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China, ASEAN Pledge to Join Hands in Poverty Alleviation

Representatives from China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Wednesday promised they would work together to promote social development and poverty alleviation in the region.

A proposal on poverty reduction was issued after two days of discussions among more than 100 Chinese and ASEAN officials, scholars and entrepreneurs at the First China-ASEAN Forum on Social Development and Poverty Reduction in the southern Chinese city of Nanning.

Acknowledging the region is "one of those that suffer from serious poverty in the world", the proposal identified poverty alleviation as a "common mission for policy-makers, researchers and practitioners in China and the ASEAN."

The proposal stressed the importance of policy-makers, vowing to give them full roles to play to collect all necessary resources, but saying they should strengthen the accountability and transparency in the implementation of poverty reduction policies.

It said researchers from China and the ASEAN will increase theoretic research and assist policy-makers in producing effective polices of poverty reduction and social development.

It also called on developed countries in and out of the region to further open their markets and increase technology transfer to improve trade and accelerate industrial transformation, and give developing countries more support in economic development, infrastructure construction and capacity building.

For relevant international organizations, the proposal said they should increase inputs on projects of poverty reduction and social development and enhance the effectiveness of their assistance.

"Poverty reduction...should be based on economic growth and structural optimization, and guaranteed by improved public services including public information network, and social security system plus specialized poverty reduction interventions and relief services," the proposal says.

It recommended China and the ASEAN jointly establish a mechanism of cooperation among policy-makers, researchers, enterprises and non-governmental organizations to ensure projects and policies to be more scientific and reasonable, and to avoid any overlapping and duplication during implementation.

China and the ASEAN decided to carry out a series of follow-up activities according to the proposal. Bringing the degree of poverty in different countries into consideration, priorities will be identified to give the most needy counties earliest and utmost help.

The two sides also agreed to turn the forum into an annual event, concentrating each year's discussions on theories, research methodologies, and policy information.

China has made remarkable progress in poverty alleviation in the past 30 years. The rural population in absolute poverty has been reduced from 250 million in 1978 to 21.5 million last year. The ratio of national poverty in the country now stands at 2.3 percent, compared with 30.7 percent in late 1978, according to Fan Xiaojian, deputy chief of the State Council Leading Group for Poverty Alleviation, China's national organization in charge of poverty reduction.

"The Chinese standard of poverty is relatively lower than the international benchmark. In fact, China has 100 million people living on less than one U.S. dollar a day, a poverty line set by the World Bank," said Fan at the forum, one of the main focuses of the annual China-ASEAN Expo ending Wednesday.

Chinese President Hu Jintao pledged in his report on behalf of the 16th CPC Central Committee earlier this month that a reasonable and orderly pattern of income distribution will be basically in place, with middle-income people making up the majority and absolute poverty basically eliminated in China.

(Xinhua News Agency November 1, 2007)

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