Tuesday 16 Aug 2022 | 04:52 | SYDNEY
Tuesday 16 Aug 2022 | 04:52 | SYDNEY

Can China still plead poverty?


Mark Thirlwell

27 October 2010 10:28

Gideon Rachman has an interesting piece in the FT arguing that now China is sitting on more than US$2.5 trillion of foreign exchange reserves (actually US$2.65 trillion as of end-September) and has become the world's largest exporter and second largest economy, it's time for Beijing to stop using its status as a developing country as an excuse to avoid pulling its weight internationally. 

He does have at least half a point. However, and as his piece points out, so does Beijing, with a large number of Chinese still having to live on less than two dollars a day. 

For all the glitz and grandeur of Shanghai and Beijing, China's claim to developing country status still has plenty to support it. According to this 2009 World Bank report, despite some truly dramatic achievements when it comes to poverty reduction, China still has the second largest number of consumption poor in the world (after India): as of 2005, China still had 254 million people consuming less than $1.25 in 2005 PPP terms. 

The Bank estimates Chinese Gross National Income per capita in 2009 as PPP$6770, placing China at 120 in global rankings (For those who prefer US dollars, the comparable figures are US$3590 and #124). That places China in middle income territory – and still a very long way off high income status.

So, while China's economic success is giving new edge to the hypocrisy v reciprocity debate, I still reckon that this particular debate has a fair way to run.