertaking that requires the efforts of several generations.”
He then brought his dream of poverty reduction to the center of China’s political life.
Screenshot of the first episode of CMG Special “Poverty Alleviation.” /CGTN
Targeted poverty alleviation, a new strategy
The number of poor people recognized by the Chinese government counted 99.89 million at the end of 2012 – a population larger than all but a few countries.
In November 2013, during an inspection tour of Hunan, President Xi first raised the concept of “targeted poverty alleviation.”
This concept of tailoring relief policies to different local conditions became a guiding principle in China’s fight against poverty.
In November 2015, at the Central Conference on Poverty Alleviation and Development, Xi further pointed out that poverty alleviation should focus on four issues – who exactly needs help, who should implement poverty alleviation initiatives, how poverty alleviation should be carried out, and what standards and procedures should be adopted for exiting poverty.
To address these issues while carrying out targeted poverty alleviation, about 800,000 officials were sent on frontline poverty-relief missions, working at local levels.
Screenshot of the first episode of CMG Special “Poverty Alleviation”. /CGTN
‘No one will be left behind’
By the end of 2016, there were more than 43 million people, or about 3 percent of China’s population, living in poverty. However, to lift up the remaining poor population, many of whom lived in areas without roads, clean drinking water or power, would be the toughest.
“Eradicating poverty has always been a tough battle, while eradicating poverty in extremely poor areas is the hardest fight of all,” Xi said.
The country in 2017 demarcated three regions and three prefectures, including the Tibet Autonomous Region and the Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan Province, as the poorest areas in the country. More resources were allocated to these areas.
“On the march towards common prosperity, no one will be left behind,” Xi had promised.
Screenshot of the first episode of CMG Special “Poverty Alleviation”. /CGTN
‘Two assurances and three guarantees’
At the end of 2018, the nation’s impoverished population was reduced to 16.6 million, taking the poverty alleviation journey to the “last mile.” But poverty alleviation work in China still faced many challenges.
Some local authorities and departments fudged or exaggerated their poverty alleviation statistics to score political points.
Speaking at a symposium on the fight against poverty in April of 2019, the Chinese president called for efforts to resolve prominent problems in assuring the food and clothing needs of the rural poor population are met and guarantee they have access to compulsory education, basic medical services and safe housing, referred to as the “two assurances and three guarantees.”
The ministries then launched an extensive campaign to resolve outstanding problems and at the end of 2019, 5.2 million people’s “two assurances and three guarantees” issues were solved.
Screenshot of the first episode of CMG Special “Poverty Alleviation.” / CGTN
Reached anti-poverty goals despite COVID-19
The year 2020 was no ordinary year for China and the world. The COVID-19 pandemic coupled with floods in southern China posed daunting challenges to the national fight against penury.
According to the World Bank, the COVID-19 pandemic is estimated to have pushed an additional 88-115 million people into extreme poverty in 2020, which means global extreme poverty is expected to rise for the first time in over 20 years.
President Xi stressed at a symposium on securing a decisive victory in poverty alleviation in March 2020 that lifting all rural residents living below the current poverty line out of poverty by 2020 is a solemn promise made by the CPC Central Committee, and it must be fulfilled on time.
The country took stronger and more effective measures to ensure the full eradication of poverty on schedule. More efforts were made to minimize losses caused by natural disasters, and speed up the restoration of production and living orders in disaster-stricken poor areas.
Ministers also stepped up monitoring and gave timely assistance to prevent people from falling back into poverty.
In December 2020, President Xi announced that after eight years of unremitting efforts, all rural poor population have been lifted out of poverty and nearly 100 million poor people have shaken off poverty.
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