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John Ross: Socialist govts have most impact on human rights

2016-07-04

By John Ross    Source: Global Times     Published: 2016-7-3

 

China has set the target of lifting 70 million of its poorest people above its national poverty standard by 2020. This is a tremendous goal whose achievement would constitute a giant step forward in the well-being of the Chinese people. But the scale of China`s achievement in poverty reduction becomes even more striking when placed in an international context - in particular when the enormous success of socialist China in lifting people out of poverty is contrasted with the failure of capitalist countries to achieve this.


In the last three decades, China has lifted 728 million people above the World Bank`s international definition of poverty. The rest of the world managed only 152 million. This is more than a purely economic statistic; it constitutes a positive revolution in the lives of 728 million people affecting everything from how long they live to their ability to take meaningful choices in life. China`s achievement particularly affects women as they are the poorest members of world society. These achievements show China has made by far the greatest contribution to human rights of any country.


The World Bank calculates the number of people in the world living in poverty by a criterion of expenditure of $1.90 a day. This calculation adjusts for different price levels in different countries by using what is known as a Purchasing Power Parity - an adjustment for different countries in price standards.


Using this criterion, in 1981 two billion people in the world lived in poverty. By 2010, the last year for which data exists including China, this had been reduced to 1.12 billion. The number of people in the world living in poverty had been reduced by 880 million, of which 728 million were in China and 152 million in the rest of the world. China therefore accounted for 83 percent of the reduction of the numbers in the world living in poverty.


But the failure of capitalist countries, and the success of socialist ones, was even more striking. Of the 152 million outside China, over 30 million were lifted out of poverty in Vietnam - a socialist country. Therefore, socialist countries lifted approximately 760 million people out of poverty while the whole capitalist world achieved only around 120 million. Socialist countries were responsible for over 85 percent of the reduction of the number of people living in poverty and capitalist countries for less than 15 percent.


China`s success was not achieved by "leveling down" at the expense of overall incomes. China underwent the world`s most rapid increase in average living standards. From 1979-2014, the average annual increase in consumption in China was 7.9 percent, the fastest of any country, compared to a world average of 2.7 percent.


What do these "dry" economic statistics mean in terms of human well-being? It is well known to economists that the most sensitive indicator of overall human well-being is average life expectancy, as this sums up the effect of all positive and negative economic, social, environmental and other factors.


International data shows per capita GDP is overwhelmingly the most important factor in life expectancy - differences in per capita GDP explain 71 percent of differences in life expectancy.


But in China people live three years longer than would be expected from its per capita GDP, while in the US for example they live two years less than would be expected. This shows that China`s health services, environment, education etc. add to life expectancy, while in the US they detract from them.


A single example, that of women in China and India, most graphically illustrates what these economic and social differences mean in terms of real human rights - and Chinese and Indian women together are one in every five people on the planet. It also shows how absurd Western propaganda on human rights is, and its narrowing of these to a few political issues.


A Chinese woman`s life expectancy is 77 years, and literacy among Chinese women over the age of 15 is 93 percent; an Indian woman`s life expectancy is 68 and literacy rate over the age of 15 is 66 percent. India may be a "parliamentary republic" but the real human rights of a Chinese woman are (regrettably for India) far superior to the human rights of an Indian woman.


The real social trends show that China`s unparalleled achievement in reducing poverty is by far the greatest contribution to human rights of any country in the world.


The author is a senior fellow of the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China.

Key Words: poverty   China   human rights  

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