Who’s winning the war on extreme poverty? Obviously, China is.
Anyone who subsists on less than $1.25 a day counts as extremely poor.
In the last three decades the amount of extreme poverty has decreased significantly around the world.
The World Bank reports:
Extreme poverty in the world has decreased considerably in the past three decades (figure 1). In 1981, more than half of citizens in the developing world lived on less than $1.25 a day. This rate has dropped dramatically to 21 percent in 2010. Moreover, despite a 59 percent increase in the developing world’s population, there were significantly fewer people living on lessthan $1.25 a day in 2010 (1.2 billion) than there were three decades ago (1.9 billion).
As the chart shows, most of the improvement comes from China.
In 1981, after a little more than three decades of Maoism, China was suffering an extreme poverty rate of 84%. In 2010 the rate had fallen to 12%.
By way of comparison, in India the rate dropped from 60% to 33% over the same time period.
Martin Wolf’s statement that Deng Xiaoping was the greatest free market reformer of our time is certainly defensible.
It's worth noting that the engine of economic growth in China was free market capitalism. It had nothing to do with foreign aid or larger government. Privatizing the socialized economy decreased government power.
The question is, could China have expanded economic freedom and rolled back the tide of Maoism while also granting more political freedom?
Would greater political freedom have changed the economic growth numbers for better or for worse or not at all?
And also, could China have achieved these results without producing an unconscionable level of pollution?
Did the nation’s leaders believe that they had to choose between famine and pollution?
If so, were they right or wrong?