China’s Regional Policy, Poverty and the Ethnic Question

Emile Kok-Kheng Yeoh


While China’s reforms have been successful in giving many people higher incomes and producing more goods and services, they also led to increasingly acute inequality in income and wealth among the populace. From one of the world’s most egalitarian societies in the 1970s, today China has turned into one of the most unequal countries in the region and even among developing countries in general. While China’s alleviation of poverty has been nothing less than remarkable and seems to have greatly exceeded Target 1 of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), yet ‘Impoverished China’ was still observed to be among the 10 largest ‘countries’ in the world. Furthermore, as the geographical correlation of ethnic minority distribution and poverty population distribution is unmistakable, reflecting the composite phenomenon made up of rural poverty, regional poverty and ethnic poverty, ethnoregionalization of poverty may present China not only with economic challenges but also long-term sociopolitical uncertainties. While the issue of poverty in China has a strong regional dimension, the size of China both demographically and geographically has led to the fact that her regional policy is always overshadowed by a host of complex interlinked socioeconomic, political, ethnic, territorial and historical factors. This paper analyzes the issue of poverty in China as a multi-faceted phenomenon, sees poverty alleviation as inevitably linked to the country’s regional and minority policies, and as such, argues for a stronger emphasis on the elements of decentralization and localization.


, regionalism, ethnic diversity, inequalities, poverty, regional disparities

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Copenhagen Journal of Asian Studies
ISSN (print): 1395-4199, ISSN (online): 2246-2163

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