BEIJING, Oct. 17 -- A United Nations (UN) official on Thursday praised China's progress in eliminating hunger and reducing poverty, as the world marked the 21st International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.
"We have witnessed remarkable progress in China's hunger and poverty alleviation efforts during the past 34 years, from one-third of Chinese people suffering hunger to less than one-tenth," said Brett Rierson, Representative of the World Food Programme (WFP) in China.
As the world's largest hunger-fighting humanitarian agency, the WFP was awarded the China Poverty Eradication Awards Global Award by the State Council, or China's Cabinet, on Thursday. The WFP is operated under the UN and was established in 1979.
China is the first developing country to halve its population living in poverty, and it has vowed to strive to eliminate poverty and build a moderately prosperous society in all aspects by 2020.
According to the World Bank, China has reduced its population living under the international poverty line of 1.25 U.S. dollars from 43 percent of the world's total poor population in 1981 to 13 percent in 2010.
The country issued new guidelines on poverty reduction in rural areas in 2011, focusing more on helping concentrated poor areas, improving economic infrastructure development and offering industrial support.
According to figures released by the State Council Leading Group Office for Poverty Alleviation and Development, the number of people in China living under the state poverty line of 2,300 yuan (374 U.S. dollars) per capita a year has been lowered from 166 million people at the end of 2010 to 98.99 million people now.
"It is gladdening to see that the Chinese government is not only handing out food, or giving the poor people fish, but also giving them a hand up in life, that is teaching them how to fish," Rierson said.
With the highest poverty rate in China, Tibet Autonomous Region has seen its population in poverty reduced from 34.42 percent of its total rural and pastoral population in 2010 to 18.73 percent in 2013, lifting about 370,000 people out of poverty.
Tibet is expected to have reduced its poverty-stricken population by 45 percent in a three-year period by the end of this year.
"China has entered a critical phase of poverty reduction as its urbanization rate had reached 52.6 percent by 2012 amid furthering economic restructuring," Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang said on Thursday at the Global Poverty Reduction and Development Forum in Beijing.
More efforts should be made to further develop agriculture and promote poverty reduction in western areas, Wang said.
Rierson added that China should focus more on nutrition besides calories, as malnutrition could undermine quality economic growth, and "may blunt children's physical health and intellectual development, impacting talent for driving economic growth."
Among China's hunger and poverty reduction efforts, he is most impressed with China's school feeding program, describing it as "an important social investment and a wise decision."
The Chinese government started to offer nutrition subsidies of 16 billion yuan each year to 26 million poor students in rural areas in October 2011 after the NGO's Free Lunch for Children program won public support.
Rierson said the WFP is ready to collaborate with the Chinese government and other actors to drive hunger to zero and reduce poverty, and to share China's successful stories with the rest of the world.
"This can be one of China's best exports," according to the WFP representative.