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China’s rise has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty, but has life really improved as much as that claim implies? As a recent study shows, life satisfaction in China has not increased over the past 20 years, which seems to suggest that increasing wealth has not brought about a correlating increase in happiness. Today we’ll be exploring why this might be the case in the countryside. A few weeks ago I had the chance to visit several remote villages in central China. As the van bumped along rocky roads that wound over steep mountains for nearly 10 hours I started wondering how much life had really changed in many of these places over the past 60 years and whether or not these survivors would say […]


Over the last year we’ve discussed the problem of air pollution nearly a dozen times, and while this is a pressing issue that effects hundreds of millions of people, there is a bigger environmental challenge facing China – water pollution. More specifically, there is a shortage of water that can be used. You can tell it is a serious problem, given the frank discussion of the issue in the People’s Daily, and that unlike smoking or public defecation, it has its own public service campaign. A recent article from People’s Daily highlights some of the problems (it’s worth reading the full thing): UP to 40 percent of China’s rivers were seriously polluted last year after 75 billion tons of sewage and waste water was discharged into them 20 percent of rivers were so polluted their water quality was rated too toxic even to come into contact with nearly 300 million rural residents lack access to drinking water The per capita of water resources is only 2,100 cubic meters annually, or about 28 percent of the world’s average About two-thirds of Chinese cities are “water-needy” Unlike air pollution, water shortages (caused partially by pollution and industry) disproportionaly effects the poor. For […]


China halts U.S. academic freedom at the class door, from Bloomberg, was the better of two excellent pieces this week on the topic of joint-managed colleges in China (the other being No academic freedom for China). This piece generated a lot of discussion about education, and one friend who actually studies at the school mentioned that the article should have also examined discussions in the classrooms that are actually much freer than she had expected. Hepatitis C outbreak hits Anhui, Henan, from Caixin, is an in depth look at how lax regulations and the recycling of used needles at local clinics led to over 110 people being infected. Supposedly this problem was fixed nearly a decade ago. This coming out near World AIDS Day is a […]


After working in the hospital for almost 10 months, my co-workers are finally starting to talk with me about politics in China (this serves as a good reminder of 1. how important relationships are in China and 2. how hard it can be to get interesting information). Two of the women were fairly willing to talk one-on-one with me about it, but when the third woman would come in the room the conversation would die instantly. Whenever we have these chats someone always makes sure to close the door (sometimes I even do it). It’s not that I would normally be worried about what is said, but the Party office of the hospital is directly next door, and one can never be too careful. One […]


On Tuesday I reported briefly on Shaanxi’s plan to relocate 2.7 million residents from the northern and southern parts of the province. The local gov’t reported that this was a major push to help break the cycle of poverty that has been effecting those regions for generations. They also cited the fact that both areas are prone to disasters, and so this project would help save lives. I wasn’t so optimistic about the project, and wondered when exactly we would find out the real motivation behind it. Today as I was combing through the part of the People’s Daily I realized they had yet again buried the lead. The headline is “Shaanxi plans to move 2.7 million to safer areas“, and the first page of […]


Yesterday we saw that China’s farmers occupy the lowest rung of Chinese society. Today we’ll be looking at why China’s farmers are also at the bottom economically, as we try to answer the question, How poor are Chinese farmers? Officially the average rural income is 5,919rmb, which is about $900. That’s well above the World Bank’s poverty measure of $1/day. However I’m skeptical of these official numbers. A few months ago I helped the charity I work with edit their annual report and found the annual per capita income for some of China’s least developed areas. Now keeping in mind that this charity is working in some of China’s poorest areas, it is still surprising to see that none of these villages were closer than […]


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